Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 36. Portrait of a young lady.

Jean-Étienne Liotard

Portrait of a young lady

Auction Closed

July 3, 10:51 AM GMT


50,000 - 70,000 GBP

Lot Details


Jean-Étienne Liotard

(Geneva 1702 - 1789)

Portrait of a young lady

Pastel on vellum;

signed and dated, centre left: par Liotard / 1756

477 by 397 mm

Private collection, Australia;

sale, Monaco, Sotheby’s, 11 February 1979, lot 70;

with Richard L. Feigen & Co., New York, by 1980;

John R. Gaines (1929-2005);

by family descent to the present owners

M. Roethlisberger and R. Loche, Liotard, Catalogue Sources et Correspondance, Doornspijk 2008, vol. I, p. 491, no. 339, reproduced vol. II, fig. 483;

N. Jeffares, Dictionary of pastellists before 1800, online edition, no. J.49.2506, reproduced

Utrecht, Centraal Museum, Liotard in Nederland, 1985, (catalogue by Frans Grijzenhout), no. 78

Though his ties with his native Switzerland never wavered, there was perhaps no 18th-century artist who was more truly cosmopolitan than Jean-Étienne Liotard. Over a career that spanned six decades, he worked in almost all the main cultural centres of Europe, and also immersed himself more profoundly than any of his artistic contemporaries in the exotic – and very fashionable – world of Constantinople and the Ottoman Empire. Rejected at an early stage by the Paris academy, he honed his craft outside the artistic mainstream, and his works in his preferred medium of pastel are often of startling technical and compositional originality.

The present work, signed and dated 1756, can, as Renée Loche noted in private correspondence prior to the 1979 auction (see Provenance), be dated to Liotard’s stay in Holland, where he was active both in The Hague and Amsterdam. The unidentified youthful sitter is depicted by Liotard half-length, in three-quarter view to the left, with her arresting gaze focused on the viewer. Her physical appearance as well as her exquisite dress, blue ribbon and lace choker and blue cap are all highly comparable to those found in Liotard’s other Dutch portraits of this period. Perhaps the most compelling comparison can be drawn to a portrait of a similarly unidentified woman, previously on the London art market before passing into the hands of the late Jan Krugier, wherein the sitter shares a similar short, curly, powdered hairstyle and the portrait is similarly signed and dated 1756.1

The late owner of this fine pastel was the highly esteemed 20th -century collector of drawings, John R. Gaines (1929-2005). Though Gaines is best remembered today for his enormous contributions to horse breeding and racing in the United States – founding the prestigious Breeders’ Cup in 1982, as well as the National Thoroughbred Association, his position as a major collector of drawings, spanning from the 15th to the 20th century was no less significant, though undoubtedly a more personal and private undertaking. Gaines’ journey as a collector culminated in the historic 46 lot sale of his collection at Sotheby’s New York on 17th November 1986. The auction included sheets by many of the masters of Western art, including Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer, Raphael, van Dyck, Claude Lorrain, Rembrandt, Watteau, Canaletto, Degas, Manet, Monet, van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso and Matisse, to name but a few.2 We are also fortunate to have within this sale a marvelous and important drawing by Honoré Daumier (see lot 48) that was part of the same, extraordinary 1986 sale.

  1. Roethlisberger and Loche, op. cit., vol. I, p. 488, no. 334, reproduced vol. II, fig. 479
  2. See sale, New York, Sotheby's, The John R. Gaines Collection, 17 November 1986