TEFAF NEW YORK FALL
Portrait of Madame Bertin de Vaux, 1806
Monogrammed and dated lower left: ALGRDT / 1806
Oil on canvas with its original frame
65.5 x 55 cm / 19.3 x 15.8 in
ProvenanceChateau de Villepreux, Bertin des Veaux collection
LiteratureS. Bellenger, Girodet (1767-1824), Paris 2005, p. 416.ill. 276
The painting comes from Chateau de Villepreux (fig.1), the seat of the Bertin des Veaux family, a distinguished noble French family whose members served as politicians and generals of the French Army during the Orleans kingdom and Napoleon IIIrd empire. Among the members of the family one of the most illustrious was Louis Bertin des Veaux (1771 – 1842), exchange trader, banker, co – directeur of the Journal des Débats, member of the French Parliament from 1820 to 1831, member of the Legion d’Honneur, elevated in 1832 by Louis Philippe d’Orleans to the honour of Pair de France. In 1798 he married Augustine Bouquet and eight years later, in 1806, he commissioned to Anne – Louis Girodet – Trioson the portrait of his wife. In the first decade of the XIX century Girodet was at very height of his career; after a first period of study in the studio of Jacque – Louis David in 1789 he won the Prix de Rome. Girodet lived in Rome from 1789 to 1793; at the end of his Italian sojourn he painted his first masterwork, Le Sommeil d’Endymion (Paris, Museé du Louvre) where he displayed his affinity with the new romantic taste. This taste became more and more evident in the works of the following years as Malvine mourant dans le bras de Fingal (1802) and Atala au tombeau (1808), all work that reveal also an erotic accent. In the same years he was also one of the favourite portrait painters of the Bonaparte family: around 1800 he executed the Napoléon Bonaparte, Premier Consul (Paris, Palais de l’Elysée), in 1806, the same years of the present painting, the Portrait of the Reine Hortense (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum – fig. 2). In this first portrait commissioned of Madame Bertin de Vaux, Girodet depicts her dressed in a low-cut dress, which is pulled in at the waist, with a lace collar "à la Médicis", in accordance with the fashion Josephine de Bonaparte had imposed on court dressing at that time. The sleeves of her dress are raised and fastened with an antique brooch, revealing her bare arms and the top of her ivory gloves, which are tied with ribbons. The play of light and the curves of the robust composition allow the eye to wander over her décolleté. This rotund rhythm is continued in the undulations of her delicate hairstyle, consisting of accroche-coeurs on her forehead and “English curls”. These curves are broken by a sumptuous hairpin, adorned with Venus and an apple, alluding to the goddess of Love. The unexpected presence of a pointed accessory is not unusual in the artist’s works (for example, the butterfly held by a needle in the portrait of the young Trioson in the Louvre). As usual, Girodet shows himself as a virtuoso in his rendering of textures, whether in the beautifully executed embroidered collar, the metallic shine of the earring and brooch, or Madam de Vaux’s delicate and pearly skin. Through his limited choice of palette there maintains a subtle balance between these many decorative details and a general harmony throughout the picture, highlighted in her face, turned to the left, bathed in light, and romantically gazing already into the distance. Louis Bertin des Vaux was an avid collector and an active patron of the artists of his age. In his collection are recorded paintings and drawings by Greuze, David and Ingres and at the very height of his career, in 1831, he commissioned to Ingres his portrait that in 1897 entered in the collections of the Louvre and which is universally considered as one of the masterpiece of the French painter (fig. 3). The artwork described above is subject to changes in availability and price without prior notice. Where applicable ARR will be added.