These two royal portraits are a major historical testimony to the stay of the Comte d'Artois (the future Charles X) and his family in Edinburgh in 1796-1797. Given by the sitters to Lord Adam Gordon, the Governor of Edinburgh, and kept by family descent to this day, these two portraits provide us with a vivid and spontaneous image of the Duc d’Angoulême and his brother the Duc de Berry. Danloux, who had emigrated to London a few years before, demonstrate his full assimilation of the art of British portrait painters in the brilliant execution of these portraits.
1. Henri-Pierre Danloux, a portraitist in the revolutionary turmoil
Born in Paris in 1753, Henri-Pierre Danloux was first a pupil of the painter Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié (1735 - 1784) and then, in 1773, of Joseph-Marie Vien (1716 - 1809), whom he followed to Rome when, at the end of 1775, Vien became Director of the Académie de France. In Rome he became friends with the painter Jacques-Louis David (1748 - 1825).
Returning to France around 1782, he settled in Lyon for a few years before returning to Paris in 1785. One of his first portraits was commissioned by the Baroness d'Etigny, the widow of the former Intendant of the Provinces of Gascony, Bearn and Navarre Antoine Mégret d'Etigny (1719 – 1767). He then became close to his two sons, Mégret de Sérilly and Mégret d'Etigny, who in turn became his patrons. In 1787, this close relationship with the d'Etigny family was further strengthened by his marriage to Antoinette de Saint-Redan, a relative of Madame d'Etigny. After his marriage, he left for Rome and did not return to France until 1789. It was during the winter of 1790-1791 that he painted one of his masterpieces, the portrait of Baron de Besenval. Set in a twilight atmosphere, this portrait of an aristocrat who knows that his death is imminent symbolizes the disappearance of an erudite and refined society which would be swept away by the French Revolution.
The Jacobin excesses led Danloux to emigrate to England in 1792; many members of his family-in-law who remained in France were guillotined on 10 May 1794. Danloux enjoyed great success as a portrait painter in England before returning to France in 1801.
During his stay in England, Danloux was deeply under the influence of English portraitists: his colors became warmer (as shown by the portrait of the Duc d'Angoulême that we are presenting), and his execution broader.
2. Description of the two portraits and biographical details of the sitters
The Duc d'Angoulême (1775-1844) was the eldest son of the Comte d'Artois, the younger brother of King Louis XVI (the future King Charles X), and his wife Marie-Thérèse of Savoie. He is shown here, in the freshness of his youth, wearing the uniform of colonel-general of the "Angoulême-Dragons" regiment.
He is wearing the blue cordon of the Order of the Holy Spirit, which was awarded to him in 1787, and two decorations: the Cross of Saint-Louis and the Maltese Cross, as he was also Grand Prior of the Order of Malta.
Born on 16 August 1775 in Versailles, Louis-Antoine d'Artois followed his parents into emigration on 16 July 1789. In 1792, he joined the émigrés’ army led by the Prince de Condé. After his stay in Edinburgh (which will be further discussed), he went to the court of the future King Louis XVIII, who was in exile at the time, and in 1799 married his first cousin Marie-Thérèse Charlotte of France, the daughter of Louis XVI and the sole survivor of the royal family. The couple had no descendants. He became Dauphin of France in 1824, upon the accession to the throne of his father but played only a minor political role, preferring his military position as Grand Admiral. Enlisted in Spain on the side of Ferdinand VII, he returned home crowned with glory after his victory at Trocadero in 1823.
He reigned for a very short time at the abdication of Charles X in 1830, before relinquishing his rights in favor of his nephew Henri d'Artois, the Duc de Bordeaux. He then followed his father into exile and died on 3 June 1844 in Gorizia (now in Italy).
His younger brother, the Duc de Berry, is shown in the uniform of the noble cavalry of the émigrés’ Army. He is wearing the blue cordon of the Order of the Holy Spirit, awarded to him in May 1789, and the Cross of Saint-Louis (partly hidden by his blue cordon).
Born on 24 January 1778 in Versailles, Charles-Ferdinand d'Artois also followed his parents into emigration and joined the émigrés’ army in 1792. After his stay in Edinburgh, he remained in Great Britain, where he had an affair with Amy Brown, who gave him two daughters that he entrusted to the Duc de Coigny on his return to France during the First Restoration. In 1816 he married Marie-Caroline de Bourbon, Princess of the Two Sicilies (a granddaughter of King Ferdinand 1er of the Two Sicilies and Queen Marie-Caroline, herself the sister of Queen Marie-Antoinette), born in 1798.
On 13 February 1820, the Duc de Berry met a tragic end : he was stabbed by Louis Pierre Louvel, a Bonapartist worker, as he was leaving the opera house on rue Richelieu. The building was demolished by order of Louis XVIII, and the area, which has been left undeveloped, is now known as Square Louvois. His wife, who was pregnant at the time of his death, gave birth seven months later to Henri d'Artois, the Duc de Bordeaux. Called "the miracle child" by Lamartine, he had no descendants, putting an end to the Artois branch of the Bourbon family.
3. Danloux's stay in Edinburgh
The Baron Portalis' book, published in 1910, provides us with some details of Danloux's British sojourn based upon numerous extracts from his diary.
On 13 June 1796, Danloux received the visit in his London studio of the Comte de Damas, who delivered him a letter from Madame de Polastron asking him to come and paint the Comte d’Artois in Edinburgh. On 13 September he left for Scotland. Upon his arrival in Edinburgh, Danloux painted first a portrait of the Comte d’Artois (photo in the gallery). The Comte d’Artois had moved to the Holyrood Palace at the suggestion of the British government, in order to benefit from a place where he could escape his creditors, as he was unable to pay the debts he had incurred to support the monarchical cause, and in particular Condé's army.
The Comte d'Artois was soon joined by a small court of loyal courtiers led by Louise de Polastron, his long-time mistress. After the portrait of the Comte d'Artois - who was very pleased with it - Danloux tackled that of his eldest son, the Duc d'Angoulême (which was already completed on 27 September, according to his diary). These two canvases are in a small format that the artist was particularly fond of. He then produced two replicas of these two portraits, intended to be given to some friends of the prince.
Letters from his wife testify to the artist's genuine satisfaction after the completion of these two portraits: "He tells me that he has finished the portrait of M. le Duc d'Angoulême, which is as good as that of his father. He had a sort of small triumph: Monsieur, when dining one day at Lord Adam Gordon's, the Governor of Edinburgh, sent for his portrait after dinner, and then called my husband. When he arrived, Lord Adam met him, apologised profusely for not having invited him and drank with him for two hours”.
Each courtier wanted in turn to have his portrait painted by Danloux. But these successes did not convince Danloux of the quality of this small court, as he wrote in a letter "the prince is good but weak andin a very bad company. His son is a fool, stupid and stubborn, and all those present are a bunch of courtiers...".
During his stay in Edinburgh, Danloux also encountered the third Duke of Buccleugh, who lived a few miles away at Dalkeith Castle, which he visited on 10 November 1796. This visit led to the commission of one of the artist's masterpieces, which required him to spend a large part of the winter at Dalkeith: a large portrait depicting the whole family in the park, in the manner of English conversation pieces.
4. Lord Adam Gordon (circa 1726 - 1801)
Lord Adam Gordon, appointed (military) Governor of Edinburgh in 1796, resided with several Scottish families at the Holyrood Palace. He was responsible for welcoming the Comte d’Artois and his sons on their arrival in Edinburgh. He was the fourth son of the second Duke of Gordon. Portalis describes him as a bon vivant and a great hunter. He commissioned Danloux to paint his own portrait during his stay in Edinburgh, which is now in the National Galleries of Scotland.
5. Related artworks
The Comte d'Artois left Edinburgh to settle in London in 1799. It is not possible to know for certain whether Danloux returned to Edinburgh after his stay in Dalkeith, and painted there the replicas of the portraits or whether some of them were executed after his return to London.
However, it seems certain that, as indicated in the two cartouches, our two paintings were given to Lord Adam Gordon by the two young princes in Edinburgh, perhaps at the Duc d'Angoulême's departure?
These two portraits are slightly different in size, one being oval (the Duc d'Angoulême) and the other rectangular (the Duc de Berry). We do not know whether the oval format corresponds to the original format of the portrait of the Duc d'Angoulême, or whether the canvas has been cut to be presented as a medallion. The frames were probably commissioned by Lord Adam Gordon to form a pair, even though the choice of an oval medallion hides the Duc de Berry’s armband.
We know that there were at least three versions of the portrait of the Duc d'Angoulême, but we have only found another one, which is kept (along with the portrait of the Duc de Berry) at the Château de Versailles (photos in the gallery). These two portraits are identical in size (27.2 x 21.9 cm), just slightly larger than our portrait of the Duc de Berry (26.5 x 21 cm).
While the portrait of the Duc de Berry is fairly similar to the one we are presenting, that of his eldest brother seems less spontaneous and less lively, as it lacks the cloudy background we have here.
Main bibliographical references :
Baron Roger Portalis – Henry-Pierre Danloux peintre de portraits Son journal durant l’Emigration – Paris Edouard Rahir 1910
Catalogue de l’exposition « la duchesse d’Angoulême et le duc d’Angoulême » tenue à la chapelle expiatoire du 22 avril au 17 septembre 2023
Patrick Spilliaert - Les insignes de l’ordre du Saint-Esprit - Editions du Léopard d’or
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