Presumed portrait of Seignelay
Oil on canvas, 110 x 86 cm (Framed 129 x 104 cm)
Inventory number and collection stamp on the back
- Galerie Franz Kleinberger, active in Paris and New York from 1848 to 1936 (his seal is on the back of the painting);
- Anonymous sale, 150 paintings from the Kleinberger gallery, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 1911, n°158, size 1.10 m x 0.865 m;
- Sacha Guitry collection until 1976;
- Paris, private collection Until 2019
- Fashions through three centuries, Palais de Bagatelle, May – July 1911, n°18.
Son of the painter Jean Lefebvre; at least four of his brothers were also painters. He first received advice from his father, then was a pupil of Claude de Hoëy. In 1654 he entered the studio of Le Sueur, then, in 1655, that of Charles le Brun. The latter, in accordance with his own taste, encouraged him to devote himself to painting portraits. Alongside Philippe de Champaigne, Claude Lefebvre was the most renowned portrait painter of his time. In the living room of Louvre, in 1673, he exhibited nine portraits by his hand. He entered the Academy in 1663, and obtained the position of assistant professor in 1664. Most of his portraits have now disappeared; some others are known by engraving. His first portraits show the influence of Philippe de Champaigne, with a more accentuated modelling. Its role in the revival of portraiture in the middle of the 17th century has long been misunderstood. Among his most powerful portraits is that of Colbert, at Versailles.
Our portrait shows a young man, wrapped in his housecoat and seated in front of his work table where a thick sheaf of documents awaits him. The work was famous enough in the 18th century for the engraver Jacques Beauvarlet to draw a sumptuous print from it, which is one of his greatest successes and was exhibited at the Louvre in 1773, at the Salon de l'Académie royal. His letter gives two names: Bourdon (for the painter) and Molière (for the model represented), none of which can be retained today.
The documentation of the Paintings Department of the Louvre Museum preserves a reproduction of the engraving by Beauvarlet (cat. Autumn 1975 from the gal. Paul Prouté, n°563) judiciously annotated by the art historian and collector Georges de Lastic: “Compare with Colbert de Seignelay according to Lefebvre”.
It is often question of the name of Seignelay for the model, indeed the comparisons with several models do not exclude it.
Our portrait, the original canvas, attributed (like many other different properties) to Sébastien Bourdon and long lost, was found at the end of the 19th century by the critic Auguste Vitu, then acquired by the Kleinberger gallery and passed into the collection by Sacha Guitry. The playwright and director scriptwriter gave it so much importance that he believed good to include it in the set of his film "Give me your eyes".