Pierre Mignard, known as Le Romain (Troyes 1612 - Paris 1695), attributed
Portrait of 'Louise Renée de Penancoët de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth and Aubigny (Brest 1649 - Paris 1734) as MADDALENA
Oil on canvas
97 x 88 cm
In an important gilded frame 132 x 122 cm.
Provenance: Private collection, Naples
The young and attractive noblewoman portrayed in this painting is Louis Renée de Penancoet de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth and Aubigny (Brest 1649 - Paris 1734), known to have been King Charles II's favourite mistress for over fifteen years, from whose relationship Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond, was born, but above all to have gone down in history as one of Louis XIV's French informants at the English court.
The duchess was a very influential figure at court, promoting French interests and often acting as an intermediary between the king, his ministers and French ambassadors.
After the death of Charles II this influence quickly came to an end, forcing her to hastily leave London and renounce all her possessions to return to her homeland, between Aubigny-sur-Nère and Paris, where she died in 1734, always remaining in the sovereign's good graces.
The peculiarity of the portrait, probably executed after her return to her homeland, is that the noblewoman takes the form of a charming Mary Magdalene, depicted here following her renunciation of earthly possessions, her rich robes and jewellery, in order to aspire to heavenly riches; We see her immortalised with her long hair loose on one breast, her intriguing but serene gaze directed at the observer, as she rests her crossed hands, as if in prayer, on the ampulla of perfumed ointments and the open book, both iconographic symbols.
The custom of being portrayed in the guise of Magdalene was in vogue for powerful women of the great European courts as early as the 16th century, as it represented the most appropriate image to justify the union of female power and virtue. It must be said that court culture exalted only the positive characteristics of her personality, glossing over or downplaying all references to her sinful past and dissolute life.
The work, whose style fits perfectly into 17th century French portraiture, suggests the pertinent attribution to the Baroque painter Pierre Mignard (Troyes, 1612 - Paris, 1695), whose works were highly praised and earned him a great reputation as a portrait painter for the demanding Parisian aristocracy at the time of Louis XIV, and who portrayed the Duchess de Kérouaille on numerous occasions.
His first important artistic training took place in Simon Vouet's studio, and he then moved to Italy for over twenty years before returning to Paris, blending his own with the influence of Roman classicism.
The elegant looseness of touch and sensual refinement typical of Mignard, combined with a very accurate chiaroscuro rendering, inherited from his artistic training in Rome (which he looked up to the examples of Ferdinad Voet), and the exceptional sweetness of the drawing, the floridity of the complexion and the almost enamelled surfaces, and finally, the peculiar pose of the figure portrayed (the beauty of the two intertwined hands is unmistakable), further support our attribution.
The condition of the painting is excellent.
The painting is completed by an attractive gilded frame.
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