Claude LEFEBVRE (Fontainebleau 1632-1675 Paris) "Portrait of Henri II de La Tour d'Auvergne, Viscount of Turenne, Marshal of France" (Sedan 1611 – 1675 Sasbach) Oil on its original canvas, 30.3 x 25.5 cm
Handwritten annotation on the back "François de Marnet"
Complete textes with photographs available on gallery website.
- Probably collection of General Despinois (the model for the porcelain plaque painted by Marie-Victoire Jaquotot in 1821);
- Private collection by descent, Paris.
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 student of Claude de Hoëy. In 1654 he entered the workshop of Le Sueur, then, in 1655, that of Charles le Brun. This, in accordance with his own taste, encouraged him to devote himself to portrait painting. Next to Philippe de Champaigne, Claude Lefebvre was the most renowned portrait painter of his time. At the Louvre salon in 1673, he exhibited nine portraits by himself. 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 from engraving. His first portraits show the influence of Philippe de Champaigne, with a more accentuated modelling. His role in the revival of the art of portraiture in the mid-17th century has long been overlooked. Among his most powerful portraits, we cite that of Colbert, at Versailles.
After a military apprenticeship in Holland (1625-1629) with his uncles from Nassau, Turenne served Louis XIII from 1630, continuing a dual career in France and the Netherlands until 1633, when he definitively joined the France. Marshal of France in 1643, supporter of the Fronde des princes, but rallied to the king in 1651, Turenne emerged victorious in 1658 from the Battle of the Dunes which allowed the peace of the Pyrenees in 1659. Protestant convert to Catholicism in 1668, Turenne reorganized the army, acted as a diplomat and advised Louis XIV in his military training. A great military strategist and marshal of France, Turenne is considered, with the Prince of Condé, as the best general of the French armies of his time, fighting in the armies of Louis XIII and Louis XIV. This hero was killed by a cannon shot in 1675 and buried in Saint-Denis (Bonaparte had him transferred to Les Invalides in 1800).
Our painting, the property of an important private collection where it had been kept since a long time, seemed to be linked to the work of Pierre Mignard. However, the box of the snuffbox of King Louis XVIII, kept at Louvre Museum (department of Objects of Art, inv. MS214), reveals the identity of the painter, Claude Lefebvre; we discover an identical replica of our painting, thumbnail on porcelain painted by Marie-Victoire Jaquotot in 1821, with all the corresponding indications on the back: ‘Le maréchal de Turenne/ par/ Madame Jaquotot/ Paris 1821/ d’Après Claude Léfevre’.
Designed like a medallion, this small piece of furniture had three sliding shelves, each bearing eight miniatures on porcelain by Marie-Victoire Jaquotot. At the king's choice, they could alternatively be embedded on the lid of the snuff box (lost) which was embedded in the internal part of the chest lid. In all forty-eight miniature portraits were painted by the artist, the twenty-four outside the box, including this one, are kept in the graphic arts department [i].
The model does not wear the command sash, before Turenne was appointed Marshal of France. Furthermore, the two engravings by Robert de Nanteuil representing Turenne as Marshal of France, two compositions different than ours, engraved in 1656 and 1665 respectively, show the model in the reverse position to that of our painting. Everything indicates that our painting is this that was the property to General Despinois, painted in the same direction and which served as a model for Marie-Victoire Jaquotot in 1821.
A painting "Portrait du vicomte de Turenne" attributed to Pierre Mignard, (canvas, 126 x 95 cm, Dorotheum, Vienna, 13 Dec 2012, lot 8) sold in auction sale in 2012, which pointed us in direction of Pierre Mignard, provides further information; the model is indeed the same, but the composition differs, and the one taken by Marie-Victoire Jaquotot reveal be ours.
One other painting confirms the attribution, a presumed self-portrait by Claude Lefebvre, a small painting, sold at auction in 2014 (Claude Lefebvre, "Autoportrait présumé de l'artiste", panel, 18.2 x 14.8 cm, Artcurial, 26th March 2014, lot 127) and which turns out to be of the same manner as our portrait of Turenne, details of the lace on the ruffle and others being unmistakable.
Considering the notoriety and importance of vicomte de Turenne in this period of the 17th century, also already painted by Philippe de Champaigne, Charles le Brun and Pierre Mignard, it is easy to imagine that could have been the request by high-ranking dignitaries, with, as is likely, well-targeted orders. Our small-format painting could also turn out to be a "modello", or even a "ricordo" intended to be offered.
[i] (Daniel Alcouffe, Anne Dion-Tennenbaum, Pierre Ennès, Un âge d'or des Arts décoratifs, 1814-1848, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 10 octobre - 30 décembre 1991, cat. 25, 26, p. 105-110 repr).
Marie-Victoire Jaquotot (1772-1855) et ses portraits pour la tabatière de Louis XVIII, Communication de Mme Anne Lajoix, Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art français, année 1990, séance du 2 décembre 1989, p. 153-171.
Anne Lajoix, Marie-Victoire Jaquotot, 1772-1855, peintre sur porcelaine, Troyes, Le Trait d'Union - Florence Hatier, 2006, Archives de l'art français, tome 38, Thèse de doctorat, Histoire de l'art, Paris I, 1992, PP 165, p. 125 ; Voir aussi J.-G. Castex in cat. d'exp. 'L'art du portrait dans les collections du Louvre', Tokyo / Osaka, 2018-2019, n° 80, p. 52-53.