Attributed to Louis Tocqué, Portrait of a lady holding a letter, probably Marie Brûlart de La Borde duchesse de Luynes (vers 1684-1763), around 1720-1740, oil on canvas, 27,16 by 19,68 in.
Maison d’Albert de Luynes Collection, Château de Dampierre (19th, 20th & 21th centuries).
Le château historique de Dampierre, Paris, A. Guérinet, 1905, n° 30, reproduced.
This painting was part of the famous collection of art works owned by the Maison d’Albert de Luynes as evidenced by a photographic plate published in 1905 in The historic Castle of Dampierre (Le château historique de Dampierre) describing the reception rooms of the residence of this great family belonging to the French nobility. It was prominently displayed close to an ornate 18th century fireplace.
The art collection of the Maison d'Albert de Luynes, known to all art connoisseurs, included many portraits of family members painted by the most prominent artists of their time: a portrait of Marie de Rohan-Montbazon, duchess of Luynes given to Ferdinand Elle (unlocated), the 5th Duke of Chevreuse (later Luynes) as a child (1717-1771) painted by Hyacinthe Rigaud (private collection), or the Portrait of the Countess of Egmont Pignatelli in Spanish Costume by Alexander Roslin at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
In the style of Louis Tocqué's artistic production, the painter represents here a lady of the French aristocracy in bust, with a benevolent face, wearing a dress embellished with gold embroidery, lace and diamonds. Louis Tocqué, apprentice of the history painter Nicolas Bertin and then to Jean-Marc Nattier, was renowned for mastering the art of portraiture. Around 1718, he worked in Nattier's studio and married his eldest daughter. Immediately after he was admitted as a portraitist at the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, members of the European aristocracy ordered him portraits, that he exhibited regularly, from 1737 onwards, at the Salon of the Academy, a highly renowned artistic event. The official portrait of Queen Maria Leszczynska commissioned in 1740 established Toqué’s reputation in high society. Tocqué's art lies in the intensity of his models’ gaze and in their confident attitude placed in a sober setting.
The painting is a formal portrait of a lady in a court costume depicted in a room with walls adorned with pilasters and a heavy purple hanging. The model with red cheeks looks at the viewer with a slight smile. Leaning at a table, she has just stopped reading a letter. Her attitude borrowed from real life seduces by its accent of truth.
The lady wears a pearl-grey dress embroidered with gold threads and covered with a blue velvet coat lined with fur. Her hair is styled backwards, curled, powdered and accessorized with a feather held by a jewel sparkling with several diamonds. On the same side of her head is fixed a white striped muslin veil that surrounds her delicate neck. The preciousness of her clothes indicates the high social rank of the lady. The pictural quality of the portrait corresponds to a prestigious commissioner. ?
This portrait is presumed to be that of Marie Brûlart, widow of Louis-Joseph de Béthune, Marquis de Charost and wife of Charles-Philippe d'Albert, 4th Duke of Luynes and Duke of Chevreuse (1695-1758), famous for his Memoirs on the Court of Louis XV. The painting probably dates from the 1730s, at the time of her second marriage (1732) when the Duchess of Luynes became Queen Marie Leszczynska's first lady-in-waiting (1735). Indeed, the letter she is holding could evoke her place as beloved confidante of the Queen. Their correspondence was published in the 19th century , reflecting the Duchess’s insightfulness she shared with her niece the famous Marquise du Deffand (1697-1780), a friend of the Enlightenment philosophers.
The Duchess of Luynes was part of the Queen's inner circle. The latter usually spent her evenings devoted to games and music in the Duchess' apartments in the Palace of Versailles, located on the first floor of the Midi Wing overlooking the Princes' Courtyard. The Duke of Luynes reported in his chronicles of events in the royal court life, for the year 1747, that the Queen came to dinner altogether two hundred times. The castle of Dampierre, where the portrait was still in display recently, was also a symbolic place of their friendship: the queen stayed there six times from 1741 to 1754.
The provenance of this portrait makes it an exceptional painting and a testimony of the lavish Court life during the reign of Louis XV.
69 000 €