Black stone and white chalk on beige paper
37 x 25 cm (framed 54 x 42 cm)
This dazzling drawing by Carle van Loo is a tender portrait of the artist's daughter Marie-Rosalie (1737 - 1762), busy turning a windmill. The spontaneity of this image reveals a new way of looking at childhood in the 18th century.
1. Carle van Loo: the successful career of a painter born into an artistic family
Carle van Loo is probably the best-known member of one of the greatest families of artists of 18th century Europe: the son of the painter Louis-Abraham Van Loo, he is also the younger brother of the painter Jean-Baptiste Van Loo, the grandson of the Dutch painter Jacob Van Loo and finally the father of the painter César Van Loo.
His brother Jean-Baptiste (1684 - 1745), twenty years his senior, took charge of his education (along with that of his own children) on his father's death in 1717. His brother took him to Turin and Rome. Upon his arrival in Paris in 1724, Carle van Loo started work as an assistant to his brother before winning the Prix de Rome that same year. He sejourned in Rome between 1728 and 1732, at the same time as the painter François Boucher and as his nephews (who were also painters) Louis-Michel (1707-1771) and François Van Loo (1708-1732) (the children of Jean-Baptiste).
Returning to Paris in 1734 after a stay in Turin, he quickly achieved fame, thanks in particular to the patronage of Madame de Pompadour. He embraced all genres: portraits, religious or mythological scenes as well as genre painting. He became First Painter to the King in June 1762 and died in 1765 at the height of his fame.
From his marriage to Christina Antonia Somis, a Piedmontese woman whom he married in Turin in 1733, Carle had five children: a daughter who died in infancy, another daughter Marie-Rosalie and three boys - Jean-François, Carle and Jules-César-Denis who was the last painter of the dynasty. Married on 11 September 1758 to Benoît Bron "interested in the King's business", his daughter Marie-Rosalie died in childbirth in 1762, three years before her father's death.
2. Model identification
Carle Van Loo depicted his daughter Marie-Rosalie on numerous occasions, not only in private portraits but also by using her as a model in some of his compositions. The multiplicity of representations suggests that a tender complicity united father and daughter.
A portrait of his daughter at the age of three is kept in the Royal Castle of Drottningholm in Sweden . There are many drawings in private collections which were included in the 1977 exhibition and which served as the basis for engravings of some of Van Loo’s work. It is worth mentioning the engraving by Louis-Marin Bonnet (1736-1793) executed in 1764 after a drawing by Carle Van Loo.
His children were also used as models for the painting for Madame de Pompadour at Bellevue, representing Painting.
3. Description of the artwork
This drawing plunges us into the painter's family intimacy and represents his daughter Marie Rosalie, who was most probably between five and seven years old at the time, showing the upper half of her body while she is either sitting or crouching. In her right hand she is holding a windmill that attracts her full attention. Her face is shown from below, with her eyes riveted on her windmill. Her left arm and the folds of her dress are only sketched out, giving the drawing a feeling of great spontaneity, which is rare in the painter's work.
Numerous repetitions also give this drawing its lively character: repetition of the right hand, as a trace of some movement made by the child turning her windmill, repetition of the child's face, in a slightly more frontal position, and finally, a few crayon strokes above her right shoulder.
Probably executed around 1742-1744, this drawing evokes the theme of the Child with a Teetotum by Jean Siméon Chardin (1699 - 1779) which was presented at the Salon of 1738.
These works illustrate an emerging interest in childhood in the eighteenth century, a period of life that was beginning to be recognised as specific, as shown by this sentence written in 1762 by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his education manual, Emile ou l'Education: "the child has his own ways of seeing, feeling and thinking; nothing is less sensible than wanting to substitute ours to them”. Distinct from adulthood, childhood is idealised as the age of innocence. In these two works it is touching to find the representation of the unique capacity children have to cut themselves off from the outside world by absorbing themselves entirely in their games.
This drawing is presented in an 18th century French giltwood frame, which may be its original frame.
Main bibliographical references :
French Drawing in the 18th Century Louis-Antoine Prat Edition Musée du Louvre/ Somogy éditions d'art March 2017
Carle Vanloo, First Painter to the King - catalogue of the exhibition held successively in Nice, Clermont-Ferrand and Nancy in 1977 - Marie-Catherine Sahut SERG – Ivry
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