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Johann Heinrich Tischbein (Circle), Portrait Of A Lady With Forget-Me-Nots

c. 1780

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His very young master, Louis, became a first-rate hunter, hunting in the King's entourage, in whose cabinet he died of apoplexy in January 1774. As for the his son, he was one of Louis XVI's closest hunting companions, as numerous souvenirs attest . 1. Some biographical information about the model and the commissioner While the identity of many 18th century portraits is uncertain, an old label stuck on the reverse of the canvas gives us some precise information on the identity of the model: "Mr. Julien Prieur, homme d’affaires de Mr. le Marquis d'Armentières - Commune of Brécy - Aisne". The label also suggests that it could be his son Louis Prieur living in Rocourt (probably Rocourt-Saint-Martin, a neighbouring municipality of Brécy), born on 30 September 1745, who died on 8 July 1826, but this hypothesis must be rejected in view of the model's clothing. This label probably gives us an indication on the previous owner the owner of this painting; we will see later why it seems likely that this label was affixed between 1826 and 1832. Brécy is now a municipality in the Aisne County (Hauts-de-France) located between Soissons and Château-Thierry, slightly north of the Paris-Reims axis. It borders the municipalities of Armentières-sur-Ourcq and Rocourt-Saint-Martin. According to Louis Prieur's death certificate, he was in fact born in 1743 and not in 1745 . The age of the model in the painting and the dating of this painting would indicate that Julien Prieur, was probably born at the very end of the 17th century. In Louise-Marthe de Conflans-Coigny, chatelaine de Brécy , we read that "the Conflans were a family of ancient nobility, which genealogists trace back to the 12th century, when it was said to have come from the house of Brienne. In the 16th and 17th centuries, this family had several illustrations in the profession of arms. [...] Michel de Conflans, [...] belonged to a younger branch of the family, of which Saint-Simon wrote, with his acid soaked pen, that "poor and obscure, they had never left their village, where their house resembled a hut" and elsewhere that they "lived on their rifles and cabbages". Fortunately for Michel de Conflans, the last representative of the elder branch, Henriette d'Armentières, made him her heir on her death in 1712. It was through her that the land of Armentières and its 14th century castle became part of the estate of this branch, as well as, not far from there, the land of Brécy and the castle of Le Buisson, where the family lived. In the early years of the 18th century, Michel de Conflans was able to push himself into the entourage of the Duke of Orleans, becoming his first gentleman of the chamber. However it was above all his son Louis who restored the family status through his military career. Born on 23 February 1711, Louis de Conflans, Marquis d'Armentières died of apoplexy on 18 January 1774, in the King's cabinet at Versailles. Appointed lieutenant general in 1746, he received his Marshal of France’s stick in 1768. The Dictionary of French Biography writes of him that "without ever achieving a high command, he appeared with honour in all the wars of his time". The estates of Armentières and Le Buisson were sequestered during the French Revolution, declared national property and sold at auction (in 1794 and 1795 respectively) after the Marquise d'Armentières, the Marshal's second wife, was beheaded in 1794. The Château du Buisson (where Michel de Conflans died in 1717) was bought by a granddaughter of the Marshal de Conflans, the Marquise de Coigny, in 1816 and remained in her family after her death in 1832 until the sale of the 1,054 hectares estate in 1866. The bayonet blows that probably pierced the canvas in three places may well have a revolutionary origin and it is conceivable that the painting, acquired by the Marquise de Coigny from Louis Prieur, Julien's son, after the latter's death, was then restored and given the label specifying the name of the model. 2. Description of the portrait The painting presents a man in his thirties in his hunting costume. Pictured at mid-body, his face is marked by his life in the open air and characterised by a look of great bonhomie. Holding a rifle under his elbow, he is soberly dressed in a large caramel-coloured jacket, decorated with silver buttons. Presented in a three-quarter view, the model holds a partridge in his right hand. The jacket opens onto a vermilion waistcoat. A green shoulder strap probably holds a powder flask hidden under his arm while a satchel is visible on his belt. The model is wearing a grey wig, tied at the back with a black ribbon that seems to fly in the wind. This ornament anchors Julien Prieur in his time. "The new King of France, Louis XV, [imposed] a style of smaller wigs for men and the rigorous white or preferably greyish powdering. From the middle of the century men also used a ponytail on the back of the neck, tied with a ribbon, a style that became very popular in all courts." He stands out against a dark, purplish sky at the end of an autumn day in a soberly sketched forest landscape. The treatment of the sky recalls the influence of Largillière, Oudry's first master. 3. Jean-Baptiste Oudry Jean-Baptiste Oudry was born on 17 March 1686 in Paris, rue de la Ferronnerie. He began his apprenticeship around 1705-1707 with Nicolas de Largillière, with whom he stayed for five years. In 1713 Oudry established his "livre de raison" in which he reproduced all his early works in wash drawings up until 1718. During this first period which lasted about 7 years, Oudry produced works of great diversity, both in the genres that the artist tackled and in the artists which influenced him. It has been estimated that he painted about 150 pictures during this period: mainly portraits, but also still lifes and some religious paintings and landscapes. Of the hundred or so portraits that Oudry is said to have painted during this period, only fifteen have been identified today. A number of those lost portraits are probably still confused with works by Largillière. First admitted to the Académie de Saint-Luc in 1708, he was then allowed to join the Académie Royale in 1717, and subsequently admitted as a history painter in 1719. This year marks a turning point from which Oudry will assert himself as an animal painter. In 1723 he met Louis Fagon, Intendant of Finances, and the Marquis de Beringhen, the King's first equerry, who became both friends and patrons of the artist, giving him access to royal commissions and enabling him to be appointed as painter of the Royal Tapestry Factory of Beauvais in 1726. From 1728 onwards, the creation of tapestries became the core of his work, even though at the same time Oudry developed his skill as an illustrator, first for Scarron's Roman Comique and then for La Fontaine’s Fables. Between 1726 and 1731, Oudry created the decoration of a large drawing room at the château de Condé-en-Brie, about twenty kilometres from Brécy, which has remained in place to this day. This important commission, about which few details are known, is said to have originated with the Countess de Verrüe, a great lady of the French Regency who often stayed at Condé with her friend Jean-François Leriget, Marquis de la Faye, then owner of Condé. A prolific artist, Oudry fulfilled numerous commissions in parallel with his regular contributions to the Salons, to which he regularly took part until 1753. He suffered a stroke in 1754 and died the following year. It seems almost certain, in view of the importance of his work, that Oudry supervised a workshop in which several artists were involved, but this point is very poorly documented. Given the geographical proximity of Brécy and Condé-en-Brie, the links between the Armentières family and the Condé patrons, and finally based upon the quality of our portrait, we propose the hypothesis that it was painted by one of the painters who worked with Oudry at Condé. 4. Related artworks: comparison with some other portraits of hunters by Jean-Baptiste Oudry While Oudry gradually abandoned portraiture from 1720 onwards to devote himself to animal paintings, he seems to have made an exception for hunter portraits, which were often depicted in the company of their hunting dogs. Two examples seem particularly evocative and suggest a dating for our painting around 1730. We will see in a second part why this dating proposal seems relevant. The first portrait worth mentioning is the presumed portrait of Lieutenant Claude-André Courtin de Crouey, lord of Quatre Fils and Cormeilles-en-Parisis made in 1723, reproduced below. Also presented in a very tight frame, it is interesting for the similarities in the representation of the rifle, and in particular the two metal rivets that are almost identical in our painting. The painting that seems closest to ours is the presumed portrait of Monsieur...
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