Subleyras, Pierre

Saint-Gilles-du-Gard 1699 - Rome 1749
Biography & List of works

The Duke of Saint Aignan investing Girolamo Vaini, Prince of Cantalupe and Duke of Selci, with the insignia of a Knight of the Holy Spirit, 1737

Medium: Oil On Canvas

Size: 50 x 40 cm

Provenance:

Collection of the artist H. Lemonnier, Paris ; His sale, Paris, 26-27 November 1810, n° 16; collection of Comte de Sinéty, Aix-en Provence, in 1861; collection Lieuville, Toul; with Fabius, Paris and acquired from Fabius by Monsieur Maurice Hottinguer in October 1922 ; collection Maurice Hottinguer, Château de Guermantes; thence by descent.

Literature:

Probably V. Papillon de la Ferté, Extraits d’ouvrages sur la vie des peintres, Paris, 1776 ; Probably Gault de Saint-Germain, Guide de l’amateur de peinture, Paris, 1841, t. II, p. 279 ; Léon Lagrange, ‘Exposition régionale des Beaux-Arts à Marseille’, in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, t. XI, 1861, p. 544 ; Marius Chaumelin, Les trésors d’art de la Provence exposés à Marseille en 1861, Paris-Marseille, 1862, p. 257 ; Odette Arnaud, Subleyras, in Louis Dimier (dir.), ‘Les peintres français du XVIIIe siècle. Histoire des vies et catalogue des oeuvres’, Paris-Bruxelles, 1930, vol. II, p.59 et pp. 80-81, n° 101 ; Boris Lossky, L’Art français et l’Europe aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles,  exhibition catalogue, Paris, Orangerie, June-October 1958, mentioned under the entry n° 40 ; Michel Le Moël and Pierre Rosenberg, “La collection de tableaux du duc de Saint-Aignan et le catalogue de sa vente illustré par Gabriel de Saint-Aubin”, in ‘Revue de l’Art’, 1969, n °6, p. 53, note 11 ; ‘Settecento. Le siècle de Tiepolo. Peintures italiennes du XVIIIe siècle exposées dans les collections publiques françaises’, exhibition catalogue, Lyon-Lille, 2000 – 2001, Paris, RMN, mentioned p. 242.

Exhibited:

Concours général. Exposition régionale des Beaux-Arts, Marseilles, 1861, n°984 ; Subleyras 1699-1749, Paris, Musée du Luxembourg, 20 February-26 April 1987, Rome, Villa Médici, 18 May – 19 July 1987, exhibition catalogue by Pierre Rosenberg and Olivier Michel, Paris, 1987, p. 214, n° 43, ill.

Subleyras was born in Uzès, in Provence, and studied first with Antoine Rivalz in Toulouse;  his master soon recognised his talent and advised him to go to Paris where he entered the Academy schools in 1726. The following year he was awarded the Prix de Rome for a painting of Le Serpent d’Airain (now in the Musée des Beaux Arts, Nîmes) and in 1728 joined the other students at the French Academy, then established in the Palazzo Mancini. There he married the miniaturist Maria Felice Tibaldi whose small copies of her husband’s paintings have allowed scholars to confirm some attributions; the young couple settled permanently in the Eternal city where Pierre soon established a formidable reputation as a portraitist and history and genre painter. Subleyras had made the acquaintance of the Duke of Saint Aignan soon after the latter’s appointment as Ambassador to the Pope in 1731 and was a natural choice to paint this scene, which required the skills of a formidable portraitist who was also thoroughly familiar with the conventions of historical subject painting.

It is evident from the numerous studies – both of individual figures and the entire composition – that Subleyras gave great importance to this commission. There are no less than three complete versions of the composition. First, our superb finished composition sketch, then a larger, full version evidently done for the Ambassador himself and which remains with the descendants of the Dukes of Saint Aignan. Finally, a monumental version, perhaps with some studio assistance, now in the Musée de la Legion d’Honneur.