Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 91.5 x 65 cm
M. de Fontaine, to his widow, Mme de Fontaine (Paris and Nancy), died 1805; to her nephew Baron Guillaume Albert de Lasalle de Louisenthal (1766-1845), transferred to Schloss Dagstuhl (Saar) 1808; by descent to Baron Johann Peter Rudolf von Lasalle von Louisenthal (1816-1892); to Baron Heinrich Albert Johann Theodor von Lasalle von Louisenthal (1866-1898); to Theodor Stephan Jose Heinrich (1896-1959) at Schloss Dagstuhl until 1955 when the Schloss and its contents were sold; Private Collection, Germany.
Henry Contamine, « La Vie Aventereuse d’un Emigré Lorrain – Guillaume de Lasalle de Louisenthal d’après ses memoirs inédit », Académie nationale de Metz, 1930. pp. 289-346.
While we know little of the sitter in this work other than his name, we learn from the memoirs of Guillaume de Lasalle de Louisenthal, that the painting was part of the inheritance from an aunt, Mme de Fontaine, who left him her entire estate, which included substantial properties in Nancy and Paris. When he acquired Schloss Dagstuhl, then in the Palatinate, part of the newly founded Kingdom of Bavaria, the painting was brought there and remained until the estate was sold by his last male descendant in 1955. M. de Fontaine was from Nancy, the capital of the Duchy of Lorraine which had been awarded to the former Polish King Stanislas Leczynski, father-in-law of Louis XV, in the Treaty of Vienna of 1737. This complex dynastic rearrangement led to Francois, Duke of Lorraine being compensated with the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Archduchess Maria Theresia, heiress to the Habsburg hereditary lands, as a wife (leading to his election as Holy Roman Emperor in 1745), while Lorraine would revert to France on the death of its Duke (which happened in 1766). The relatively young sitter, despite his formal powdered wig, is marked by the cleft in his chin and slight smile emphasising his clean good looks. His expression is immediately engaging, while the luxurious velvet of his coat with its white fur lining and generous cuffs set against the embroidered white silk waistcoat sewn with red flowers tells us that he has paid a deliberate tribute to his Polish born Duke.
Marianne Loir’ early life remains a mystery, even to this day, as the precise dates of her birth and death are still unknown. She was born into a family of artists (in the seventeenth century the Loirs were Parisian silversmiths), the daughter of the Parisian painter and engraver Nicolas Loir (1624-1779) and the sister of the sculptor Alexis III Loir (1712-1785). The records show that in 1737 and again in 1738, she received payments for portraits of the Duc de Bourbon, the son of the Prince de Condé and a cousin of the king, a mark of the particular esteem in which she was held at a relatively young age. Her last known signed and dated work was done in 1769 so we may estimate that she had already established a reputation by 1737 and was still working more than thirty years later.
Her artistic education also presents us with some uncertainties. It is believed she was advised by Jean-François de Troy, whom she had probably met in Rome, during a sojourn there between 1739 and 1745 while her brother was a student of the French Royal Academy and de Troy the Academy’s director. While we do not know whether she was formally enrolled among Jean-François de Troy‘s students, it is certain that she studied under Hubert Drouais, whose influence is immediately apparent and explains some of the parallels with her master’s even more talented son, François-Hubert Drouais. Guillaume Faroult (curator of the paintings department at the Louvre Museum) wrote “his art [ Drouais’] …is not without connection to the style adopted later on by the young woman, in such a way that we have recently hesitated between these two artists regarding the attribution of paintings”.
Following her return to France, Marianne Loir was principally employed in painting portraits of the provincial nobility, such as her double portrait of Jean et son épouse Bonne de la Croix Laval (Lyon, Musée Lyonnais des Arts Décoratifs), and Marie-Charles-Auguste Grimaldi (Saint-Lô, Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Histoire). Her most accomplished is generally considered to be of La Marquise du Châtelet (Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux-Arts), in which she reveals a remarkable delicacy of touch and mastery of colour. Admitted as a member of the Académie de Marseille in 1762 after presenting the Portrait d’André Bardon, the artist continues her itinerant career, often following her brother. She seems to have sent time in Pau and Toulouse but by 1763 she was back in Paris where she painted the Portrait of Antoine Duplàa in September.
Ten of her paintings are dated and securely attributed to her between 1745 and 1769 and provide the best knowledge of her changing style.
The painting has its fine original carved and gilded Louis XV frame.
Her works in public collections:
Barnard Castle, Bowes Museum : Portrait d’un gentilhomme écrivant, circa 1750 (attributed to), oil on canvas, 112 × 86,7 cm