Portrait of an unknown man sitting holding his hat; half-length figure facing front, shoulder-length wavy hair, holding a hat on his lap with his left hand and resting on his right arm at the side Black chalk, heightened with white, with touches of red, on blue-grey paper
- Height: 359 millimetres
- Width: 300 millimetres
This lively drawing of a genial seated man, holding a hat, was long catalogued as an autograph work by Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, one of the leading pastellists of his age. As courtly circles in Paris championed his rival and fellow pastellist Maurice-Quentin de la Tour, Perronneau's portraits tended to represent provincial gentry. This drawing is, however, one of the few non-pastel works that have been given to Perronneau and, in recent years, it has been absent from newer monographs on the artist. Its authorship is still uncertain, but its history provides an interesting example of changing tastes and connoisseurship since the beginning of the 20th century.
In 1909, Vaillat and Ratouis de Limay chose this portrait as the only drawing reproduced in their monograph on Perronneau, while at the time of Wauters's 1926 sale it was still highly regarded. In an auction of 348 lots, this drawing achieved the 49th highest price (1,100 Dutch florins), realising a higher value than a Boucher and exceeded only by drawings by artists including Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Veronese, Rubens and Durer. When the BM acquired the drawing in 1927, it was the most expensive sheet purchased in that year, for £150. In comparison, Ingres's studies for the Martyrdom of St Symphorian (1927,0518.4), which had also been purchased by Colnaghi at the Wauters sale (for 1,250 florins), was sold to the BM for £120.
Since its acquisition the sheet has never been exhibited and its selection for the 2016 French Portraits show was made in the hope of raising awareness of the drawing and stimulating debate.
Lit: L. Vaillat and P. Ratouis de Limay, 'J.B. Peronneau', 1909, pl. 82.
Not on display (French Roy XVIIIc)
2016-17 Sept-Jan, BM, 'French Portrait Drawings' (no cat)
Prints & Drawings
Portrait of an unknown man sitting holding his hat; HL figure facing front, shoulder-length wavy hair, holding a hat on his lap with his l hand and resting on his r arm at the side Black chalk, heightened with white, with touches of red, on blue-grey paper
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Object reference number: PDO4001
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