- Museum number
Portrait of Mme la Marquise de la Croix; whole-length, almost in profile to right, lying back against a tree
Red and black chalk, with watercolour
- Production date
- 1770 (circa)
Height: 340 millimetres
Width: 223 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Neil Jeffares has kindly provided biographical details of the Marquise de La Croix. She was Félicité-Geneviève-Elisabeth (1720-after 1795), daughter of Joseph de Jarente, marquis de Senas and chevalier, and his wife Marie-Elisabeth Le Blanc. She married Maximilien-Joseph-Charles, marquis de La Croix, an officer in the service of the King of Spain, who died young, leaving her a widow at an early age.
However, there is debate about the identity of the sitter. For these doubts, see Stein, 2005, reproduced below. The confusion is due to a version in the Musée Condé, Chantilly, portraying a different woman in a very similar pose which is also described as the Marquise de La Croix.
Lit.: P. Stein, in exhib.cat., New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and London, BM, 'French Drawings from Clouet to Seurat', 2005, no. 52
The son of a Parisian cobbler, Louis Carrogis adopted the more aristocratic-sounding surname, de Carmontelle, and employed his wits and talent to gain entrée into some of France's most illustrious courts. He served with the dragoons in the Orléans regiment of the French army during the Seven Years war, after which he was recommended to Louis Philippe, the Duc d'Orléans (1725-85), who hired him as tutor to his son Louis-Philippe-Joseph, Duc de Chartres (1747-85). Although he performed many tasks in the ducal household, from producing short plays to garden design, Carmontelle's primary artistic legacy took the form of a series of drawn portraits, numbering around 750 at his death. Adopting a consistent technique and format early on, he used chalk and watercolour to record the likenesses and pastimes of the broad segment of Enlightenment society that passed through the Orléans court.
Of the identity of the sitter in the BM drawing, we cannot be certain. According to the inscription, she is the Marquise de La Croix (née Jarente), who married a lieutenant-general in the service of the king of Spain. After periods in Avignon and Madrid, where she is said to have taken part in various court intrigues,(n.1) she returned to France, where she was drawn by Carmontelle. In a manuscript by Richard de Lédans, who recorded Carmontelle's portraits and presumably reflected Carmontelle's impressions of his sitters, she is described as a great beauty, completely lacking in judgement and common sense - traits, according to Lédans, common to her sex.(n.2) In addition to the BM drawing, which was sold from the collection some time in the nineteenth century(n.3) and appears to have been done around 1770, judging from the hairstyle,(n.4) a second version exists at Chantilly, likewise catalogued as the Marquise de La Croix, but lacking an inscription (fig.1)(n.5) However, the two do not depict the same woman. The description published by Gruyer, of the marquise as 'une beauté romaine', with 'l'oeil perçant, le nez aquilin, la tête arrière',(n.6) sits easily with the Chantilly version, but not with the London one, with her curving nose and more modest gesture, although it is equally possible that the Chantilly version - the one on which Gruyer based his description - was incorrectly identified.
In both portraits the sitter is placed in a rustic outdoor setting; in the London version she has a letter on her lap, while in the Chantilly version she holds a book, but in both cases she is gazing into the distance, lost in reverie. The wooded setting, with, in the case of the London drawing, a meandering stream and fanciful fountains, recalls Carmontelle's acclaimed designs for the Duc d'Orléans's Jardin Monceau, in which exotic follies dotted the irregular landscape.
Text by P. Stein, 2005 as cited above.
Fig.1 Louis CARROGIS, called DE CARMONTELLE, `Portrait of Madame la Marquise de La Croix`, red and black chalk, with water-colour, Musée Condé, Chantilly.
1 F.-A. Gruyer, `Chantilly, Les Portraits de Carmontelle`, Paris, 1902.
1902, no.273, pp.197-8.
2 Pierre-Joseph Richard de Lédans, 'Appel nominal des portraits composant le Receüil de feu Mr. de Carmontelle', Paris, 1807, manuscript, Musée Condé, Chantilly. The discussion of Madame de La Croix appears on pp .79-80 of the 1902 manuscript copy by Gustave Macon (the original is unpaginated).
3 The Lédans manuscript, op.cit., after listing the contents of the thirteen albums, records the presence of further portraits in various groupings, under headings such as, 'ire colonne de droite', which included a 'marquise de La Croix, née Gérante', p.119, no.574, which presumably refers to the London drawing.
4 Harold Koda (telephone conversation, 18 June 2004) relates the marquise's hairstyle to one made popular by Joseph Legros de Rumigny between 1768 and 1772. See `Joseph Legros de Rumigny, L'art de la coiffure des dames françoises, avec des estampes, ou sont représentées les têtes coeffées`, Paris, 1767-70.
5 Gruyer 1902, op.cit., pp.197-8.
6. Ibid., p.197.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2005/6 Nov-Jan, New York, Met Mus of Art, Clouet to Seurat/BM, no. 52
2006 June-Oct, BM, Clouet to Seurat/BM, no. 52
2016-17 Sept-Jan, BM, 'French Portrait Drawings' (no cat)
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number