In 1651 Colbert joined the household of Cardinal Mazarin, principal advisor to Queen Anne of Austria during the minority of Louis XIV (1638–1715), and one of the great collectors of the seventeenth century. Having recouped the cardinal’s fortune, Colbert entered the king’s service and, ten years after he sat for this portrait, was appointed minister of finance. He was instrumental in reforming the arts to serve the monarchy. In 1648, he and Charles Le Brun took charge of the Académie Royale and in 1666 founded the French Academy in Rome.
Inscription: Dated (on paper in sitter's hand): Ao 1655.
Princess Isabella Lubomirska, Vienna (until d. 1816); her nephew, Prince Henryk Lubomirski, Vienna and Przeworsk, Poland (from 1816); Lubomirski family [possibly Ossolineum National Establishment] Lwów, Poland (by 1853–at least 1882); [Greta Ring at Paul Cassirer Galleries, London, until 1948; sold to Wildenstein]; [Wildenstein, London and New York, 1948–51]
Kraków, Poland. location unknown. "Spis obrazów znajdujacych sie na wystawie urzadzonej na rzecz Tow. Dobroczynnosoi . . .," 1882, no. 64 [see Ryszkiewicz 1963].
Kraków, Poland. location unknown. "Wystawa obrazów dawnych mistrzów . . . [Exhibition of Old Masters]," 1882, unnumbered cat. [see Ryszkiewicz 1963].
Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries. "Philippe de Champaigne," January 31–March 31, 1952, no. 41.
Ghent. Museum voor Schone Kunsten. "Philippe de Champaigne," April 10–May 20, 1952, no. 41.
Jacksonville, Fla. Cummer Gallery of Art. "The Age of Louis XIII," October 29–December 7, 1969, no. 17.
St. Petersburg, Fla. Museum of Fine Arts. "The Age of Louis XIII," January 5–February 8, 1970, no. 17.
Palacio Real de Madrid and Palacio Real de Aranjuez. "Cortes del Barroco: De Bernini y Velázquez a Luca Giordano," October 15, 2003–January 11, 2004, no. 13.10.
Rome. Scuderie Papali al Quirinale. "Velázquez, Bernini, Luca Giordano: le corti del barocco," February 12–May 2, 2004, no. 13.10.
Washington. National Portrait Gallery. "Permanent Collection from 1600 to 1900," July 4–September 30, 2006, no catalogue [included in installation of permanent collection to celebrate reopening of Gallery].
Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille. "Philippe de Champaigne (1602–1674): Entre politique et dévotion," April 27–August 15, 2007, no. 81.
Geneva. Musée Rath. "Philippe de Champaigne (1602–1674): Entre politique et dévotion," September 20, 2007–January 13, 2008, no. 81.
Bernard Dorival. Philippe de Champaigne. Exh. cat., Musée de l'Orangerie. Paris, 1952, pp. 71–72, pl. 12, calls it one of the earliest portraits of Colbert; notes that the painting by Champaigne in the Musée Jacquemart André, Paris, long considered a portrait of this sitter, is not, and that the so-called portrait of Colbert by Champaigne in the museum in Reims is neither by Champaigne nor a likeness of the minister; states that the MMA portrait was the basis for Nanteuil's 1662 engraving of Colbert.
A. Mabille de Poncheville. Philippe de Champaigne: Sa vie et son œuvre. Paris, [in or shortly after 1952], pp. 90, 132, n. 60, p. 145, pl. 16, states that this portrait was engraved by Nanteuil in 1660 and again in 1662; erroneously claims that Champaigne's portrait in the Karlsruhe museum also represents Colbert [it in fact represents a Monsieur Le Camus].
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), pp. 5, 24, ill.
Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 66–67.
Michael Thomas. "The Problems of the Splendid Century." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 19 (April 1961), ill. p. 224.
Andrzej Ryszkiewicz. "Sur les tableaux de Philippe de Champaigne en Pologne." Bulletin du Musée National de Varsovie 4 (1963), p. 27, notes that it was for a long time in the collection of the Lubomirski family of Przeworsk, having been exhibited several times since 1853.
Georges Poisson. "Le visage de Colbert." Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français, année 1965, (1966), pp. 119–20, calls the picture on which Nanteuil's engravings are based the earliest portrait of Colbert, but hesitates to identify the MMA painting with this prototype; considers the appearance of the sitter different in many details from the subject of the Nanteuil engravings and unlike the numerous replicas of the type in Reims, Musée Dobré, Nantes, and one originally in the Château de Sceaux, now in storage in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Le Mans; lists other portraits of Colbert, or said to be of Colbert, by other artists.
Bernard Dorival. "Recherches sur les portraits gravés aux XVII et XVIII siècles d'après Philippe de Champaigne." Gazette des beaux-arts 75 (May–June 1970), pp. 275, 292, ill. (the painting and Nanteuil engravings), discusses engravings which he believes are based on this portrait; gives sale dates and dimensions of numerous so-called portraits of Colbert by Philippe de Champaigne on the art market from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, none of which can be identified with certainty with the MMA painting.
M. Roy Fisher. Letter to Mary Ann Harris. November 6, 1975, finds the physiognomy of Colbert somewhat closer to the Nanteuil engraving recorded by Petitjean as no. 52 than to the ones that are nos. 50 and 51.
Bernard Dorival. Philippe de Champaigne, 1602–1674: La vie, l'œuvre, et le catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre. Paris, 1976, vol. 1, pp. 49–50, 129–30, 133, 161, 182, 185; vol. 2, pp. 92, no. 163, p. 429, fig. 163, catalogues it as the only portrait by Champaigne that actually represents Colbert, basing his identification on the Nanteuil engravings and on the description in Guillet de Saint-Georges [Memoires inédits, 1854], catalogues other works said to be of Colbert, either authentic or inauthentic works of Champaigne (p. 93, no. 166, p. 166, no. 337, p. 240, nos. 934–38, p. 317, nos. 1735–38, ill. pp. 429, 465, 493); incorrectly identifies the MMA portrait with one of Colbert sold as with the Saint-Martin collection in Paris on May 7, 1806, lot 8 [see Notes].
Anthony Blunt. "The Literature of Art: A New Book on Philippe de Champaigne." Burlington Magazine 119 (August 1977), p. 576, states that there is no reason to associate this painting with the portrait of Colbert by Champaigne mentioned by Guillet de Saint-Georges (see Dorival 1976); maintains that Nanteuil's engraving is certainly not based on this picture and does not even represent the same man, noting that the 1660 engraving shows a younger man than is represented in the MMA painting, which is dated 1655.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 324–25, 329, fig. 584.
Pierre Rosenberg. France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1982, pp. 233, 349, no. 2, ill. [French ed., La peinture française du XVIIe siècle dans les collections américaines, Paris, 1982].
Jacqueline Melet-Sanson inColbert, 1619–1683. Exh. cat., Hôtel de la Monnaie. Paris, 1983, pp. 485–86, 492, no. 701, calls it the earliest known portrait of Colbert, certainly by Philippe de Champaigne, but suggests that either a different portrait by the artist served as the model for Nanteuil's engravings of 1660 and 1662 or the printmaker used this picture and liberally interpreted it.
Bernard Dorival. "Recherches sur l'iconographie de Colbert: Colbert tel qu'il fut et tel qu'il voulut apparaître." Un nouveau Colbert. Ed. Roland Mousnier. Paris, 1985, p. 47.
Bernard Dorival. Supplément au catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre de Philippe de Champaigne. Paris, 1992, p. 51, mentions it as closely related to another portrait of Colbert painted by Champaigne in 1559 and known only through a replica in a private collection.
José Gonçalves. Philippe de Champaigne: Le patriarche de la peinture, 1602–1674. Paris, 1995, p. 125, ill. (color).
Nicolas Sainte Fare Garnot inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 6, New York, 1996, p. 435, ill.
D. Brême inAllgemeines Künstlerlexikon: die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. Vol. 18, Munich, 1998, p. 142.
Lorenzo Pericolo. Philippe de Champaigne. Tournai, 2002, pp. 195–97, ill. (color).
Javier Portús inCortes del Barroco: de Bernini y Velázquez a Luca Giordano. Ed. Fernando Checa Cremades. Exh. cat., Palacio Real de Madrid and Palacio Real de Aranjuez. Madrid, 2003, p. 342, no. 13.10, ill. (color).
Everett Fahy inThe Wrightsman Pictures. Ed. Everett Fahy. New York, 2005, p. 151.
Joseph Baillio et al. The Arts of France from François Ier to Napoléon Ier. Exh. cat., Wildenstein & Co., Inc. New York, , pp. 53, 72, no. 21, ill.
Jean-Claude Boyer. "De l'amateur au patron des arts: L'esquisse d'une politique?" Mazarin: Les lettres et les arts. Ed. Isabelle de Conihout and Patrick Michel. Paris, 2006, pp. 68, 70, 433 n. 9, ill. (color), interprets this portrait in light of the roles held in 1655 by Colbert and Champaigne, the former being Mazarin's "homme de confiance," and the latter entrusted with Mazarin's plan for the transformation of the château de Vincennes.
Jean-Claude Boyer inPhilippe de Champaigne, 1602–1674: Entre politique et dévotion. Ed. Alain Tapié and Nicolas Sainte Fare Garnot. Exh. cat., Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille. Paris, 2007, pp. 272–73, no. 81, ill. (color).
François d'Aubert. Colbert: La vertu usurpée. Paris, 2010, pp. 60–61, 340, ill. opp. p. 256 (color), mistakenly dates it 1656 in the text.
Audrey Adamczak. Robert Nanteuil, ca. 1623–1678. Paris, 2011, p. 198, under no. 146.
Mickaël Szanto. "L'affaire Jabach: Charles Le Brun et les tableaux de Louis XIV." Revue de l'art no. 192 (2016), p. 15, fig. 10 (color).
Jean-Baptiste Colbert, minister of finance of Louis XIV, is represented here at the age of thirty-six, when he was administrator of Cardinal Mazarin's fortune. Colbert was also the founder or organizer of the tapestry manufactory of the Gobelins, the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, the École de Rome, the Chalcographie (collection of original engravers' plates now at the Louvre), the Cabinet des Estampes (collection of prints now part of Bibliothèque Nationale), and the Académie des Inscriptions.
Poisson (1966) and Blunt (1977) question the identification of this sitter with Colbert and do not believe this is the portrait after which Nanteuil made his engravings in 1660 and 1662 (see Petitjean and Wickert, Catalogue de l'oeuvre gravé de Robert Nanteuil, 1925, vol. 1, pp. 166–74, nos. 50–55; vol. 2, nos. 50–55). The sitter in the Museum's portrait, however, closely resembles Colbert as he was portrayed some years later by Claude Lefebvre (see Pinset and d'Auriac, Histoire du portrait en France, 1885, p. 81).
Examination of the picture reveals that the canvas has been extended at the left and especially at the top, where it is possible that canvas has been added. The paint in the extended areas does not seem the same as the paint in the background proper.
Dorival (1976) incorrectly identifies this portrait with one of Colbert sold with the Saint-Martin collection in Paris on May 7, 1806, lot 8. In the catalogue for this sale the portrait is described as showing Colbert in the "embrassure d'une Croisée." There is no evidence of an overpainted window frame in the MMA portrait.
The MMA Print Department has an impression of the 4th state of Nanteuil's engraving of 1660 (58.558.1). Pierre van Schuppen copied Nanteuil's portrait in 1664. In the eighteenth century Nicolas Dupin repeated it again, as did P. Savart (MMA 24.80.267). (see Dorival 1970 and Poisson 1966)