Madame Sophie was the sixth of eight daughters of Louis XV of France. Timid and self-effacing, she lived among members of the royal family at the châteaux of Bellevue and Versailles until her early death at forty-seven. She wears a magnificent dress of striped and flowered damask with a hair ornament of flowers and straps of the same material.
Madame Sophie, born in 1734, was the sixth of eight daughters of Louis XV (1710–1774) and Marie Leszczynska (1703–1768), and one of seven who died unmarried. In 1763–64, Drouais painted eight portraits of members of the royal family that were commissioned by the four surviving sisters, the Mesdames Adélaïde, Victoire, Sophie, and Louise: there were three group portraits, two individual portraits of Madame Sophie, and one of each of the other princesses. Each single figure cost 800 livres, though Drouais hoped for 1,000, and included the sitter's hands; all five were the same size, "2 pieds 3 pouces sur un pied 10 pouces," or roughly 73 by 59.55 centimeters. One of the portraits of Madame Sophie must be a work at the Musée National du Château de Versailles (MV 3810), signed and dated 1763, in which she is seated in an armchair and facing to right, wearing an elaborately re-embroidered flowered damask dress and lace cuffs, and holding a musical score. The portrait of Madame Louise may be that belonging to the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (1359-5); it is signed and dated 1763 and measures 73.7 x 59.8 centimeters.
By contrast with the painting at Versailles, in the Museum's portrait Madame Sophie's hands are hidden in a fur muff. The canvas, dated 1762, is smaller, with a shape more nearly square. Her beautiful dress is similar in style but the striped and flowered fabric includes darker colors and has a slightly different design. The smooth, porcelain-like modeling of the sitter's expressionless face is quite typical.
[Katharine Baetjer 2011]
Inscription: Signed and dated (right): Drouais le fils / 1762
?Baronin Hannah Mathilde von Rothschild, Schloss Grüneberg, Frankfurt-am-Main (until d. 1924); [John Levy Galleries, New York]; [Piero Tozzi, New York, until 1954; sold to French & Co.]; [French & Co., New York, 1954; sold to Oakes Foundation]; Oakes Foundation (1954–55; on loan to the De Young Museum; exchanged with French & Co.); [French & Co., New York, 1955–57, as "Marquise de Beauffremont"; sold for $11,000 to Fallass]; Barbara Lowe Fallass, Cross River, N.Y. (1957–64)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Eighteenth-Century Woman," December 12, 1981–September 5, 1982, unnumbered cat. (p. 52).
For the memorandum of paintings commissioned by the Mesdames, daughters of Louis XV, from Drouais, and delivered between 1763 and 1764, see Fernand Engerand, Inventaire des tableaux commandés et achetés par la Direction des Batîments du Roi (1769–1792), Paris, 1901, pp. 167–69.