This work has been identified with a self-portrait that Mademoiselle Ducreux exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1791. The sitter's graceful pose and the sumptuous fabrics were admired by contemporary critics.
Although harps were popular accessories for portraits in this period, Rose Adélaïde Ducreux really was both a talented artist and a gifted musician. She was the daughter of Joseph Ducreux (1735–1802), principal portraitist to Marie Antoinette (1755–1793), who had traveled to the Queen's native Vienna to paint her in 1769. Rose Adélaïde Ducreux's first exhibited work, at the Salon de Correspondance in 1785, was a self-portrait in which she showed herself painting (location unknown); in her self-portraits she customarily includes attributes of art and music. Since they were not members of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, both Joseph Ducreux and his daughter were excluded from the official Salon until 1791, when the doors were opened to all. In 1791 she exhibited two portraits, including this one; she showed six more portraits there between 1793 and 1799.
Ducreux never signed her work. The few paintings by her that have now been identified had been confused with those of other artists such as Antoine Vestier (1740–1824) and Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842). This composition, however, exactly matches the description of her life-size self-portrait playing the harp, exhibited in 1791; the floral carpet recurs in another portrait of a young woman by Ducreux (private collection). On the table sit a Neoclassical vase, a book whose spine is inscribed "Opera", and her music, a song by the harpist and composer Jean Joseph Benoît Pollet (1753–1823). She holds a tuning fork in her right hand.
In 1802 Ducreux left Paris for the French colony of Santo Domingo, as she was engaged to the maritime prefect of the island, François Lequoy de Montgiraud (1748–1804). They married, but shortly thereafter she died of yellow fever. Her father, from whom she had previously been inseparable, died two days later.
Inscription: Inscribed: (on book) Opera; (on music) Romance / par Benoit pollet / [?] tendre amour . . . marit je rend l[es] / ar—me je rend les ar—me / il est pour moi si plein de / charme que j`en atta . . . (verses from a song by Jean Joseph Benoît Pollet [1753–1818], which has not been identified)
marquis de S[affray], Paris (until d. 1897; sale, Marquis de S . . ., Féral and Breysse, Paris, May 10, 1898, no. 17, as "Une jeune musicienne. Debout, en pied, vêtue d'un élégant costume de soie du temps de Louis XVI. Les cheveux bouclés, poudrés et ornés d'un ruban bleu de ciel, elle est appuyée sur une harpe. Gracieux portrait en parfait état de conservation. Attribué à Vestier. Toile. 1m 90 sur 1m 30," for Fr 25,500); [Gimpel & Wildenstein, Paris and New York, by 1902–5; sold to King]; David H. King Jr., New York (1905; sale, American Art Association, New York, March 31, 1905, no. 69, as "The Marquise de Saffray," by Vigée Le Brun, for $5,700); Susan Dwight Bliss, New York (by 1938–d. 1966)
Paris. Salon. September 8–?, 1791, no. 677 (as "Mlle. Ducreux jouant de la Harpe, peinte par elle-même. Portrait, en pied, grand comme nature.").
Art Gallery of the Corporation of London. "Selection of Works by French and English Painters of the Eighteenth Century," April 22–July 26, 1902, no. 20 (as "Madame Rolund," by Vigée Le Brun, 73 x 51 in., lent by M. Wildenstein).
M. D . . . [Philippe Chéry]. Explication et critique impartiale de toutes les peintures, sculptures, gravures, dessins, &c., exposés au Louvre d'après le décret de l'Assemblée nationale, au mois de septembre 1791, l'an III de la Liberté. Paris, 1791, p. 61 [Collection Deloynes, 1791, vol. 17, no. 436], as "Un corps gracieux, des étoffes de la plus grand vérité".
La Béquille de Voltaire au Salon. Seconde et dernière promenade . . . Paris, An III de la liberté , p. 34 [Collection Deloynes, 1791, vol. 17, no. 439].
Abbé de Fontenay. Journal général de France (December 21, 1791), p. ? [Collection Deloynes, Bibliothèque Nationale, Cabinet des Estampes, Paris, 1791, vol. 17, no. 450; see Ref. Baillio 1988, p. 24], remarks that "Une nouvelle muse se montre avec éclat en se peignant sous les traits de Terpsichore . . . C'est Mademoiselle Ducreux jouant de la harpe. Le choix de l'attitude, la beauté des étoffes, les grâces du pinceau, et le bon effet distinguent ce charmant ouvrage".
André Foulon de Vaulx. "Antoine Vestier (1740–1824): notes et renseignements." Le Carnet historique & littéraire 7 (January–March 1901), p. 404, records in the sale of the Marquis de S., Paris, May 10, 1898, no. 17, a portrait attributed to Vestier with a description and dimensions that fit the present work.
American Art News 3 (March 25, 1905), ill. p. 5, as by Vigée Le Brun.
American Art News 3 (April 8, 1905), p. 7.
American Art News 3 (April 1, 1905), p. 4.
American Art News 4 (March 10, 1906), p. 4, discusses a lawsuit brought by Gimpel & Wildenstein against D. H. King for compensation for a group of pictures, including the present one.
American Art News (March 17, 1906), p. 4, comments on the settlement out of court between Gimpel & Wildenstein and King.
American Art News 4 (March 3, 1906), p. 1.
Pierre de Nolhac. Madame Vigée-Le Brun, peintre de la reine Marie-Antoinette, 1755–1842. Paris, 1908, p. 159, as "Mademoiselle Roland," shown at the 1902 Guildhall exhibition.
W. H. Helm. Vigée-Lebrun, 1755–1842: Her Life, Works, and Friendships. London, 1915, pp. 111, 202, doubts that the picture exhibited at the Guildhall in 1902 represents Mlle Roland.
André Blum. Madame Vigée-Lebrun, peintre des grandes dames du XVIIIe siècle. Paris, , pp. 56, 100, 105, no. 2o, ill. opp. p. 8, as Mlle Roland, collection Wildenstein; mentions among portraits done in Rome one of Mlle Roland, later Lady Wellesley, owned by Wildenstein; lists this portrait as the marquise de Jaffray.
Max von Boehn. Die Mode: Menschen und Moden im 18. Jahrhundert. Munich, 1923, p. 243, ill., as "Harfenspielerin" by Vigée Le Brun, late 1780s.
Max von Boehn. Die Mode: Menschen und Moden im 18. Jahrhundert. 5th ed. 1965, ill. p. 213, as by Vigée Le Brun.
"Portrait of Mademoiselle Roland (Later the Marchioness Wellesley) by Madame Vigée Le Brun." Duits Quarterly no. 9 (Winter 1965), p. 16, notes that the picture exhibited in 1912 at the Guildhall purported to be Mlle Roland but "as only one portrait is recorded in the Souvenirs it was probably confused with the Hoppner portrait of Lady Mornington [Mlle Roland] with a harp".
Robert L. Herbert. Letter to Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann. June 30, 1970, from a photograph attributes this picture to Vigée Le Brun.
Pierre Quarré. Letter to David Lomax. August 28, 1973, [written on his behalf by Monique Geiger] considers it not a certain work by Vigée; sees possible connections with Vestier and Trinquesse.
Albert P. de Mirimonde. Letter to Mary Ann W. Harris. June 21, 1975, identifies the music as a ballad by Jean-Joseph-Benoît Pollet (1753–1818); finds it "astonishing" that an elegant lady whose costume dates from about 1775–87 would play an instrument that was out of style by 1760–70; considers the attribution to Vestier most likely.
Joseph Baillio. Letter to Mary Ann Wurth Harris. April 5, 1975, suggests identifying this picture with one exhibited by Mlle Ducreux at the Salon of 1791 (no. 677, "Mlle Ducreux jouant de la Harpe . . .").
Joseph Baillio. "Une artiste méconnue: Rose Adélaïde Ducreux." L'Oeil no. 399 (October 1988), pp. 21, 23, 25, ill. (color), identifies it with the life-size self-portrait with a harp exhibited by Rose Ducreux at the Salon of 1791; cites and quotes the 1791 references.
Jean-François Heim, Claire Béraud, and Philippe Heim. Les salons de peinture de la Révolution française, 1789–1799. Paris, 1989, p. 194.
Margaret A. Oppenheimer. "Women Artists in Paris, 1791–1814." PhD diss., Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 1996, p. 172.
Melissa Hyde in Eik Kahng and Marianne Roland Michel. Anne Vallayer-Coster: Painter to the Court of Marie-Antoinette. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington. Dallas, 2002, pp. 74, 85, ill. (color and black and white).
Olivier Blanc. Portraits de femmes artistes et modèles à l'époque de Marie-Antoinette. Paris, 2006, p. 86 n. 146, ill. p. 84 (color).
Sébastien Allard inCitizens and Kings: Portraits in the Age of Revolution, 1760–1830. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 2007, p. 311 [French ed., "Portraits publics, portraits privés, 1770–1830," Paris, 2006, p. 344].
Nathalie Lemoine-Bouchard. Les peintres en miniature actifs en France, 1650–1850. Paris, 2008, p. 209, ill.
Daniëlle O. Kisluk-Grosheide inThe Wrightsman Galleries for French Decorative Arts: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2010, p. 184, no. 92, fig. 16 (gallery installation), ill. p. 185 (color).
Laura Auricchio inRoyalists to Romantics: Women Artists from the Louvre, Versailles, and Other French National Collections. Exh. cat., National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington. London, 2012, pp. 24, 75, fig. 1.1.
Laura Auricchio inStolthet & Fördom: Kvinna och konstnär i Frankrike och Sverige 1750–1860. Exh. cat., Nationalmuseum. Stockholm, 2012, pp. 25–26, ill. (color) [same text as "Royalists to Romantics", London, 2012].
Marie-Josèphe Bonnet. Liberté, égalité, exclusion: femmes peintres en révolution, 1770–1804. Paris, 2012, pp. 114, 197, 203.
Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell. Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. New Haven, 2015, p. 246, fig. 195 (color).
J. Kenneth Moore, Jayson Kerr Dobney, and Bradley Strauchen-Scherer. Musical Instruments: Highlights of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2015, p. 18, fig. 6 (color).
Revolution. Christie's, New York. April 13, 2016, unpaginated, under no. 16.
Frances Borzello. Seeing Ourselves: Women's Self-Portraits. rev. ed. London, 2016, ill. p. 2 (color).
Yuriko Jackall inAmerica Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2017, pp. 13, 292.
Melissa Hyde inAmerica Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2017, pp. 78–79, fig. 9 (color).