Perronneau, trained as a painter, pastelist, and engraver, entered the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1753. By that time he was already admired as a colorist and had exhibited widely, but he seems to have discovered that he could not compete with Maurice Quentin de La Tour for aristocratic or royal clients and for the most part sought work outside the capital. He was a regular visitor to Bordeaux, the home of the wealthy and cultivated Journu family, who gave him several commissions for oils and pastels. The first was for this portrait of Bernard, called Olivier, who was born in 1724. His square jaw and dark brows are typical of the Journus; his brilliant turquoise eyes are unusual. There is a slight sway to his pose. Although his expression is opaque, he appears to be acutely aware of the impression he makes.
Perronneau, a Parisian of bourgeois birth, was in his maturity exclusively a portraitist. A pupil of the engraver Laurent Cars (1699–1771), he may also have studied with Hubert Drouais (1699–1767) or Charles Joseph Natoire (1700–1777). He was admitted a candidate of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1746 and received in 1753. By this time Maurice Quentin de La Tour (1704–1788) had captured the market for pastel portraits among the aristocracy in Paris and at the court of Versailles. Although Perronneau had many Salon exhibits to his credit and was admired as a colorist, thereafter he generally found his clients among the upper middle classes and outside the capital, becoming an itinerant. In addition to Paris he worked in Orléans, Toulouse, and Bordeaux. He may also have been in Italy, visited Amsterdam more than once, and reportedly traveled to St. Petersburg. It was perhaps a matter of expediency rather than of his clients' taste that Perronneau preferred frontal or three-quarter view pastel portraits of less than half-length format. He achieved his expressive characterizations with effort; his pastels may show evidence of reworking. His work is remarkable for the subtle variety of coloring in both the lights and the shadows.
In 1756 Perronneau visited Bordeaux to paint a member of the Journu family of merchants. Madame Claude Journu was the widowed mother of eighteen children, one of whom, Bernard, called Olivier, born in 1724, is pictured here. Its success engendered additional commissions, including the 1767 portrait of Bonaventure and those of his brother, Jacques, Abbé Journu-Dumoncey, and of their mother, the latter dating to 1769 (all are oil paintings belonging now to the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.). Olivier Journu has brilliant turquoise blue eyes and the square jaw and very dark brows typical of his family. He wears point d'Alençon lace and a corsage of roses. While his expression is opaque, he seems to be acutely self-aware.
[Katharine Baetjer 2010]
Inscription: Signed and dated in graphite (upper right): Perronneau / 1756
the sitter's brother, Bonaventure Journu, Bordeaux (until d. 1781); his son, Bernard Journu-Auber, later comte de Tustal, château de Tustal, Sadirac (1781–d. 1815); his daughter, Mme Jean-Baptiste Jacques Le Grix de La Salle (from 1815); her granddaughter, Louise Le Grix, comtesse de Tustal, château du Petit-Verdus, Sadirac (sold to Groult); Camille Groult, Paris (by 1896–d. 1908); Mme Camille Groult, Paris (from 1908); by descent to Bordeaux Groult, Paris (until 2002; sale, Sotheby's, Paris, June 27, 2002, no. 39, for € 258,750 to Artemis); [Artemis, Munich and New York, 2002–3; sold to MMA]
Paris. Galerie Georges Petit. "Cent pastels du XVIIIe siècle," May 18–June 10, 1908, no. 100 (as "Portrait d'homme à la rose," lent by Mme X...).
Bordeaux. Musée d'art ancien. "Exposition d'iconographie Bordelaisie," May 13–June 30, 1928 [reproduction only; see Meaudre de Lapouyade 1947].
New York. C. G. Boerner. "Old Master Drawings," January 22–February 8, 2003, no. 31 [this picture exhibited January 22–28].
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Pastel Portraits: Images of 18th-Century Europe," May 17–August 14, 2011, no. 21.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Eighteenth-Century Pastels," August 6–December 29, 2013, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Eighteenth-Century Pastel Portraits," July 26–October 29, 2017, no catalogue.
THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT, BY TERMS OF ITS ACQUISITION BY THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART.
Maurice Tourneux. "Jean-Baptiste Perronneau (2e article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 15 (1896), p. 135, quotes a description of this pastel, dated 1756, by Charles Marionneau, who thought it the best Perronneau in M. Groult's collection; as from the château du Petit-Verdus.
L[éon]. Roger-Milès inMaitres du XVIIIe siècle: Cent pastels. Paris, 1908, p. 87, ill. preceding p. 87, identifies the sitter as Charles-Louis-Génu Soalhat, chevalier de Mainvilliers.
Léandre Vaillat and Paul Ratouis de Limay. J.-B. Perronneau (1715–1783): Sa vie et son œuvre. Paris, , pp. 32, 96, 130, 144, no. 67, pl. 43, as "Portrait de jeune homme aux trois roses".
Louis Paraf. "Sur trois pastels de Perronneau de la collection Groult." Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français (1910), p. 251, identifies the sitter as M. Tassin de la Renardière.
Léandre Vaillat and Paul Ratouis de Limay. J.-B. Perronneau (1715–1783): Sa vie et son œuvre. 2nd ed. Paris, 1923, pp. 67, 89–90, 217–18, 222, accept the identification proposed by Paraf.
[Maurice Meaudre de Lapouyade]. "Une visite à l'exposition d'iconographie bordelaise." Revue philomathique de Bordeaux et du sud-ouest (April–June 1928), pp. 53–54, identifies the sitter as a member of the Journu family.
Y. Jubert. "Les modèles bordelais de Jean-Baptiste Perronneau." La Petite Gironde (August 2, 1941), ill. [see sale cat. Sotheby's, Paris, June 27, 2002, no. 39].
Maurice Meaudre de Lapouyade. Perronneau à Bordeaux. 1947, pp. ? [Bibliothèque Municipale de Bordeaux; published in "Le port des lumières," exh. cat., 3 vols., Bordeaux, 1989, vol. 1: "La peinture à Bordeaux, 1750–1800," pp. 77–80, no. 11, ill.], identifies the sitter as Olivier Journu.
Christine Debrie. Le pastel du XVIIIe au XXe siècle à travers les acquisitions du Musée Antoine Lécuyer, 1978–1993. Exh. cat., Musée Antoine Lécuyer. Saint-Quentin, 1993, p. 10.
Old Master Drawings. Exh. cat., C. G. Boerner. New York, 2003, unpaginated, no. 31, ill. (color).
Colnaghi. Old Master Paintings. London, 2004, pp. 52–53.
Perrin Stein inThe Wrightsman Pictures. Ed. Everett Fahy. New York, 2005, pp. 179–81, no. 51, ill. (color).
Marjorie Shelley. "Pastelists at Work: Two Portraits at the Metropolitan Museum by Maurice Quentin de La Tour and Jean Baptiste Perronneau." Metropolitan Museum Journal 40 (2005), pp. 105–19, figs. 2, 4–5, 10–11(overall, details, and infrared reflectogram), colorpls. 9–10 (overall and detail), describes the artist's technique, and, notably, the "draftsmanly quality of his crayon".
Neil Jeffares. Dictionary of Pastellists Before 1800. London, 2006, p. 403, ill. (color).
Katharine Baetjer and Marjorie Shelley. "Pastel Portraits: Images of 18th-Century Europe." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 68 (Spring 2011), pp. 23, 25, 33, 39, no. 21, ill. on cover and p. 32 (color).
Dominique d' Arnoult. Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, ca. 1715–1783: Un portraitiste dans l'Europe des lumières. Paris, 2014, pp. 16, 82, 92, 94, 112, 115, 140 n. 668, pp. 146, 162, 195, 197, 200 n. 1049, pp. 221, 257–58, 261, 290, 304, 319, no. 158 Pa, ill. pp. 17, 111, 114 (color, overall and details).
Louis-Antoine Prat. Le Dessin Français au XVIIIe siècle. Paris, 2017.