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The Artistic Heritage of Modena: Wounded Art


Eugène Joseph Stanislas Foullon d'Écotier (1753–1821)

Antoine Vestier (French, Avallon 1740–1824 Paris)

Oil on canvas
Oval, 31 5/8 x 25 1/8 in. (80.3 x 63.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1983
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    Eugène Foulon d'Écotier must have commissioned the portrait to commemorate his appointment in June 1785 as Intendant of Guadeloupe. It was painted prior to his departure for the French colonial island that November. He holds a map of Guadeloupe, and behind him is a book entitled Ordonnances de la Marine, the regulations for administering French colonies. The picture was exhibited by Vestier at the Salon of 1787 and is a fine example of the sort of work on which his reputation was based.

  • Catalogue Entry

    The son of the Intendant Général des Finances of France, Foullon d’Écotier began his career in 1772, at the age of nineteen, serving as Conseiller au Châtelet in Paris. Achieving the position of Conseiller à la Cour des Aides de Paris in 1775, he was made Maître des Requêtes for Parlement in 1776. Finally, in 1785, Louis XVI appointed him Intendant of Guadeloupe and its dependencies. Foullon d’Écotier served as Intendant in Guadeloupe continuously from 1785 to 1791, except for a brief period, in 1786, when he was made interim Intendant of Martinique. In 1789 a secondary revolution broke out in Guadeloupe, in reaction to the one taking place in France. Foullon d’Écotier, joining the patriots rather than the landowners, was eventually forced to give up his position. He returned to France in 1791, spent eighteen months in jail during the Terror, and after repeated requests for his position to be renewed, finally returned to Guadeloupe as Intendant in 1816 under Louis XVIII. In September 1817, however, he was recalled for misappropriation of tax funds and upon his return to France declared himself bankrupt. Pleading with the Ministère de la Marine for retirement pay, he was awarded a pension by order of the king in July 1820 and, posthumously, the Cross of Saint Louis in January 1822.

    This portrait was painted in 1785, between the sitter's appointment as Intendant of Guadeloupe in June and his departure to assume his post in November, and includes several references to his new assignment. The book on the shelf, titled Ordonnances de la Marine, contains regulations for administering French colonies. Next to it is a pamphlet titled Mémoire, which might possibly be a copy of the report given to Baron Clugny when he was named governor of Guadeloupe; dated March 20, 1784, it carries instructions concerning all branches of the administration of Guadeloupe and its dependent islands. The map held by the sitter covers the territory to be under his jurisdiction: the island of Guadeloupe, the smaller island of Marie Galante, and the cluster of tiny islands called Les Isles des Saintes. The actual map Vestier depicts was published by Bellin in Paris in 1759. Vestier faithfully copied its cartouche, reproducing every detail except the Roman numerals of the date, for which he substituted his own name and the date of the portrait.

    It is possible that this work had a pendant of the sitter's wife. There is a portrait of a woman by Vestier with the same oval format and the same dimensions as Foullon d’Écotier’s portrait. Sold at Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 21, 1947, no. 21, its present whereabouts is unknown. The woman, shown to the waist, holds a rose in her right hand, with her elbow resting on a table as she faces the viewer, echoing Foullon d’Écotier’s pose in reverse. Although it is signed and dated 1787, two years after Foullon d’Écotier’s portrait, there is no reason why they could not have been painted as a pair.

    [2011; adapted from Fahy 2005]

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right, on map cartouche): vestier / pinxit— / 1785; inscribed: (on book) ORDON[NANCES] / DE LA / MARINE (naval regulations); (on pamphlet) MEMOIR[E] (report); (on map) CARTE REDUITE DES ISLE[S DE] / LA GUADELOUPE / MARIE GALANTE ET LES SAINT[ES] / Dressé au Depon des Pl . . . / POUR LE SERVICE DE . . . / Par Ordre de M. BE . . . (Reduced map of the islands of Guadeloupe, Marie Galante, and Les Saintes, drawn up for the depository of maps [of the naval ministry], for the use of [the king's vessels], by order of M. Be[rryer . . . ] [This inscription is a faithful copy of a cartouche from a map of 1759, with the artist's name and the date substituted for the date of publication.])

  • Provenance

    [Galerie Heim-Gairac, Paris, in 1930; sold to Balmain]; Mme Balmain, Paris (until her d.; sold by her estate to Heim-Gairac); [Galerie Heim-Gairac, Paris]; private collection, London; [art dealer, London, until 1965; sale, Sotheby's, London, March 24, 1965, no. 84, for £2,000 to S. & R. Rosenberg for Wrightsman]; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, New York (1965–83)

  • Exhibition History

    Paris. Salon. September 1787, no. 148 (as "M. *** en habit de satin noir, tenant en sa main la carte des Isles de la Guadeloupe").

    Washington. National Gallery of Art. "The Eye of Th: Jefferson," June 5–September 6, 1976, no. 260 (lent anonymously).

  • References

    Jules Guiffrey in "Table des portraits exposés aux salons du dix-huitième siècle jusqu'en 1800." Nouvelles archives de l'art français (Revue de l'art français ancien et moderne), 3rd ser., 5 (1889), p. 35.

    Catalogue of Highly Important Old Master Paintings. Sotheby's, London. March 24, 1965, p. 52, no. 84, identifies the sitter as Monsieur Foulon d'Écotier, erroneously calling him Governor of Guadeloupe.

    Denys Sutton. "Pleasure for the Aesthete." Apollo 90 (September 1969), p. 238, ill.

    Everett Fahy in "Paintings, Drawings." The Wrightsman Collection. 5, [New York], 1973, pp. 323–29, no. 33, ill. p. 325 (color), figs. 2, 4 (details), suggests that Écotier could have sat for Vestier in the summer or early fall of 1785, and notes that in June 1785 he was named Intendant de la Guadeloupe, and not Governor as stated in the 1965 Sotheby's catalogue; the Intendant, whose position was secondary to the Governor's, "administered taxes and other aspects of the island's economy"; suggests that an oval portrait with the same dimensions, might be a companion piece representing Écotier's wife (ill. pl. 6, present location unknown; sold Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 21, 1947, lot 21).

    Jean-Claude Sueur. Le portraitiste Antoine Vestier (1740–1824). Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1974, p. 52, provides information about the sitter.

    Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée in The Eye of Th. Jefferson. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1976, p. 161, no. 260, ill., finds it stylistically close to portraits by Duplessis.

    Katharine Baetjer in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1983–1984. New York, 1984, pp. 65–66, no. 6, ill.

    Anne-Marie Passez. Antoine Vestier, 1740–1824. Paris, 1989, pp. 144, 170, no. 48, ill., calls the portrait identified by Fahy as Écotier's wife "La Dame à la rose"; admits to similarities in pose, oval format, and dimensions in these portraits, but notes that the identification of the female sitter cannot be confirmed.

    Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts. Frameworks: Form, Function & Ornament in European Portrait Frames. London, 1996, pp. 323–24, colorpl. 252 (in frame), describe the frame; call it original to the picture.

    Everett Fahy in The Wrightsman Pictures. New York, 2005, pp. 244–47, no. 67, ill. (color).

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History