Philippe de Champaigne (French, 1602–1674)
Black chalk, heightened with white chalk, touches of red chalk
8 11/16 x 7 11/16 in. (22 x 19.6 cm)
Inscribed in pen and ink: (upper right) La femme de mr champagne / peintre excellent en portraits / au naturel
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, Gifts in Memory of Jacob Bean, and various donors, 1994 (1994.7)
Although the inscription likely postdates the artist's lifetime, there is no reason to doubt that this sheet is a portrait drawn from life of Philippe de Champaigne's wife, Charlotte Duchesne, daughter of the painter Nicolas Duchesne, who had hired the young Flemish-born artist to assist in the decoration of the Luxembourg Palace for Marie de' Medici shortly after his arrival in Paris. It is a study for a bust-length oil painting in the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, which, before the Metropolitan's drawing came to light in 1992, had been thought to represent Henriette of France, wife of Charles I of England.
With a disarming directness, the artist focused on transcribing his young wife's features and expression, with only the most minimal and schematic indications of costume and jewelry. To create this effect of naturalism, the face was subtly modeled in black chalk with touches of white and red. The delicate handling calls attention to the slight knitting of the sitter's brow and the rounded cheek revealing just the faintest hint of a smile.