Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Préparation for a Portrait of Louis XV (1710-1774)

Maurice Quentin de La Tour (French, Saint-Quentin 1704–1788 Saint-Quentin)
Pastel on blue paper, arched top
sheet (original sheet): 12 7/8 x 9 7/16 in. (32.7 x 24 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mary Tavener Holmes, in honor of Donald Posner, 2005
Accession Number:
Not on view
In the age of Enlightenment when the medium of pastel gained immense popularity, Maurice-Quentin de La Tour was perhaps its most gifted practitioner. He was distinguished from his peers by his ability to capture the inner spirit and intellect of his sitters. To achieve this end he developed a method of preparing his works through preliminary studies of the head, seen from different angles and with different expressions. Described by the French term préparation, these rapid drawings in pastel, often done on blue paper, showcase La Tour’s virtuoso talents.

This pastel study was made as part of the preparatory process for La Tour’s first portrait commission of king Louis XV, exhibited in the 1745 Salon. This close study of his head was undoubtedly done from life and makes clear the access and time granted to La Tour. The sense of underlying bone structure, and the tone and texture of the complexion are expertly achieved, but most impressive is La Tour’s ability to convey the quality of mind behind the young king’s eyes, projecting an animated and engaged intellect.

Perrin Stein, May 2014
Galerie de Bayser, Paris; Donor: Mary Tavener Holmes (American)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," April 25, 2005–July 24, 2005.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Pastel Portraits: Images of 18th-Century Europe," May 17–August 14, 2011.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Eighteenth-Century Pastels," August 6–December 29, 2013.

Xavier Salmon Le voleur d'âmes: Maurice Quentin de la Tour. Exh. cat., Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, 14 septembre-12 décembre 2004. Paris, 2004, cat. no. under no. 27, fig. no. 3, p. 126, ill.

Nadine Orenstein, Carmen C. Bambach, Colta Ives, Perrin Stein "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection, 2004-2005: Renaissance and Baroque Europe; Europe 1700-1900." in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.s. vol. 63, no. 2, Fall 2005, p. 24, ill.

Neil Jeffares Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800. London, 2006, p. 294.

Katharine Baetjer, Marjorie Shelley "Pastel Portraits, Images of 18th-Century Europe" The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. 2011, cat. no. 18, 30, ill.

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