Applying the final stages of makeup and clothing in the presence of close friends and acquaintances—even potential suitors—was a standard part of elite social life known as la toilette and was a frequent conceit in eighteenth-century portraiture. Duplessis has skillfully depicted Madame de Saint-Morys next to her dressing table with a sympathetic naturalism that was praised by critics at the Salon of 1777. The sitter’s husband was a key patron of Jean-Baptiste Greuze and a major collector of drawings, including sheets by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, Albrecht Dürer, and Rembrandt that are today in the Musée du Louvre.
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Title:Madame de Saint-Morys (Eléonore Elisabeth Angélique de Beauterne, 1742–1824)
Born in Carpentras, in the south of France, Duplessis travelled in 1745 to Rome, where he studied for several years with Pierre Subleyras (1699–1749). There he specialized in portraits and landscapes, and perhaps religious subjects, which he also painted upon his return to his native town. He may have been in Lyons en route to Paris late in 1752; thereafter he returned regularly to Carpentras. In Paris he submitted five portraits to the exhibition of the Académie de Saint-Luc in 1764, while in 1769 he became a candidate member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture and showed ten portraits at the Salon. His regular submissions were admired and in 1774 he was admitted to the Académie and later provided with lodgings in the Louvre. He was a devoted academician and councilor, though as he aged he was handicapped by poor hearing and sight. He died in Versailles. For a gifted painter his work is little noticed and The Met is fortunate to own two of his best pictures.
It was the practice of Duplessis’s contemporary, Gabriel de Saint-Aubin (1724–1780), to make marginal drawings of many of the Salon exhibits in his copies of the Livrets, or checklists. In 1777 Saint-Aubin made a recognizable sketch of this portrait, providing the name of the otherwise unidentified sitter. He wrote "Md de St Maurice" under the printed title ("123. Plusieurs portraits, sous le même numéro," or "Several portraits, under the same number"), and added, though less clearly, "femme d’un conseiller au parlement." The lady at her toilette was singled out by several critics for its naturalism, for the truth of the skin tones, the beauty of the hands, and the delicacy and transparency of the draperies. In 2019 Neil Jeffares identified the sitter as the wife of Charles Paul Jean-Baptiste de Bourgevin de Vialart de Saint-Morys. The couple married in 1769. Possibly the picture was shown again at the Salon of 1779 as one reviewer referred favorably to "a portrait of a woman in a dressing gown (en peignoir)."
The sitter is seated at her dressing table, a large mirror and a silver cosmetic container at her elbow. Her abundant gray wig is dressed high in the style of the moment. She wears such fashionable undress as would have been suitable for receiving guests at home in late eighteenth-century Paris: a lace bodice and skirt lined with pink and a transparent dressing gown, exquisitely painted, the lace figured with several different patterns of branches of leaves and small flowers.
Katharine Baetjer 2019
Inscription: Signed and dated (right center): Duplessis / pinx. 1776
the sitter's husband, Charles Paul Jean-Baptiste Bourgevin Vialart de Saint-Morys, Paris and Château d'Hondainville, near Beauvais (until d. 1795); Eléonore Elisabeth Angélique de Beauterne, Paris (1795–d. 1824); their granddaughter, Madame Jules de Gaudechart (Charlotte Marie Joséphine de Saint-Morys), Paris (1824–possibly until d. 1857); Carleton Gates (until 1876; his estate sale, Leavitt, New York, December 21–22, 1876, no. 479, as "Portrait of Mme. Neckar. Signed, and dated 1776," for $105); James A. Aborn, New York (by 1948–d. 1968)
Paris. Salon. August 25–?September 25, 1777, no. 123 (under "Plusieurs Portraits, sous le même numéro").
Paris. Salon. August 25–October 3, 1779, no. 130 (as "Le Portrait de Madame ***").
Atlanta. High Museum of Art. "The Rococo Age: French Masterpieces of the Eighteenth Century," October 5–December 31, 1983, no. 31.
"Exposition au Salon du Louvre des peintures, sculptures et autres ouvrages de messieurs de l'Académie Royale en 1777." Mercure de France (October 1777), (Collection Deloynes, vol. 10, no. 191, p. 1103; McWilliam 1991, no. 0270), as a woman dressed partly in muslin, striking for the skin tones, the modelling, and the fineness and lightness of the draperies.
[Robert Martin Lesuire]. Jugement d'une demoiselle de quatorze ans sur le Sallon de 1777. Paris, 1777, p. 20 (Collection Deloynes, vol. 10, no. 178; McWilliam 1991, no. 0266), as "une Dame de bonne mine à sa toilette," in which Duplessis shows he knows how to paint hands; notes that she seems very natural.
Lettres pittoresques, à l'occasion des tableaux Exposés au Sallon, en 1777. Paris, 1777, p. 41 (Collection Deloynes, vol. 10, no. 190; McWilliam 1991, no. 0267), as "une Dame inconnnue," one of Duplessis's best portraits at the Salon, admirable for the truth of the skin tones, the beauty of the hands, and the delicate, light, transparent draperies.
[Jean-Baptiste Radet]. Ah! Ah! Encore une critique du Sallon!. Paris, 1779, p. 20 (Collection Deloynes, vol. 11, no. 208; McWilliam 1991, no. 0286), remembers "un portrait de femme en peignoir".
Emile Dacier. Catalogues de ventes et livrets de Salons illustrés par Gabriel de Saint-Aubin. part 4, Livret du Salon de 1777. Paris, 1910, pp. 42, 49, reproduces the page and reads Gabriel de Saint-Aubin's inscription for no. 123 in his 1777 Salon catalogue as "Mme de St Maurice".
Jules Belleudy. J.-S. Duplessis, peintre du roi, 1725–1802. Chartres, 1913, pp. 82–83, 326, no. 89, p. 333, no. 129, p. 336, no. 144, lists as no. 129 a portrait of Mme de Saint-Maurice, noting that a sketch is among Saint-Aubin's drawings for no. 123 in the 1777 Salon catalogue; lists also as no. 144, "Femme à sa toilette" mentioned in the Salon criticism of 1777 and 1779.
"Recent Accessions of American and Canadian Museums: April–June 1970." Art Quarterly 33 (Winter 1970), p. 457.
Eric M. Zafran. The Rococo Age: French Masterpieces of the Eighteenth Century. Exh. cat., High Museum of Art. Atlanta, 1983, pp. 71, 86–87, no. 31, ill. (color).
Aileen Ribeiro. The Art of Dress: Fashion in England and France 1750 to 1820. New Haven, 1995, p. 70, pl. 72.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 376, ill.
Thierry Bajou inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 9, New York, 1996, p. 400.
Jean-Paul Chabaud. Joseph-Siffred Duplessis, 1725–1802: Biographie. Mazan, 2003, pp. 39–40, 133, ill. p. XXI (color), appears to consider lost the portrait of a woman shown in 1779.
Neil Jeffares. Minutiae at the Met. March 29, 2019, unpaginated [https://neiljeffares.wordpress.com/2019/03/29/minutiae-at-the-met/], identifies the sitter as Eléonore Elisabeth Angélique de Beauterne (1742–1824), who in 1776 married the conseiller au parlement Charles Paul Jean-Baptiste de Bourgevin de Vialart (1743–1795), comte de Saint-Morys, a collector who patronized Greuze and sat to him in about 1780, as did their only child, a son.
Neil Jeffares. "Foreign Legion." Apollo 189 (April 2019), p. 103, fig. 2 (color).
Katharine Baetjer. French Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Early Eighteenth Century through the Revolution. New York, 2019, pp. 87 n. 8, pp. 194–96, no. 58, ill. (color).
Carol Santoleri in Katharine Baetjer. French Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Early Eighteenth Century through the Revolution. New York, 2019, p. 31.
Colin B. Bailey. "Review of Baetjer 2019." Burlington Magazine 163 (May 2021), pp. 471, 473 n. 4.
Linda Wolk-Simon. "In a New Light." Apollo 193 (March 2021), fig. 3 (color, installation view).
Assuming that the sitter is Madame de Saint-Morys, she was born in Paris on May 5, 1742, and according to her baptismal record, was the daughter of Etienne Paul Beauterne and Marie Anne Jonville. In fact, the names were invented, and she was illegitimate: her parents were Etienne Paul Boucher and his late wife's serving woman, Marie Anne Grillot. Boucher arranged her marriage to his great-nephew, Charles Paul Jean-Baptiste Bourgevin Vialart de Saint-Morys (1743–1795). The couple's only son, Etienne Paul, born in 1772, inherited Boucher's fortune of 2,500,000 livres in 1778, and each of his parents held fifty percent of the usufruct. Saint-Morys then formed one of the largest collections of European Old Master drawings in eighteenth-century France. Close to 13,000 drawings were seized in 1793 from his château at Hondainville and later incorporated into the Cabinet des Dessins, Musée du Louvre, Paris.
Father and son were painted by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, and Saint-Morys had an affair with Greuze's wife, born Anne Gabrielle Babuti.
This account is based on Françoise Arquié-Bruley, Jacqueline Labbé, and Lise Bicart-Sée, La Collection Saint-Morys au Cabinet des Dessins du Musée du Louvre, 2 vols., vol. 1, with an introduction by Roseline Bacou, Paris, 1987. Volume 2 contains the catalogue of the many thousands of drawings, painstakingly identified. For the portraits of Saint-Morys and his son (both Musée d'Arts de Nantes), see Adeline Collange-Perugi, Eloge du sentiment et de la sensibilité: Peintures françaises de XVIIIe siècle des collections de Bretagne, exh. cat., Ghent, 2019, pp. 252–53, nos. 92–93, ill. (color)
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