Joseph Siffred Duplessis (French, Carpentras 1725–1802 Versailles)
Oil on canvas
39 1/2 x 31 7/8 in. (100.3 x 81 cm)
Bequest of James A. Aborn, 1968
Not on view
The portrait was admired for its truthfulness and the delicate treatment of the draperies. In his copy of the 1777 Salon catalogue, Gabriel de Saint-Aubin made a small sketch which has permitted the identification of the sitter.
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. Possibly it 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 2011]
Inscription: Signed and dated (right center): Duplessis / pinx. 1776
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. 1777, no. 123 (under "Plusieurs Portraits, sous le même numéro").
Paris. Salon. 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".
Émile 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.
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.
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.