The comte d’Angiviller belonged to an ancient military family of the minor nobility. He had bravely served Louis XV (1710–1774) and the dauphin from 1745, as a page at the battle of Fontenoy, and in recognition of his early, brilliant military career was awarded the red ribbon and cross of the Order of St. Louis in 1756. Four years later, he resigned from the military at the request of the dauphin to take charge of the household of the dauphin’s three sons and during the 1760s he developed a close relationship with the eldest, the future Louis XVI (1754–1793). The young king chose d’Angiviller to serve as director general of the Bâtiments, Arts et Manufactures du Roi, thus appointing him to a position roughly equivalent to that of minister of culture, in which he was the last to serve.
D’Angiviller, energetic, loyal, and a fine administrator, took charge of the royal palaces and parks, the tapestry manufactories of Gobelins and Savonnerie, the porcelain manufactory of Sèvres, and, with the painter Pierre, the Académie Royale de Peintures et de Sculptures and the biannual Salons. He was deeply committed to his post. During his tenure, narrative paintings illustrating important moments in the history of France and sculptures representing the country’s heroes were commissioned in an effort to restore the arts to greater nobility of style and to their appropriate role in support of the state. He was a constant admirer of Greuze and in 1782 acquired for the Louvre one of the artist’s most important genre paintings, A Marriage Contract of 1761.
It is reasonable to suppose that d’Angiviller commissioned the present picture, which was exhibited at the Salon of 1763. By then he would have been a favored courtier at Versailles and popular also in Paris, where he would have been received in the most elegant literary and social circles. Colorful and carefully elaborated, this likeness displays the intimacy and liveliness of the best rococo portraiture. It is not a state portrait (that commission was later given by the sitter to the painter Duplessis) but, quite the contrary, a small scale and rather personal one.
[Katharine Baetjer 2012]
?comte de Bernis-Calvière, Vézénobres, Gard; vicomte Paul Le Compasseur Créqui Montfort de Courtivron, Paris (from 1922); [Wildenstein, Paris and New York, until ca. 1925/26; sold to Blum]; Mr. and Mrs. Albert Blum, New York (ca. 1925/26–her d. 1965; her estate, 1965–66)
Paris. Salon. 1763, no. 129 (as "Le Portrait de M. le Comte d'Angévillé").
Paris. Galerie Les Arts. "Exposition au profit des laboratoires," 1922 or 1923 [see Exh. London 1932].
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "French Art: 1200–1900," January 4–March 12, 1932, no. 216 (lent by Alfred [sic] Blum, New York).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "French Painting and Sculpture of the XVIII Century," November 6, 1935–January 5, 1936, no. 35.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Patterns of Collecting: Selected Acquisitions, 1965–1975," December 6, 1975–March 23, 1976, unnumbered cat.
[Charles Joseph Mâthon de la Cour]. Lettres à Madame** sur les peintures les sculptures et les gravures, exposées dans le Sallon du Louvre en 1763. Paris, 1763, p. 62 (Collection Deloynes, vol. 8, no. 101; McWilliam 1991, no. 0153).
Edmond de Goncourt and Jules de Goncourt. L'art du dix-huitième siècle. Vol. 1, 3rd ed. Paris, 1880, p. 340, list the Angiviller portrait shown at the Salon as measuring "H., 2 p. L., 1 p. 6 p.".
J. J. Foster. French Art from Watteau to Prud'hon. Vol. 3, London, 1907, p. 165.
Louis Dumont-Wilden. Le portrait en France. Brussels, 1909, p. 196.
Georges Wildenstein. "Paintings from America in the French Exhibition." The Fine Arts 18 (January 1932), pp. 23, 26, ill.
Royal Academy of Arts. Commemorative Catalogue of the Exhibition of French Art, 1200–1900. London, 1933, p. 48, no. 177, ill., provides provenance.
Theodore Rousseau in "Ninety-fifth Annual Report of the Trustees, for the Fiscal Year 1965–1966." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 25 (October 1966), p. 77, ill.
Edgar Munhall. Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1725–1805. Ed. Joseph Focarino. Exh. cat.Hartford, 1976, pp. 21, 27, 92, fig. 14, as no. 129 in the Salon of 1763; on the basis of our picture proposes Angiviller as the sitter for a drawing in the Louvre previously presumed to represent Louis-Philippe, duc d'Orléans (no. 38, ill.).
Michael Levey. "Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725–1805)." Master Drawings 15, no. 3 (1977), p. 281, accepts Munhall's proposal that d'Angiviller was the sitter for the Louvre drawing.
James Thompson. "Jean-Baptiste Greuze." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 47 (Winter 1989/90), p. 27, fig. 23 (color).
Joseph Baillio. "Les portraits du dauphin et de la dauphine par Greuze." Gazette des beaux-arts 122 (October 1993), pp. 143, 145, ill., notes a resemblance to Greuze's untraced 1761 portrait of the dauphin Louis-Ferdinand de France (fig. 9, sold, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 12, 1910, no. 3).
JoLynn Edwards. Alexandre-Joseph Paillet: Expert et marchand de tableaux à la fin du XVIIIe siècle. Paris, 1996, p. 79, ill.
Edgar Munhall. Greuze the Draftsman. Exh. cat.London, 2002, pp. 22, 88, 90, ill., discusses it in relation to cat. no. 22, "Presumed Portrait of Louis-Philippe, duc d'Orléans," a drawing that he previously identified as the comte d'Angiviller.
Joseph Baillio et al. The Arts of France from François Ier to Napoléon Ier. Exh. cat., Wildenstein & Co., Inc. New York, , p. 78.
Florence Gétreau. Musée Jacquemart-André: Peintures et dessins de l'école française. Paris, 2011, p. 160.
The frame is from Paris and dates to about 1750 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–3). This fine and lively swept-sided frame is composed of an oak back frame laminated to a limewood upper frame and has mitred corners secured with tapered dovetail splines, both typical construction of the period and region. It is gessoed and water gilded overall. The sight edge is carved on an astragal half round in alternating scrolls and husks flanked by a small cavetto on either side. Garlands of flowers trail up the hollow and wrap around the rails. Asymmetrical rocaille shell forms wrapped in acanthus leaves form the pierced corners and centers. The hollow sides terminate in a palm leaf and dart carved back edge. The animated carving supports a well-executed twentieth-century regilding done in the eighteenth-century style.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2017; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
The version of this portrait in the Musée de Metz Métropole La Cour d'Or is described by Edgar Munhall as a copy. Seznec and J. Adhémar in their Diderot Salons (1957) and Anita Brookner (1956, 1972) associate the version in Metz with the portrait exhibited at the 1763 Salon.