In addition to his innovative moral subjects, Greuze was a great and subtle portraitist. This painting, with its smoothly blended surface and narrow color range, has traditionally been identified as Jean Jacques Caffiéri, a prominent sculptor who himself produced portraits of some of the eighteenth century’s most important cultural figures. Greuze exhibited his portrait at the Salon in 1765, the year Caffiéri rose to assistant professor within the French Royal Academy.
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Dimensions:Oval, 25 1/4 x 20 3/4 in. (64.1 x 52.7 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of Ethel Tod Humphrys, 1956
This relatively undemonstrative portrait offers no indication that it represents an artist and absent further information the sitter would be identified simply as a gentleman in a velvet coat with a brocaded waistcoat and a lace ruff. In fact, he is believed to be Jean Jacques Caffiéri, who was the same age as Greuze and a prominent sculptor specializing in busts of both his contemporaries and historical personages. A very old label with the names of artist and sitter is glued to the stretcher bar that supports the canvas. Therefore, when the work reappeared at auction in 1912, it was tentatively identified with the portrait of Caffiéri that Greuze exhibited at the Salon of 1765, despite the fact that there is a discrepancy between the measurements in the Salon list and the size of the canvas.
In the nomenclature of eighteenth-century France, the Salon exhibit measured two pieds six pouces by two pieds, which is 81.1 by 65 centimeters, or 31 7/8 by 25 1/2 inches. The present oval portrait measures 25 1/4 by 20 3/4 inches, a discrepancy of more than six inches in height and nearly five in width. The difference could perhaps be accounted for if the original frame was included in the overall size.
In 1748 Caffiéri had won the coveted first in the Prix de Rome prize for sculpture at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture and from 1749 to 1753 he trained at the Académie de France in Rome. Returning to Paris, he was granted preliminary admission in 1757, admitted a full member of the Académie in 1759, and appointed associate professor in 1765 and professor in 1773. He was therefore an academician rising steadily through the ranks. The presumed sitter’s mild expression in the Museum’s portrait belies what was evidently a strong character. The smoothly blended surface is traditional while the narrow range of color contributes to the relatively modest effect.
The Museum owns a marble bust by Caffiéri of Louis Nicolas Victor de Félix, Comte du Muy (28.193), signed and dated 1776.
Katharine Baetjer 2016
Jacques Doucet, Paris (until 1912; sale, Georges Petit, Paris, June 6, 1912, no. 156, as "Portrait présumé de Caffieri," for Fr 37,000 to Wildenstein); [Wildenstein, Paris and New York, from 1912; sold to Mrs. Humphrys]; Ethel Tod Humphrys, New York (by 1935–56)
Paris. Salon. August 25–September 30, 1765, no. 118 (as "Le Portrait de M. Caffiery, Sculpteur du Roi," 2 pieds 6 pouces x 2 pieds).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "French Painting and Sculpture of the XVIII Century," November 6, 1935–January 5, 1936, no. 36 (lent by Mrs. Julian Humphrys).
New York. Wildenstein & Co., Inc. "Fashion in Headdress, 1450–1943," April 27–May 27, 1943, no. 52 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Julian S. L. Humphrys).
Bordeaux. Galerie des Beaux-Arts. "Profil du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York: de Ramsès à Picasso," May 15–September 1, 1981, no. 109.
Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne," June 23–November 12, 2006, no. 37.
Barcelona. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. "Grandes maestros de la pintura europea de The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York: De El Greco a Cézanne," December 1, 2006–March 4, 2007, no. 29.
[Charles Joseph] Mathon de la Cour. Troisième lettre, à Monsieur ** sur les peintures, les sculptures, & les gravures, exposées au sallon du Louvre en 1765. Paris, 1765, pp. 9–10 (Collection Deloynes, vol. 8, no. 110; McWilliam 1991, no. 0173), notes that "the portraits of M. Wille and M. Caffieri are painted in a most spirited manner, as indeed, artists ought always to be painted".
Jules Guiffrey. Les Caffiéri, sculpteurs et fondeurs-ciseleurs: Étude sur la statuaire et sur l'art du bronze en France au XVIIIe et au XVIII siècle. Paris, 1877, p. 423, states that a portrait of Caffiéri (whereabouts unknown) painted by Greuze at the height of his talents was exhibited in the 1765 Salon.
Edmond de Goncourt and Jules de Goncourt. L'art du dix-huitième siècle. Vol. 1, 3rd ed. Paris, 1880, p. 341.
Ch. Normand. "J. B. Greuze." Les artistes célèbres. Paris, 1892, p.109.
J. Martin and Ch. Masson. Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint et dessiné de Jean-Baptiste Greuze [supplement to C. Mauclair, Jean-Baptiste Greuze]. Paris, 1905, p. 66, no. 1073, as measuring 81 x 65 cm; "Portrait enlevé avec fougue. Salon de 1765, no. 121".
Louis Dumont-Wilden. Le portrait en France. Brussels, 1909, p. 196.
John Rivers. Greuze and His Models. London, 1912, pp. 173, 272, quotes from the letter by Mâthon de la Cour.
Marcel Nicolle inCollection Jacques Doucet. Vol. 2, Catalogue des sculptures & tableaux du XVIIIe siècle. Paris, 1912, p. 54, no. 156, as "Portrait présumé de Caffieri," according to a very old inscription on a sticker on the stretcher; observes that the significantly larger dimensions of the portrait exhibited at the 1765 Salon do not permit certain identification.
Edgar Munhall. "Greuze." PhD diss., Yale University, 1959, as the portrait shown at the Salon of 1765.
Jean Seznec and Jean Adhémar, ed. Salons.. By Denis Diderot. Vol. 2, 1765. Oxford, 1960, pp. 35–36, fig. 51, tentatively connect the Salon portrait with the Doucet oval, and publish as "Caffieri?" a photograph labeled "vente Doucet 1912" from the Bibliothèque Nationale.
Anita Brookner. Greuze: The Rise and Fall of an Eighteenth-century Phenomenon. Greenwich, Conn., 1972, p. 64.
Edgar Munhall. Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1725–1805. Ed. Joseph Focarino. Exh. cat.Hartford, 1976, p. 22.
James Thompson. "Jean-Baptiste Greuze." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 47 (Winter 1989/90), pp. 27–28, ill. (color).
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 378, ill.
Edgar Munhall inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 13, New York, 1996, p. 641.
Edgar Munhall. Greuze the Draftsman. Exh. cat.London, 2002, p. 24.
Katharine Baetjer inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 200–202, no. 37, ill. (color) [Catalan ed., Barcelona, 2006, pp. 108–11, no. 29, ill. (color, overall and detail)].
Florence Gétreau. Musée Jacquemart-André: Peintures et dessins de l'école française. Paris, 2011, pp. 160–61.
Lelia Packer in Humphrey Wine. The Eighteenth Century French Paintings. London, 2018, p. 225.
Katharine Baetjer. French Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Early Eighteenth Century through the Revolution. New York, 2019, pp. 212–15, no. 64, 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.
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