This portrait of Maria Luisa of Parma, granddaughter of both King Louis XV of France and Philip V of Spain, was sent to Madrid in advance of her marriage to her first cousin, the future Carlos IV of Spain. It is exemplary of formal eighteenth-century court portraits. Painted in Italy for Spanish eyes, it teems with French decorative arts, evidence of Parisian craftsmen’s international preeminence in the period. The bronze clock case is supported by an exoticized elephant, the gold snuffbox is fitted with a miniature portrait of Maria Luisa’s future husband, and the impressive chair comes from a suite of furniture commissioned in Paris by her mother a decade prior.
#2259. Maria Luisa of Parma (1751–1819), Later Queen of Spain
Pécheux was called to Parma in 1765 to paint Princess Maria Luisa of Bourbon-Parma. This portrait, whose commission is recorded in great detail in the artist's autobiography, was for the family of her fiancé, the Prince of Asturias, later Charles IV of Spain (1748–1819). Maria Luisa, granddaughter of both Philip V of Spain (1683–1746) and Louis XV of France (1710–1774), is depicted in striped floral brocade. The decoration of the Habsburg order of the Croix-Étoilée, which she wore all her life, is pinned to her dress and she holds a snuffbox with a miniature of her future husband in her right hand.
The furniture is thought to have been ordered in Paris by her mother, Madame Louise Elisabeth de France (1727–1759), for the Palazzo Ducale in Parma. The Met owns an armchair from the same suite of impressive furniture (07.225.57), probably by Nicolas-Quinibert Foliot after a design by Pierre Contant d’Ivry. The clock at left—a popular model that incorporated an exoticized sculptured elephant, portrayed head-on by Pécheux, its trunk extending to the right—survives in the Uffizi (see fig. 1 above), signed by Jean François Béckaert (ca. 1720–1783).
While in Parma, Pécheux painted other portraits of the family and the princess, including a replica of The Met’s portrait in reverse and displaying another exoticizing clock, this one centered around the figure of a rhinoceros (fig. 2).
Anton Raphael Mengs (1728–1779) based his portrait of Maria Luisa (Museo del Prado, Madrid) on this composition. Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746–1828) painted the princess several times later in her life at the royal court in Madrid.
Katharine Baetjer 2014; revised David Pullins 2023
María Catalina de Bassecourt y Griñy (given to her by the sitter in 1789); by descent in the family of the Condes del Asalto, Madrid (in 1897, as by Mengs); Annie C. (Mrs. John Innes) Kane, New York (until d. 1926)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Eighteenth-Century Woman," December 12, 1981–September 5, 1982, unnumbered cat. (p. 52).
Laurent Pécheux. L'autobiografia di Lorenzo Pecheux sino al 1804 (1729–1804); Le opere pittoriche di Lorenzo Pecheux dal 1753 al 1804. [by 1804] [R. Accademia delle Scienze, Turin, Miscell. manuscripts, E, V, 12, fasc. Pecheux; published in Ref. Bollea 1942, pp. 372–75, 394], notes that the duke of Parma could not find a painter and that his minister, du Tillot, lobbied for Pécheux; observes that he "worked assiduously on the portrait" for forty days and sent it to Madrid in May where it was received with satisfaction by the King.
Ramón de Morenes. "Retrato de Doña María Luisa de Parma, Reina de España (Obra de Mengs)." Boletín de la Sociedad Española de Excursiones 5 (September 1, 1897), pp. 137–38, ill. opp. p. 137, as by Mengs, and belonging to the Condes del Asalto; observes that it was given by Maria Luisa to her governess, Maria Catalina de Bassecourt y Griñy, Marquesa de Griñy, de González y del Borghetto in 1789, and remarks that it retains its original frame.
Francisco Javier Sánchez Cantón, ed. Antonio Rafael Mengs, 1728–1779. Exh. cat., Museo del Prado. Madrid, 1929, p. 22, under no. 35, idenitifies as a study by Mengs a drawing lent by Maria del Pilar Carderera (no. 35, fig. 18).
L. C. Bollea. Lorenzo Pecheux, maestro di pittura nella R. Accademia delle Belle Arti di Torino. Turin, 1942, pp. 41–43, 372–75, 394, no. 24, publishes Pécheux's biography and autobiography.
Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 2, p. 728, no. 2038, ill.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 67.
Dieter Honisch. Anton Raphael Mengs und die Bildform des Frühklassizismus. Recklinghausen, 1965, pp. 71, 106, no. 14, as by Mengs.
James Parker. "French Eighteenth-Century Furniture Depicted on Canvas." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 24 (January 1966), pp. 182–86, 192, ill. p. 184 and fig. 2, identifies a chair from the set in the Metropolitan Museum and speculates that the clock came from the workshop of a French clockmaker resident in Parma, Nicolas la Fontaine.
[Alessandro Baudi di Vesme]. Schede Vesme: l'arte in Piemonte dal XVI al XVIII secolo. Vol. 3, Turin, 1968, p. 796, no. 24.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 159, 515, 606.
Thomas Pelzel. Anton Raphael Mengs and Neoclassicism. PhD diss., Princeton University. New York, 1979, p. 320 n. 288.
Sandra Pinto inCuriosità di una reggia: vicende della guardaroba di Palazzo Pitti. Ed. Kirsten Aschengreen Piacenti and Sandra Pinto. Exh. cat., Palazzo Pitti. Florence, 1979, pp. 121–22, under no. 40, discusses the example in the Palazzo Pitti, noting that this version is the one on which Mengs based his portrait (Prado, Madrid); observes that a portrait of Maria Luisa by Pécheux was listed in the posthumous inventory of Mengs.
T. H. Clarke. Letter to Claire Le Corbeiller. [ca. June 1980], identifies the clock with an elephant clock in the Uffizi, made by "Beeckaert, master in 1746"; notes that the Pécheux replica in the Pitti, which is in reverse, has a rhinoceros clock on the console.
T. H. Clarke. The Rhinoceros from Dürer to Stubbs, 1515–1799. London, 1986, pp. 132, 204, believes both clocks were acquired by Maria Luisa's mother.
Bel ameublement et tissus anciens. Sotheby's, Monte Carlo. June 21–22, 1987, unpaginated, ill., under no. 1100.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 109, ill.
Steffi Roettgen. "Das malerische und zeichnerische Werk." Anton Raphael Mengs, 1728–1779. Vol. 1, Munich, 1999, pp. 251, 253.
Nicole Hoentschel et al. Georges Hoentschel. Saint-Rémy-en-l'Eau, 1999, pp. 172–73, ill. (color).
Steffi Roettgen. Anton Raphael Mengs, 1728–1779. Vol. 2, Leben und Wirken. Munich, 2003, p. 253, fig. IV-43.
Pilar Benito García and Jesús Urrea. "El retrato 'de pedida' de la princesa María Luisa de Parma." Antologia di Belle Arti no. 63/66 (2003), pp. 63–64, identify a three-quarter length portrait in the Palacio de El Pardo, Madrid, as Maria Luisa; attribute it to Giuseppe Baldrighi and date it 1765, noting its connection with the MMA portrait.
Almudena Barbero. "Portraits de cour en Espagne à l'époque de Goya." De soie et de poudre: portraits de cour dans l'Europe des Lumières. Ed. Xavier Salmon. Arles, 2003, pp. 29–30, fig. 3, notes that the canvas was rolled for transport to Spain.
Almudena Ros de Barbero. "Laurent Pécheux: Pintor Francés, retratista de María Luisa de Parma, Princesa de Asturias." El arte foráneo en España: Presencia e influencia. Ed. Miguel Cabañas Bravo. Madrid, 2005, pp. 407–11, 416, fig.1, states that the picture was received in Madrid before April 28, 1765, and restored by Mengs; believes the areas of damage were the upper left corner and the lower edge; suggests that a portrait of the prince of Asturias, in Parma, was sent in exchange by the Spanish court and that before the princess arrived in Madrid, Mengs used this portrait to realize his sketch for her head (now in the Prado).
Elizabeth E. Barker inThe Wrightsman Pictures. Ed. Everett Fahy. New York, 2005, p. 233 n. 11.
Pilar Benito García. "Aproximación al guardarropa de María Luisa de Parma." Reales sitios 45, no. 175 (2008), p. 50, ill. p. 49 (color), notes that her costume follows French fashion.
Mercedes Cerón. "Goya's Lost Snuffbox." Burlington Magazine 152 (October 2010), p. 675, ill. on title page, figs. 25, 26 (color, overall and details).
Francesco Petrucci. Pittura di Ritratto a Roma: il Settecento. Rome, 2010, vol. 1, pp. 83, 324; vol. 3, pl. 1140.
Daniëlle O. Kisluk-Grosheide inThe Wrightsman Galleries for French Decorative Arts: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2010, p. 180, no. 89, fig. 33 (color, gallery installation), ill. p. 181 (color).
Sylvain Laveissière inLaurent Pécheux, 1729–1821: Un peintre français dans l'Italie des Lumières. Ed. Sylvain Laveissière. Exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dole. Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2012, pp. 158–59, 161, 164, ill. p. 156 (color).
Sylvie de Vesvrotte inLaurent Pécheux, 1729–1821: Un peintre français dans l'Italie des Lumières. Ed. Sylvain Laveissière. Exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dole. Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2012, p. 34.
Neil Jeffares. Minutiae at the Met. March 29, 2019, unpaginated [https://neiljeffares.wordpress.com/2019/03/29/minutiae-at-the-met/].
Katharine Baetjer. French Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Early Eighteenth Century through the Revolution. New York, 2019, pp. 246–49, no. 77, ill. (color).
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