The portrait—one of Vigée Le Brun's finest—shows Emmanuel de Crussol at the height of his career, wearing the blue sash and collar of the order of the Saint-Esprit and the Maltese cross of the order of the Knights of Malta. His red hair is powdered. Crussol entered the service of the comte d'Artois (the future Charles X) in 1773. Having been a professional soldier, at court he became a gifted professional actor.
Emmanuel de Crussol-Florensac belonged to the ancient family of the Crussols, ducs d’Uzès, but to a junior branch of which the last survivor was his brother, Henri Charles, baron de Crussol (died 1818). Emmanuel joined the army in 1761 and fought in Germany during the Seven Years’ War. In 1773 he was appointed captain of the guard to the comte d’Artois (1757–1836), grandson of Louis XV and a future king as Charles X. Crussol-Florensac was named maréchal-de-camp in 1784 by Louis XVI, who awarded him the order of the Saint-Esprit. He was also a bailli, or bailiff, of the order of the Knights of Malta, an administrative and quasi-religious role. Membership of the order obligated him to celibacy. Nevertheless he enjoyed a long-term relationship with Charlotte Eustache Sophie de Fuligny Damas (ca. 1742–1828), marquise de Grollier, who was a still-life painter and a friend of Madame Vigée Le Brun and sat to her for a portrait of the same size on panel.
In her memoirs, Vigée Le Brun stated that she had painted the marquise and the bailli three times, in 1788, in 1789, and after her return to France. In the first two cases only the names of the sitters are listed, one after the other, but in the third there are descriptions: "La marquise de Grollier, peignant des fleurs" and "Le bailli de Crussol. Grand buste."
These descriptions fit the surviving portraits. The portrait of the bailli is signed and dated 1787, and if there were others, they must have been later replicas.
The bailli de Crussol wears a gold-embroidered black coat with the eight-point cross of the order of the Saint-Esprit in white, and a black ribbon with an enameled cross of the same design. Over the sash of the order is the collar, meticulously depicted, from which the cross with the dove is suspended. His expressive head, confident and engaged, is set off by a white neck band and a wide fall of lace. Apparently he wears his own reddish-blond hair, thickly powdered.
[Katharine Baetjer 2014]
Inscription: Signed and dated (upper right): Lse. Ebet. Vigée: LeBrun: Pxte. 1787
Charlotte Eustache Sophie de Faligny Damas, marquise de Grollier (until d.1828); her daughter, Alexandrine de Grollier, marquise de Sales (from 1828); ducs d'Uzès, Paris (by 1883–at least 1908); Sir Robert Henry Edward Abdy, London (until 1929); [Abdy & Co., 1929; sold to Wildenstein]; [Wildenstein, New York, 1929; sold to Bache]; Jules S. Bache, New York (1929–d. 1944; his estate, 1944–49; cats., 1929, unnumbered; 1937, no. 54; 1943, no. 53)
Paris. Galerie Georges Petit. "L'art au XVIIIe siècle," December 15, 1883–January 1884, no. 139 (as "Portrait du Bailli de Crussol," lent by the duchesse d'Uzès).
Paris. École des Beaux-Arts. "L'art français sous Louis XIV et sous Louis XV," 1888, no. 1 (supp.).
Paris. Galerie Sedelmeyer. "Marie Antoinette et son temps," 1894, no. 158 (as "Portrait du bailli de Crussol représenté en costume de chevalier de l'ordre du Saint-Esprit," lent by the duchesse d'Uzès).
Paris. Lycéum-France. "Exposition rétrospective féminine, tableaux, portraits, dessins, pastels," February 26–March 10, 1908, no. 50 (as "le Bailly de Crussol, grand-maître de l'ordre de Malte," lent by the duc d'Uzès).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Bache Collection," June 16–September 30, 1943, no. 53.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France," February 15–May 15, 2016, no. 36.
Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Souvenirs. Vol. 1, Paris, 1835, pp. 336–37 [Paris, 1986, ed. Claudine Herrmann, vol. 1, pp. 343–44, 353], lists two portraits of Crussol: one painted in 1788 and another in 1789.
Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Souvenirs. Vol. 3, Paris, 1837, p. 352, lists a third portrait of Crussol, in half-length ("grand buste"), executed in Paris after the Revolution.
Pierre de Nolhac. Madame Vigée-Le Brun, peintre de la reine Marie-Antoinette, 1755–1842. Paris, 1908, pp. 156, 162, as "Le Bailli de Crussol", exhibited in 1883–84, 1888, and 1908.
Maurice Tourneux. "Une exposition rétrospective d'art féminin." Gazette des beaux-arts 50 (1908), p. 297, ill. opp. p. 278.
Pierre de Nolhac. Madame Vigée-Le Brun, peintre de Marie-Antoinette. Paris, 1912, pp. 154, 258, 260, 266.
W. H. Helm. Vigée-Lebrun, 1755–1842: Her Life, Works, and Friendships. London, 1915, p. 193, claims the present work was almost certainly the portrait of Crussol painted in 1788 or 1789, for which Madame Lebrun received the hundred louis to start for Italy in October 1789.
André Blum. Madame Vigée-Lebrun, peintre des grandes dames du XVIIIe siècle. Paris, , p. 99, lists our picture as painted in 1788.
Charles Oulmont. Les femmes peintres du XVIIIe siècle. Paris, 1928, pp. 21–22, 31, claims that Vigée was paid 100 louis for the picture when Le Brun was absent.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Collection of Jules S. Bache. New York, 1929, unpaginated, ill.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. under revision. New York, 1937, unpaginated, no. 54, ill.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. rev. ed. New York, 1943, unpaginated, no. 53, ill.
Theodore Sizer. "The John Trumbulls and Mme. Vigée-Le Brun." Art Quarterly 15 (1952), p. 171, fig. 1.
Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 188–90, ill., notes that in her "Souvenirs", Vigée mentions painting three portraits of the Bailli from 1788, 1789, and after the Revolution; states that ours, clearly dated 1787, is evidently a fourth.
Ilse Bischoff. "Vigée-Lebrun's Portraits of Men." Antiques 93 (January 1968), p. 112, ill.
Joseph Baillio. Letter to Mary Ann Wurth Harris. April 5, 1975, as "one of her best performances".
Joseph Baillio. "Identification de quelques portraits d'anonymes de Vigée Le Brun aux États-Unis." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 96 (November 1980), p. 168 n. 25, as painted on panel.
Joseph Baillio. Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, 1755–1842. Exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum. Fort Worth, 1982, pp. 5, 76–78, ill., claims that this picture and Vigée's portrait of the sitter's companion, the marquise de Grollier (collection of comte Jean-François de Roussy de Sales, Château de Thorens, Thorens-Glières), also on panel and about the same height, "can be considered pendants"; states that the marquise owned both portraits.
Joseph Baillio. draft entry for this picture. 1987, catalogues this picture, providing bibliography and provenance.
Kathleen Nicholson inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 32, New York, 1996, p. 495, as an example of the intensity and directness of Vigée's portraits of men, by comparison with the affectation found in many of her portraits of women.
Mary D. Sheriff inDictionary of Women Artists. Ed. Delia Gaze. London, 1997, vol. 2, p. 1407.
Joseph Baillio et al. The Arts of France from François Ier to Napoléon Ier. Exh. cat., Wildenstein & Co., Inc. New York, , pp. 61, 74, no. 68, ill.
Joseph Baillio inÉlisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Ed. Joseph Baillio and Xavier Salmon. Exh. cat., Grand Palais, Galeries nationales. Paris, 2015, pp. 32, 184, fig. 20 (color).
Pierre de Nolhac. Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun: Peintre de Marie-Antoinette. Gennevilliers, 2015, p. 129, ill. p. 118 (color).
Joseph Baillio inVigée Le Brun. Ed. Joseph Baillio, Katharine Baetjer, and Paul Lang. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2016, pp. 26, 130–31, 248, no. 36, ill. (color) [English and French language Canadian eds., "Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun," Ottawa, 2016].
A portrait of the same sitter by Greuze was in a private collection in Paris (Baillio 1982).