En 1783, Vigée-Lebrun peint un portrait de Marie-Antoinette beaucoup plus simple, sans doute conforme aux tenues que la jeune souveraine privilégiait à Trianon, libérée de l’étiquette. Marie-Antoinette apparaît en gaulle ! Comprenez qu’elle est vêtue d’une robe de mousseline, simple et légère comme une chemise. La tenue est complétée par un chapeau de paille et la jeune femme semble saisie sur le vif, presque à son insu, composant un bouquet de roses ! Scandale lorsque la toile est exposée ! On s’écrie qu’une femme de chambre ne serait pas habillée autrement. Scandale certes, mais accompagné d’un grand succès car chacun veut avoir son portrait par Vigée Lebrun dont les finances deviennent florissantes.

D’après Vigée Lebrun, Marie-Antoinette, 1783, huile sur toile (93 x 73 cm), National Gallery of Art, Washington

Toujours est-il que le tableau est retiré et qu’un nouveau portrait est exécuté. La reine choisit cette fois une robe de soie et de dentelle, elle est parée de ses perles et munie d’un chapeau décent !

Ces deux dernières toiles sont donc deux représentations opposées de la reine, jeune femme avide de liberté ou princesse majestueuse, mais remarquez leur ressemblance : la composition est la même : mêmes positions du corps, du visage, du bras. Et même petit bouquet de roses que la reine est en train de nouer du même ruban. Malgré ces ressemblances, la portée des deux portraits est bien différente et le public et la cour sont soulagés de retrouver une souveraine royale et conforme à l’étiquette. Ouf, la morale est sauve et la monarchie garde la tête sur les épaules, au moins pour quelques années encore …

Vigée Lebrun, Marie-Antoinette à la rose, 1783, huile sur toile (113 x 87 cm), château de Versailles
Vigée Lebrun, Marie-Antoinette à la rose, 1783, huile sur toile (113 x 87 cm), château de Versailles

Source: Les humeurs de Sophie



French Revolutionary Artist Vigee Le Brun Reigns Supreme at the Met


Though she was Marie Antoinette’s favorite portrait painter, Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun (1755-1842) was not a queen herself.  She was, however, an extraordinarily gifted artist.  Beautiful, witty, unassuming and largely self-taught, she is arguably the finest of 18th century French portrait painters and to her credit—through a long and illustrious career—she kept her head.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s current exhibit, Vigee Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France, fast on the heels of its showing at the Grand Palais in Paris, is long overdue.  Katherine Baetjer, Curator in the Department of European Paintings, remarked to Roberta Smith in the New York Times’ own coverage, that it was the first time in her 40 years in the Department that a monographic exhibition has been held for a woman artist.  Better late than never, this first time retrospective of 79 portraits and one landscape will leave little doubt that the viewer is in the presence of true genius.

Vigee was the daughter of an accomplished pastel portraitist, who helped to guide her precocious talents.  It was a lucky stroke, for when he died when she was only 12 years of age, she was quick to contribute to the family’s support.  Upon first entering the exhibit, a trio of family portraits reveals a remarkable sensitivity toward her sitter.  The portrait of her mother shows a trusting, genteel fatigue, while the brother is confident, totally at ease with his school book and tri-cornered hat.  Even her stepfather, an ambitious playwright whom she suspected of hoarding her income, exhibits a benignly relaxed countenance.  By 19, she was exhibiting publicly and two years later, married to Jean Baptiste  Pierre Le Brun, the principal art dealer in 18th century Paris.  It’s interesting to note the dealer’s self-portrait included here, proudly posed with an artist’s palette, appearing every bit the artistic dandy of his day.


Though the marriage was beneficial to both, producing one daughter, Vigee Le Brun was denied access to the prestigious Academie royale due to her husband’s profession as a dealer.  Such association with the trade was strictly prohibited.  It was only through the intervention of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI that the painter was allowed access, and a large, symbolic canvas, Peace Bringing Back Abundance, was her reception piece in the 1783 salon.  It’s an eye-catching example of her mastery of the female form, the figure of  abundance greets the viewer with exposed breast and  a cornucopia of fruit placed nearby.  But the figure of Peace hovering overhead with a dramatic sweep of emerald green cape gives a feeling of high drama to the whole composition.

Not surprisingly, some of the biggest crowd-pleasers are the three life-size portraits of Marie Antoinette.  The first to greet visitors, Marie Antoinette in Court Dress, was the result of the Queen’s summoning of the young 23-year-old artist to Versailles.  It was specifically commissioned for the queen’s mother, Empress Marie Theresa of Austria who wanted to see her daughter in royal splendor. The portrait is predictably grand, with a perfect mastery of attitude and dress in every stroke.  In all of the portraits, the subject exhibits the Hapsburg trait of a long narrow face and full lower lip, yet the painter was impressed with the queen’s carriage and said that “she walked better than any other woman in France.”

More intriguing are the paired portraits of the queen shown together for the first time—one in a simple pastoral setting wearing a white muslin frock and the other a corseted formal portrait, more befitting her role.  It’s hard to imagine today the scandal and uproar the informal portrait created—the pose is practically identical—but it was soon removed from display. (A trip to Versailles for any visitor curious about daily life for the royal inhabitants must include a train ride to Le Petit Trianon, the farm created for the queen in her role as shepherdess.)


One of Vigee Le Brun’s favorite poses for her aristocratic sitters was an over-the-shoulder glance at the viewer, a pose ideal for projecting a moment frozen in time.  One such example is the fetching Baronne de Crussol Florensac (1785) interrupted in her studies of a musical score.  It’s easy to imagine in a great many of these portraits that painter and subject were in the throes of sharing an intimate and joyful afternoon together.  Was it the artist’s intent or the ebullient nature of her subject?  She once admitted that “I painted them as dreamers and nonchalantly intent.”

The only portrait that stands out in obvious contrast is one depicting the writer Madame de Stael. Painted in the guise of Corinne, one of her more famous literary creations, it’s perhaps the only singularly unflattering portrait in the exhibit—an open mouthed, toothy impression, looking heavenward with lyre in hand, it’s an effectively eye-catching rendering but one rejected by the author.

Vigee Le Burn also exhibited a talent for self-portraiture not easy to achieve, even for the most adept.  My favorite on display, Self Portrait with Cerise Ribbons (1782) is a beautiful study of a young woman, confident in her grace and intelligence, yet exhibiting an unaffected openness.  She has chosen the contrasts of red and black hues, the black hat setting off the luminous face, the drop earring a perfect point of focus.


She could be just as adept in her portrayal of children and not to be missed is a charming portrait of her daughter Julie.  The subject is in profile, holding an angled mirror with her reflection seen in full-face.  It’s not only a totally captivating portrait but one that shows the great love and trust she must have shared with the child.

A major showstopper is surely Marie Antoinette and her Children (1787).  It’s a grand majestic painting, with the queen surrounded by her brood in a powerful, triangular composition.  Never one to forego a helpful suggestion, the painter had sought out Jacques Louis David’s advice at the outset.  The image of the young Dauphin pointing to an empty crib in the background is bittersweet, perhaps referring to the youngest offspring who had died at 11 months.

Such a close association with the queen forced Vigee Le Brun in 1789 to flee France.  While violence raged in her home country, she was quickly embraced by those who could afford her talents.  Traveling to Italy with daughter Julie, she was elected to membership in the Accademia di San Luca in Rome.  While she often worked independently, she was commissioned by the queen of Naples whose daughter Maria Louisa is on view.  Napoleon’s sister Caroline was a sitter as were several of the royalty in Vienna.  One of her most successful sojourns was the six years she spent in Russia where the family of Catherine the Great was only too happy to take advantage of her artistry.

The glitter and glamour of Russian society was obviously to her liking.  A portrait of the Countess Varvara Nikolayevna Golovina dramatically clutching her red stole against the cold, has an unmistakable boldness.  Likewise, a portrait of the young Tolstoy, draped in a rich crimson cape against a bare background, benefits from the singular focus on its subject.  The male subject hardly received short-shrift from the painter and a vibrant and powerful portrait of Stanislaw August Poniatowski, formerly King of Poland, attests to this fact.

There are additional delights in this sumptuous exhibit worth mentioning.  The only landscape,  The Festival of the Shepherds at Unspunnese, was painted near Interlaken, Switzerland and a careful look will reveal the artist with her sketchbook in the foreground.  A series of pastels includes a sketchy self-portrait in broad brimmed hat and curls reminiscent of Boticelli’s mythical beauties.

Vigee Le Brun would enjoy 40 more productive years upon her return to France, giving a detailed account of art and life in post-revolutionary Europe in her journals.  If international recognition for this major artist has been slow in arriving, the Met’s impeccable exhibit is well worth the wait.  The Musee National des Chateaux de Versailles et de Trianon, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the Musee du Louvre and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II are also responsible in no small measure for its success.

The exhibition is on view through May 15, 2016.

by Sandra Bertrand

Source: Highbrow Magazine


The Met’s Enigmatic Red Shawl, Inspired by Revolutionary France Painter Vigée Le Brun

Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Countess Varvara Nikolayevna Golovina, Ca. 1797-1800 Photo: The Henry Barber Trust, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham
Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Countess Varvara Nikolayevna Golovina, Ca. 1797-1800 Photo: The Henry Barber Trust, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham

Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun was a pretty tough chick.  This gifted portraitist, born in 1755, showed enormous early talent as a painter, but it was hard (then as now!) for young women like her to be taken seriously. She married Jean Baptiste Pierre Le Brun, an art dealer who by reports was a bit of a sleazy gambler, in 1776, and this didn’t exactly hurt her career.

Le Brun is being honored with a major exhibition that opened today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and though the show is subtitled “Woman Artist in Revolutionary France,” she in fact hightailed it into exile as soon as things got hot.

And could you blame her? Before she fled the scene, Le Brun made her reputation specializing in painting the sorts of aristocratic types who liked to pose as peasant girls and grape gatherers. Her favorite subject was none other than Marie Antoinette, whom she rendered variously in a chemise dress, with a rose, wearing a blue velvet frock, helping pick up Le Brun’s paintbrushes (!), and with her kids in an enormous 108 1⁄4-by-85 1⁄4-inch oil-on-canvas that is maybe some kind of masterwork.

Was it any surprise that when the people of Paris took to the streets there were targets on Le Brun’s subjects’ backs, causing the artist to depart, first to Italy and then to Russia and Austria, before finally making it back to Paris in greatly reduced circumstances?

For some reason lost in the mists of time, Le Brun kept a red shawl in her studio and draped it around a variety of her subjects. It shows up as a sash in a self-portrait; enhancing the gowns of Countess von Bucquoi and Princess Yusupova; fluttering behind the artist’s daughter in Julie Le Brun as Flora; and encircling Count Emmanuel Nikolayevich Tolstoy in 1823.

The Met Store has chosen to reproduce this item, which it calls the Palmette Border Jacquard Shawl, in conjunction with the exhibition, and at $95 it is very nice (and who doesn’t like a souvenir for trooping all the way up to 81st Street?).

Now if only they would make me a shredded tutu in honor of Degas’s LittleDancer.

A 1790 self-portrait of Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Photo: Galleria degli Uffizi, Corridoio Vasariano, Florence (1905)

by Lynn Yaeger

Source: Vogue


Marie-Antoinette’s favourite painter

A self portrait by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1790) Photograph: Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy / Bridgeman Images
A self portrait by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1790) Photograph: Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy / Bridgeman Images

Before the sans-culottes had her beheaded, Marie-Antoinette was immortalised by an extraordinary young woman. Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) was good-looking, witty, independent-minded and one of the best portrait painters of her time. An exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris is paying tribute to her work.

Of course her pieces do tend to focus on the “happy few”. Apart from a dozen or so landscapes, including an odd oil painting of farmers in the Bernese Oberland – not working, thank goodness, but partying – it’s all countesses, duchesses, princesses, several queens too, a couple of empresses and about as many tsars.

Surprisingly, this is the first time that Vigée Le Brun has been shown in France. In fact only the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, has ever devoted an exhibition exclusively to her work, and that was back in 1982. Perhaps the prospect of viewing a series of over 150 ancien régime portraits may seem daunting. These days people want to enjoy their art and this event is not really a crowd-pleaser. The upside is that most of the visitors really appreciate fine painting. And Vigée Le Brun was certainly gifted.

Her father Louis Vigée was a well-known portrait artist and he ensured that his daughter made an early start with pastels – a genre in which she excelled. She also studied under Pierre Davesne, Gabriel François Doyen and Claude-Joseph Vernet, as well as attending a drawing school headed by Marie-Rosalie Hallé. In those days there was no question of a woman going to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. It would have been unthinkable for her to work with live models, often male and naked.

It was equally inconceivable to live on her earnings as an artist, as she attempted to do in her teens. Not because her stepfather – her mother having remarried in 1768 – stole her income, but because artists had to belong to a corporation. After being reported for her illegal activities, her studio was placed under lock and seal in 1774. So she gave in and applied to join the Académie de Saint-Luc, which accepted her. She had not yet turned 20 but already had an impressive range of clients.


To be on the safe side, her mother acted as a chaperone during sittings. If the model started looking at her too closely, she would ask him to turn to one side and direct his gaze upwards. Visitors may find it amusing to keep an eye open for the subjects staring into the middle distance. Among their number are painters Vernet and Hubert Robert.

Ultimately she married yet another painter, Jean-Baptiste Pierre Le Brun, in 1775. He was mainly known as an art dealer, with several old masters in stock. His young wife was able to study a Titian, copying one of his Danae series. He took her on a trip to the Netherlands in 1781, where she discovered Rubens, in particular a portrait of Suzanna Lunden wearing a straw hat. It cast a light shade over her face, bringing out the half-tones. She tried this out in a self-portrait, and made it a regular thing.

Le Brun decided the price of her paintings too, steadily pushing them up. Partly because it was his trade, but also – taking a cue from his father-in-law – he soon started pocketing the young artist’s fees. She earned a great deal, particularly after finding favour with the queen. Marie Antoinette was sadly no beauty and could not stand her portraits. Vigée Le Brun found ways of softening her features, in particular the prominent Habsburg chin. Louis XVI was delighted to see his spouse in a new light, telling the artist: “I know nothing about painting, but you have made me like it.”

Le Brun’s portrait entitled Marie-Antoinette and her Children (1787).   Photograph: Gérard Blot/RMN-Grand Palais (Château de Versailles)
Le Brun’s portrait entitled Marie-Antoinette and her Children (1787). Photograph: Gérard Blot/RMN-Grand Palais (Château de Versailles)

The queen enjoyed sitting for her. Vigée Le Brun was lively, talkative and blessed with a fine voice. The two women sang popular songs together. Thanks to her royal patron she was allowed into the Académie de Peinture in 1783. Theoretically it was against the rules, not on grounds of gender – there being about 15 women among the 600 members – but because her husband was a picture dealer, a calling academicians would not allow.

Her familiarity with Marie-Antoinette also attracted hostility. Little-liked from the outset, the “Austrian” had fallen from grace in the eyes of society after the diamond necklace scandal, which was seen as an attempt to defraud the crown. This prompted the painter to try her hand at what can only be described as propaganda, portraying the queen with her children. The commission was quite specific, says Gwenola Firmin, one of the contributors to the exhibition catalogue: the painting must “restore the image of Marie-Antoinette and enhance her respectability by playing up her role as a mother”. Unfortunately visitors to the 1787 Salon soon noticed a large piece of furniture lurking in the shadows. It was a jewellery cabinet, producing quite the wrong effect.

Not only was she friends with unpopular policymakers – she was close to the Comte de Vaudreuil and Charles Alexandre de Calonne, in charge of finance – but she also suffered for her good looks and talent. In a particularly slanderous outburst, the pamphleteer Barthélémy François Joseph Moufle d’Angerville suggested that her paintings were actually the work of François-Guillaume Ménageot. Moreover, he alleged that the latter was her lover.

She spent 13 years in exile, but nevertheless thrived. In Rome she met up with Ménageot, who now headed the Villa Medici and duly found her lodgings. Many of her former clients were there too, still able to pay the stupendous fees she continued to charge for her work. Having left her husband in Paris, the income for once was hers to keep.

In the eyes of European aristocracy she was the portraitist of Marie-Antoinette, a martyr in the cause of nobility, so she was very popular. In Naples she was commissioned to paint the French queen’s sister, Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples and Sicily, and was also commissioned to paint a portrait of composer Giovanni Paisiello. As she had not yet been blacklisted, this work was sent to Paris and was shown at the 1791 Salon. Jacques-Louis David, seeing it hanging near one of his own works, purportedly said: “You’d think my painting had been done by a woman, and her Paisiello by a man.” Apparently this was meant as a compliment.

She travelled, staying in Bologna – where she became a member of the academy – Parma, Florence, Siena, Milan, Mantua and Venice, among other cities, enhancing her understanding of Italian art. She even considered going back to France. But following the massacres of September 1792 and her name being added to the list of renegade emigrés, she lost her civic rights and her property was seized.

Her wanderings continued. In 1793 she went to Austria. Two years later, after crossing Hungary and Germany, she arrived at St Petersburg, where she was presented to Catherine II (the Great). In 1800 she settled in Moscow, before moving back to St Petersburg, then crossing Germany again and finally returning to Paris where her husband had managed to have her name removed from the blacklist.

Here she only stayed for a year, long enough to pay off her husband’s debts, subsequently moving to London. Later she returned to the French capital, then set off for Switzerland. Vigée Le Brun had led a most unusual life for a woman of her time. She died, during the reign of the citizen king Louis Philippe, after painting an apotheosis of Marie-Antoinette, writing and dictating her memoirs, which took her a good 12 years.Her salon was frequented by eminent literary figures such as François-René de Chateaubriand and Honoré de Balzac. She read books by lesser-known authors, such as Victor Hugo, without fully grasping the thrust of their work. Notre Dame de Paris prompted the old lady to say that she no longer belonged in “this century”. Her tomb, at Louveciennes cemetery, near Versailles, bears a particularly appropriate epitaph: “Here at last I rest.”

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun is at the Grand Palais, Paris, until 11 January 2016

Vigée Le Brun, madame rêve

Le Grand Palais consacre une belle rétrospective à celle qui fut la portraitiste préférée de Marie-Antoinette avant de devenir celle de la plupart des grandes cours d’Europe.


Ce peintre souffre d’un triple handicap. Et il fallait bien le Grand Palais pour redresser l’image. Primo: Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) a servi de caution féminine à l’histoire de l’art. Quand elle est mentionnée, c’est surtout comme un caractère ayant eu le courage de s’imposer dans un milieu masculin. Secundo: ayant traversé les temps agités, du crépuscule de l’Ancien Régime au règne de Louis-Philippe, Vigée a écrit. Beaucoup. Au soir de sa vie, ses Souvenirs étaient devenus très épais. Ils constituent aujourd’hui une source de première main sur les cours et les salons d’Europe dans laquelle les historiens puisent à plaisir. Mais, du coup, voilà notre dame réduite à son rôle de grand témoin; d’abord chroniqueuse avant que d’être peintre. Tertio: quand Vigée est tout de même étudiée comme telle, on évoque essentiellement ses premiers succès. Ceux qui la conduisent à devenir la portraitiste préférée de Marie-Antoinette. Or la majeure partie de sa production est postérieure à 1789. L’exposition décline cette dernière au premier étage du Grand Palais, après avoir rappelé au rez-de-chaussée la formation, les amis, les concurrents (et aussi les concurrentes!), l’établissement à l’Académie et à Versailles, enfin la gloire, notamment acquise comme reine de la mode puis comme maître des scènes de tendresse maternelle.

Digne de Chardin

On découvre alors une artiste qui connaît parfaitement ses classiques, qui traite les carnations avec l’ambition d’un Rubens (dont elle se rêvait la compagne) ou d’un Van Dyck, qui joue parfaitement du langage de la couleur, qui s’attache à la précision des matières et à la vivacité des étoffes avec le soin des génies romains, vénitiens ou bolognais. Enfin, Vigée excelle dans l’art délicat d’enjoliver sans que cela se voie. Ses modèles ne sont jamais trahis par un excès de tricheries. Toutefois, celles-ci existent.

Cette science infuse de la grâce, sans doute l’a-t-elle acquise également à l’étude de Raphaël. Au Grand Palais, alors qu’on ignore l’identité de la majorité des modèles, les portraits émeuvent. Le sourire d’une bouche pulpeuse découvrant volontiers ses dents, un regard pétillant, sérieux ou rêveur, la superficialité en réalité très travaillée des chapeaux ou des rubans à la mode, tout, jusqu’à ce sang bleuté qui semble circuler sous les peaux laiteuses, concourt à un sentiment de fraîcheur, de délicatesse et de liberté sensuelle. Tant chez les hommes que chez les femmes. Et, par-dessus tout, chez les enfants. À commencer par ses plus proches: son frère cadet, Étienne, et sa fille unique, Julie. Le premier, Vigée le peint alors qu’elle n’a que 14 ans. Voilà d’emblée un chef-d’œuvre digne de Chardin. Campé de trois quarts, coiffé d’un tricorne et muni de son matériel de dessinateur, Étienne nous fixe avec une fierté d’adulte seulement démentie par ses joues roses. Ironie de l’histoire, à la Révolution, il deviendra membre du Comité de nationalisation des biens du clergé. Autant dire un ennemi pour Vigée la monarchiste. De son côté, Julie, qu’on découvre en bébé aux grands yeux, lovée dans un giron maternel rayonnant, se métamorphose en Vénus adolescente (Rubens encore). Sa mine mélancolique prélude aux pires orages. Ils ne manqueront pas et la rupture sera vécue comme un échec par Vigée. Le seul peut-être d’une carrière et d’une vie en tous points exceptionnelles.

by Eric Bietry-Rivierre

Source: Le Figaro


Sotheby’s vend à Paris les biens de la famille de France – Y compris une “Vigée Lebrun”

«Je ne vous laisserai que la haine et des larmes pour pleurer.» On se croirait dans une tragédie grecque ou, mieux encore, chez Jean Racine. Ces mots se voient pourtant prêtés au comte de Paris (1908-1999), Henri VI pour les monarchistes français, qui connaissait apparemment des différents insurmontables avec ses enfants. Une nombreuse progéniture… Sur les onze garçons et filles qu’il avait eus d’Isabelle d’Orléans-Bragance (1911-2003), il en subsistait alors neuf de vivants.

Le dernier acte de cette pièce à rebondissements (on a de loin dépassé les cinq actes réglementaires) se déroulera les 29 et 30 septembre chez Sotheby’s Paris. En deux jours, la multinationale dispersera ce qui reste de l’héritage mobilier des Orléans. Deux cent trente deux lots se verront proposés sous le titre un peu vague d’«Une collection pour l’Histoire». Les trois objets phares se sont vus retirés in extremis de la vacation. La ministre de la Culture Fleur Pellerin a interdit toute exportation pour le portrait de Louis XIII par Philippe de Champaigne, les comptes manuscrits du château d’Amboise des années 1494-1495 et le portrait de la duchesse d’Orléans (1) par Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (2). Ils feront l’objet de tractations de gré à gré, le séjour forcé en France diminuant fortement leur valeur commerciale.

Une fortune dilapidée 

La consultation du luxueux catalogue édité pour l’occasion rend perplexe. Tout ça pour ça! Richissime en 1940 (il avait alors hérité de 400 millions de l’époque), le comte de Paris aura dilapidé ses avoirs pour des chimères politiques. Il se voyait monter sur le trône de France avec l’appui du général de Gaulle. L’homme a de plus maintenu un train de vie dispendieux, alors que s’évanouissaient les terres au Maroc ou les immeubles en Métropole. Quelques brouilles ont achevé sa ruine. Volontaire, selon certains. En créant la Fondation Saint-Louis en 1975, Monseigneur (je respecte le protocole) aurait sciemment lésé son épouse et sa descendance. Il avait mis dans le corbillon ses châteaux d’Amboise, de Bourbon l’Archambault comme la chapelle royale de Dreux et la chapelle expiatoire de Paris.

Tout a plusieurs fois mal fini. En 1975 précisément, Monseigneur rencontrait sa nouvelle compagne Monique Friesz. Il devait quitter en 1986 Madame (autre titre d’usage), qui avait publié quelques années plus tôt son livre à succès «Tout m’est bonheur». Il faut dire que le couple princier habitait, à Louveciennes, une maison nommée Le Cœur Volant… Il ne lui restait plus au comte qu’à se disputer avec ses enfants. Ce fut chose faite en 1993. Cinq d’entre eux, «les conjurés d’Amboise», attaquèrent sa gestion du patrimoine familial. Le premier procès d’une interminable série. Un petit-fils a en effet fini par s’en mêler. En 2014, un tribunal jugeait la dernière de ces affaires après douze ans de procédures.

Plusieur ventes précédentes 

Entre-temps, l’émiettement s’accentuait: Il y avait eu une vente chez Sotheby’s Monaco en 1991. Il y en aura une autre chez Christie’s Paris en 2008. Le merveilleux «Portrait du duc d’Orléans» par Ingres finissait par ailleurs au Louvre pour 11 millions d’euros, prix d’ami, grâce au groupe AXA. Le musée avait aussi récupéré la parure de saphirs de Marie-Antoinette et Joséphine, rattrapée à la frontière.

En 2014, la saga des rois (détrônés) maudits trouvait son terme. La Fondation de France gardait les biens immobiliers, lourds à entretenir. Les objets d’art revenaient à la famille. Ou du moins ce qui en restait. Car il n’y a finalement pas grand chose dans le catalogue. C’est après la Révolution déjà que les Orléans avaient perdu dans les années 1790 leur fabuleuse galerie de peintures, qui fait aujourd’hui la richesse de certains châteaux anglais. Et en 1853 s’est déroulée la vente de la galerie espagnole de Louis-Philippe, riche de dizaines de Zurbaran ou de Murillo.

Un ensemble très historique 

L’histoire l’emporte donc sur l’art, chez Sotheby’s. Il y a là de jolies aquarelles de Carmontelle sur la cour des Orléans sous Louis XV et Louis XVI. Un ou deux portraits de famille intéressants. Un service de Sèvres un peu tardif produit pour la reine Marie-Amélie. Les dessins du prince de Joinville, un fils de Louis-Philippe et de la dite Marie-Amélie, qui avait un petit talent. Un ou deux beaux meubles, mais guère davantage. Des souvenirs en pagaille, dont beaucoup de décorations de l’ordre du Saint-Esprit. Certaines estimations semblent coquettes, bien sûr, mais tout cela sent la fin de partie. Vingt-huit ans après sa participation en fanfare au «millénaire capétien» (4) il ne reste plus grand chose de la famille de France, dont l’actuel chef Henri, né en 1933, se veut Henri VII.

On verra s’il y aura beaucoup de royalistes dans la salle, pour rattraper cela les 29 et 30 septembre.

(1) Epouse du régicide Philippe-Égalité et mère du roi Louis-Philippe, la duchesse survécut à la Révolution. Elle avait rencontré en prison un politicien d’extrême-gauuche, qui se prit de passion pour elle. Ils passèrent le reste de leur vie ensemble, au grand scandale des royalistes comme des républicains. L’aventure n’est bien sûr pas racontée dans la préface du catalogue, respectueuse des Orléans jusqu’à la flagornerie.
(2) Coïncidence? Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun a aujourd’hui sa rétrospective au Grand Palais.
(3) Hugues Capet, ancêtre des Bourbons et des Orléans, est monté sur le trône en 987.


«Une collection pour l’Histoire», Sotheby’s, 76, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris, vente les 29 et 30 septembre. Visites du 18 au 28 septembre de 10h à 18h, sauf le lundi.Tél. 00331 53 05 53 05, sitewww.sothebys.com

Photo (AFP): Le comte de Paris (Monseigneur ou Henri VI) au temps de sa superbe, vers 1950.

Prochaine chronique le dimanche 13 septembre. Archéologie à Brescia, avec une gigantesque exposition sur “Rome et les gens du Po”. C’est très spectaculaire.


Sortie de territoire interdite à l’art

Le 29 septembre, les enfants du comte de Paris se séparent chez Sotheby’s des derniers trésors royaux.

Le suspense aura duré jusqu’au bout. L’État avait jusqu’à hier, mardi 2 juin, pour classer trésor national les objets de la succession du comte de Paris qu’il estimait les plus importants. Lundi, la direction des Musées de France s’est réunie. Selon nos informations, trois œuvres ont finalement été interdites de sortie de territoire: le livre de comptes du château d’Amboise, le portrait de Louis XIII par Philippe de Champaigne et celui de la duchesse d’Orléans par Mme Vigée Le Brun. Fleur Pellerin, qui a signé les arrêtés hier matin, a visiblement tiré les leçons du tollé lorsqu’elle avait laissé partir, en mars, les Rembrandt vendus par la famille Rothschild.

Les descendants du comte de Paris ont aussitôt retiré les trois œuvres de la vente publique et négocieront de gré à gré avec l’État, un éventuel mécène ou un acheteur privé. Restent 196 objets, dont un abrégé des finances de Louis XIV datant de 1682, le manuscrit …

Source: Le Figaro