Madame de Courcelles at Her Toilette by Jean Baptiste Greuze (private collection)

The Stair Sainty Gallery has extensive notes about this portrait, including the following:  "The oval format of this portrait was a frequent choice by Greuze when painting half length figures; attention could be concentrated on the face and hands (if included) and it served to compliment the curves of the human figure. Although Edgar Munhall has dated this portrait to the late 1750s, immediately upon his return from Italy, this writer considers that the evidence of the style of the molding on her dressing-table mirror might place it in the mid-1760s. Nonetheless, it is more or less contemporaneous with some of his greatest portraits, the Mme Gougenot (New Orleans, Museum of Art) of 1757, Mlle Barberie de Courteilles (Brunswick, Herzog Ulrich Museum) of 1759 and the Monsieur Babuti (Paris, David-Weill Collection) of 1761. In the lustrous whites of her dress, with their complex folds, the artist has displayed his extraordinary skill at giving texture and substance to white silk, a facility that he demonstrates not only in his female portraits but in pictures such as the famous Cruche Casse (Paris, Louvre) and figures of women representing the various virtues (often modeled, most unsuitably, by his notoriously promiscuous wife).

Here, this elegant Society matron is seated at her dressing table, completing her toilette. Although her hair is powdered and her cheeks rouged, her dress, still unlaced, must perforce be held up to preserve her modesty, the profusion of silken pink and white ribbons being more decorative than utilitarian. On the table, covered with a white cloth, is a small pot of rouge beside a pink and white pin cushion. Around her shoulders a fichu is loosely placed and, on her right wrist, she wears a painted cameo held by seven rows of seed pearls whose hard surface is contrasted by the warm flesh tones of her arms. The chair on which she is seated is an elegant fauteuil of the 1750s, but the more austere lines and acanthus leaf molding of the mirror on her dressing-table seems to be of slightly later date. Of Mme de Courcelles herself we know nothing; although an ancient family, its members at this date seem not to have held any positions of importance in the civil or military service of the Crown. A portrait of her daughter, of similar dimensions, was once attributed to Greuze but is more probably the work of Francois-Hubert Drouais; this same daughter inherited her mother's portrait which, during the nineteenth century, hung in the romantic chateau of Chenonceaux."

Upgrade image posted 8 August 2013 from www.matthiesengallery.com.

Madame Courcelles's has a square neckline and bows en échelle in this Greuze portrait while the straps of her chemise can be seen.

Keywords:  Greuze, Courcelles family, French, straight coiffure, square neckline, modesty piece, lace, fichu, chemise, bows en échelle, elbow length full sleeves, engageantes, bracelets


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