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Work Family Portrait

Department of Paintings: French painting

Portrait de famille

© 2004 RMN / Gérard Blot

Paintings
French painting

Author(s):
Kazerouni Guillaume

Formerly - and wrongly - identified with the artist and his family, the figures, despite the rural setting, are marked by the rigorously urbane expressions and postures of the Paris salon. This portrait is a ringing affirmation of the pre-eminence accorded color by a painter who supported the Rubens camp against the champions of Poussin and his emphasis on drawing.

A "La Caze picture"

This portrait of an unknown family by Nicolas de Largillierre came to the Louvre in 1869 as part of one of the largest bequests ever made to the museum: that of Dr Louis La Caze. A lover of 17th-century Italian and Dutch painting, and more especially of French painting of the 18th century, La Caze brought magnificent groups of works by Watteau, Fragonard and Boucher to a museum whose holdings in this field were extremely limited. One of the six Largillierres belonging to La Caze, this portrait is among the artist's most brilliant.

A family portrait

This work is an accomplished example of the type of portrait in vogue in the early 18th century. The anonymous figures, once thought to be the painter and his family, are set in a landscape that emphasizes the richness of their clothing and the whiteness of their skin. Each bears the distinctive marks of his or her social status. The two dead birds beside the man are emblematic of the hunt, the favored pastime of the upper classes. Opposite him across the canvas, his splendidly dressed wife gazes passively at her husband. The girl, fruit of this happy marriage, is shown between the spouses, close to her mother; in her left hand is a musical score and her pose highlights the freshness and delicacy of her beauty. In short, then, this is a summary of what a distinguished family was conventionally supposed to be.

The painter of fabrics

One of the most sought-after portraitists of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Nicolas de Largillierre was as much at home with easel painting as with the monumental group portraits prized by the aldermen of the City of Paris. His marked taste for rich fabrics and elaborate tailoring gives his portraits a theatricality that is a close reflection of an elegant, sophisticated society. Lively brushwork and extensive use of impasto gleamingly highlight the details while giving his figures depth and solidity. He also painted a number of religious works in the same stylistic vein. Coming in the wake of François de Troy, he developed an approach to the portrait that earned him the substantial clientele he shared with Hyacinthe Rigaud.

Technical description

  • Nicolas de LARGILLIERRE (Paris, 1656 - Paris, 1746)

    Portrait de famille

    Vers 1730

  • H. : 1,49 m. ; L. : 2 m.

  • Legs du Dr Louis La Caze, 1869 , 1869

    M.I. 1085

  • Paintings

    Sully wing
    2nd floor
    Watteau
    Room 36

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