In Society17th- and 18th-Century Pastels at the Louvre

June 7th – 10 September 2018

In Society

17th- and 18th-Century Pastels at the Louvre

Prints and Drawings

June 7th – 10 September 2018


The Louvre holds an unrivaled collection of European pastels from the 17th and 18th centuries. Mostly dating from the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI, these extremely fragile works, created with a colored powder that has often been compared to that of a butterfly’s wings, introduce us to Enlightenment society and illustrate the genius of its most celebrated artists:

Rosalba Carriera, Maurice Quentin de La Tour, Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, Jean Étienne Liotard, Jean-Marc Nattier, and Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, together with lesser known artists such as Marie-Suzanne Giroust, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Joseph Boze, and Joseph Ducreux.

These pastels illustrate the genius of the artists who produced them as artworks in their own right rather than preparatory studies enhanced with color. Many of them still have their original frame, and sometimes their original glass.

Thanks to the support of American Friends of the Louvre and Joan and Mike Kahn, the more than 150 works in the collection were systematically conserved and remounted to protect them from dust—a long-term project which provided an opportunity for new research on the collection. The results are included in a comprehensive annotated inventory, published in French and English with the support of the Joan Kahn Family Trust.

The exhibition takes a new look at masterpieces such as Maurice Quentin de La Tour’s Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour, and features new acquisitions such as Simon Bernard Lenoir’s portrait of the actor Lekain. It is also an opportunity to compare these works by French artists with others by eminent international pastel artists such as Rosalba Carriera in Venice, Jean-Étienne Liotard in Geneva, and John Russell in London.

Organised by

Xavier Salmon, director of the Department of Prints and Drawings, Musée du Louvre.

Presentation by the exhibition curator

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Exhibition Catalogue

Pastels du musée du Louvre

Sous la direction de Xavier Salmon
384 pages / 323 illustrations Coédition Musée du Louvre / Hazan

Selected works

  • Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Autoportrait à l'abat-jour et aux lunettes

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