This appealing drawing is a study for François Guérin's portrait of Mme de Pompadour and her daughter, Alexandrine Etiolles in the Rothschild collection, Château de Prigny, Switzerland.(1) François Guérin (1711–1792),(2) a student of Charles-Joseph Natoire (1700–1777) was a specialist in portraits of women and children. Here he emulates his contemporary Boucher, who painted Mme de Pompadour many times. In particular his portrait owes a good deal to Boucher's representation of Mme de Pompadour seated and reading a book in her salon which is now in Munich, (3) as well as to Drouais's portrait of her in the National Gallery, London.(4) Like Boucher's portrait, Guérin's shows Madame de Pompadour in formal dress and seated in her study or salon, a mirror reflecting her from behind, her book in hand, her little dog Mimi at her feet, her dress and pose more frontal and closer to Drouais's portrait of her. At lower right Guérin has added her daughter, Alexandrine d'Etiolles, sitting on a footstool playing with her pet bird, who has hopped out of his little cage onto her finger. Mme de Pompadour's other little King Charles spaniel, Ines, sits before her.
The compositional drawing in the Crocker drawing is quite sketchy. It shows that originally Guérin thought to set the scene outside and to position Alexandrine on the left rather than the right. He has even indicated a garland of flowers suspended above by some winged cherubs. Also in the Crocker drawing, Mme de Pompadour is dressed in a sort of negligée rather than the elaborate dress she wears in the finished painting. Mme de Pompadour gestures gracefully with her right hand towards the child in the sketch whereas she pets her little dog Mimi in the painting. In the drawing only one of the little dogs is shown and is seated in on a cushion held by a kneeling servant, seen to the right of Alexandrine. He is eliminated in the painting, but the dog, Ines, remains.
Alexandrine's father was Charle-Guillaume Le Normant d'Etiolles, whom Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson (1721–1764), the future Madame de Pompadour, maîtresse en titre of Louis XV, married in 1741 and from whom she was separated in 1745. Alexandrine was born in 1744 and had entered the convent school of the Assumption in Paris by 1750. She died in 1754 at the age of ten. It stands to reason that Mme de Pompadour and Alexandrine never sat to Guérin, for Alexandrine would not have been alive when Guérin's picture, so indebted to Boucher's and Drouais's works of 1756 and 1764, was painted.
Helge Siefert dates the painting to after 1764, because Mme de Pompadour wears the same costume that she wears in Drouais's portrait, and her expression and pose are also similar. Siefert also thinks it might also date to some time after Mme de Pompadour's death. However, it seems likely that Mme de Pompadour herself commissioned it, since after her death Guérin's portrait passed, along with her other possessions, to her brother, the Marquis de Marigny.(5)
After seeing the Crocker drawing, Benesch reattributed two charming drawings in the Albertina, formerly given to Chardin on the basis of old inscriptions, to Guérin.(6) Each drawing in the Albertina depicts a lady with her child. In one case the child plays on the floor with a birdcage and in the other the lady is drawing the child. Tradition has it that these drawings were made for Madame de Pompadour.
Aside from a famous bust by Saly and some miniature portraits, very few portraits of Alexandrine d'Etiolles are known. There is, however, a half-length portrait alternately given to Guérin and Boucher which represents a child feeding a bird in a cage.(7)Cara Denison, in William Breazeale, with Cara Denison, Stacey Sell, and Freyda Spira, A Pioneering Collection: Master Drawings from the Crocker Art Museum, exh. cat. Sacramento and tour, 2010
(1) Rothschild collection, Château de Pregny, Switzerland.
(2) Guérin's dates come from Colin Jones, Jones 2002 as in Literature above.
(3) Although it is the property of the Bayerische Hypothek und Wechselbank it is on deposit at the Alte Pinkothek.
(4) Repr. in Salmon 2002 as in Literature above, p.407, fig. 1
(5) Alden Rand Gordon, French Inventories I: The Houses and Collections of the Marquis de Marigny, The Provenance Index of the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2003, p.29, 5 no. 807 note.96.
(6) Benesch as in Literature above
(7) with Derek Johns.
Inscriptions: none discernible
Marks: none discernible
Provenance: Marquis de Marigny; Edwin Bryant Crocker, by 1871; gift of his widow Margaret to the Museum, 1885Literature: William Breazeale, with Cara Denison, Stacey Sell, and Freyda Spira, A Pioneering Collection: Master Drawings from the Crocker Art Museum, exh. cat. Sacramento and tour, 2010, no. 37; Hans Sontag, "'Ines' und 'Mimi,'" die Lieblingshunde der Marquise de Pompadour, 2008 aus Meissener Porzellan zu neuem Leben erweckt," in Keramos, vol. CC, April 2008, p. 23; Colin Jones, Madame de Pompadour, Images of a Mistress, exh. cat. London, 2002, pp. 42, 166, no. 10; Xavier Salmon, Madame de Pompadour et les Arts, exh. cat. Versailles, 2002, no. 28, p. 30; Helge Siefert, in Xavier Salmon, Madame de Pompadour et les Arts, exh. cat. Versailles, 2002, p. 28; French Drawings from the E. B. Crocker Collection, exh. cat. Long Beach, 1979, no. 22; Gedächtnisausstellung Otto Benesch, exh. cat. Vienna, 1975, p.31f. under no. 52; Master Drawings from Sacramento, exh. cat. Sacramento and tour, 1971, no. 95; Pierre Rosenberg, "Twenty French Drawings in Sacramento," in Master Drawings, vol. VIII, no. 1, Spring 1970, p. 31; Jürgen Schultz, Master Drawings from California Collections, exh. cat. Berkeley, 1968, no. 8; Drawings of the Masters, exh. brochure, Sacramento, 1959, no. 8 (dated incorrectly as after 1791); Otto Benesch, "Two drawings dedicated to Madame de Pompadour," in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, series 6, vol. XXII, 1950, pp. 125–129; Michel Benisovich, "A Bust of Alexandrine d'Etiolles by Saly," in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 6e pér., vol. XXVIII, 1945, pp. 31–42