The National Museum of Western Art

update 03 July 2017

on display Permanent Collection

Nicolas de Largillière [Paris, 1656 - Paris, 1746]

Portrait of a Young Nobleman

Datec. 1714
Materials/Techniquesoil on canvas
Size (cm)65 x 53
Credit LinePurchased
CategoryPaintings
Collection NumberP.1972-0002
Portrait of a Young Nobleman

This work is thought to be from Largillièrre's mature period. The Baroque tradition can be seen in the seated model's twisted position on a rock with his left foot forward and right leg drawn behind, all as his body turns in the opposite direction. The model placed in nature surrounded by flowers and animals was a trend in aristocratic portraits of the day, while the red lips and rosy cheeks of the white skinned model and the cape draped from his shoulders speak of the new age of the Rococo with its bright color sensibility. The goldfinch is shown with his wings outstretched on the left edge of the painting and it would seem that the bird has some meaning as both the boy and the dog gaze directly at the bird. The barbet, or goldfinch, was a symbol of Christ's passion, death and resurrection in Christian art, and if this young nobleman is the young Louis XV, as traditionally ascribed, this bird could clarify the painting's hidden symbolism. In 1712, Louis' parents died in quick succession, and there is the supposition that this work was created as a prayer for the prosperity of the Bourbon reign and the young Louis XV in the face of this tragic series of events. If this hypothesis is correct, it suggests that this work would have been created around 1714. Another work of the same subject, but in twice the scale, can be found in the Paul Getty Collection. (Source: Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2009, cat. no.50)

Provenance

Soultzener collection, until 1883; Véneau collection (by inheritance); Baronne d'Épremesnil, borm Véneau; d'Épremesnil family, Paris, until 1971; Heim, Paris; Purchased by the NMWA, 1973.

Bibliography

1974
Bulletin Annuel du Musée National d’Art Occidental. No. 7 (1972), 1974, Nouvelles acquisitions (catalogue). pp. 6-7, repr.
1975
Les cent chefs-d'œuvre du Musée National d'Art Occidental. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, 1975 (Japanese), no. 17, col. repr.
1978
Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, 1978 (Japanese, preface in Japanese and English), no. 22, repr.
1979
The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo: Catalogue of paintings. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, 1979, no. 145, repr.
2013
Masterpieces: The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, The Western Art Foundation, 2013 (Japanese, preface in Japanese and English), no. 64, col. repr.

Page top