Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Vicomte and Vicomtesse

As I mentioned in Seeking at Sotheby's, a pair of really nice paintings turned up of a married couple both holding red (presumably coral) rosaries. Interestingly, they're dated rather late for this type of portrait: 1624 and 1629 (most of the others I've seen are before 1600). Not only that, they're French; most of the others I've seen are German. They are identified by their coats of arms as the Vicomte and Vicomtesse d'Amphernet.

The Vicomte:


A closeup of his beads:

The Vicomtesse:


Her beads:

My guess is that this rather old-fashioned (by that time) kind of portrait was requested by the sitters because it was fashionable when they were younger. Here they're being painted at ages 75 (the Vicomte) and 64 (the Vicomtesse). Both are abundantly provided with furs, lace, and gold jewelry. This is clearly a portrait of marriage, success, status and wealth as well as piety -- exactly how they would want to be remembered.

Both paintings are unsigned and are in oils on canvas, each about 39 by 31 inches. Their earliest recorded sale is from the Chartreux de Lyon in 1877; they were bought by the family of Comte Max de Lalaing and sold again in 1953.

They were originally attributed to "Pourbus" but this is rather puzzling. The Pourbus family produced three generations of painters: Pieter, Frans I, and Frans II. But Frans II died in 1622, so if the dates on these paintings are correct, he couldn't have painted them.