NGV Old Master Portraits: Largillièrre and Perronneau

NGV - Nicholas de Largillierre - Augustus III of Saxony, King of PolandTuesday, 4 January 2011

NGV Old Master Portraits: Largillièrre and Perronneau

Nicholas de Largillièrre (1656-1746) was one of the most prominent French painters of the late Baroque era. His talents were quite versatile, and the artist was very proficient in historical, landscape, and still life genres, as well as portraiture for which he is perhaps best remembered today. He scaled the heights of the official establishment, becoming Director of the French Royal Academy, and among his most distinguished sitters were the Royal Families of France, as well as French and European aristocracy. The National Gallery of Victoria has Largiellièrre’s splendid portrait of Augustus III of Saxony, King of Poland (1696-1763), when the young price was only in his late teens. He was the eldest son and heir of Augustus II of Saxony, King of Poland (1670-1733), who was as famous for his military and political acumen as he was for his patronage of the arts (and scores of illegitimate children). Among the most famous achievements of the latter is the famous Staatliche Kunsthalle in Dresden, as well as a number of other fine buildings in Poland and Saxony. It was most likely Augustus II who commissioned from Largillièrre a portrait of his son, which represents the young prince in full military armour, ready to inherit and uphold his father’s honour and legacy. The gleaming cold of the armour is softened by the satin blue sash of a royal order as well as the red of the cloak that romantically swirls around his figure, enlivening the overall colour palette and bringing forth the sense of energy and bravura within the painting.

NGV - Jean-Baptiste Perronneau - Petrus WoortmanIn a more quite vein is a portrait by Largillièrre’s compatriot, Jean-Baptiste Perronneau (1715-1783), another fine French painter, whose portrait in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria tends to be frequently overlooked. His portrait of Petrus Woortman (1771) differs greatly from the Baroque grandeur of Largillièrre perhaps owing to a more intimate nature of the Rococo portraiture, the artist’s Dutch training and the influence of the Dutch school, as well as the fact that Perronneau was perhaps more renowned for his portraits in pastel, which usually call for a smaller, more intimate scale. The artist does not flatter his sitter, and one feels that he had perhaps achieved a greater and more sympathetic character study of the portly prelate in sombre ecclesiastical robe with richly embroidered stole and a Bible in his hands as opposed to Largillièrre’s more bombastic representation of the young Saxon prince.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]

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Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

January 2011


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