Kimbell Art Museum Exhibition Catalog
June 5 - August 8, 1982

[Next][Previous][Kimbell Catalog Index][Vigee Le Brun's Home Page]

Catalog Number 32

Art Page 81
Oil on canvas
48-1/8 x 353/4 inches (123 x 91 cm.)
Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples

Francesco di Borbone (1777-1830) was the son of Ferdinando IV, King of Naples, and his consort, Maria Carolina of Austria, the sister of Marie Antoinette. He married his cousin Clementina, a daughter of the Austrian Emperor, Leopold II. After her death, he took as his second wife the Infanta Isabella of Spain. When the Neapolitans revolted in 1806, the Bourbons retreated to the island of Sicily over which they held dominion, returning to Naples only after the fall of Napoleon. The reactionary Ferdinando suppressed the Sicilian constitution and combined his two realms into one, which he named the Two Sicilies. Francesco then assumed the title of Duke of Calabria. His character proved to be weak. Before his elevation to the throne in 1825, he had championed liberal ideas, but asFrancesco I, he was as authoritarian a ruler as his father had ever been. Throughout his short reign, the effective power in his corrupt government lay in the hands of his secret police and a group of self-serving favorites. His eldest daughter was the fiery Duchesse de Berry (1798-1870), who for years conspired to overthrow King Louis Philippe of France in favor of her son, the Duc de Bordeaux.

In the summer of 1790, Ferdinando and Maria Carolina were preparing to leave for Vienna in order to arrange dynastic marriages for their children. At the request of the Queen, Vigee Le Brun agreed to prolong her stay in Naples in order to paint portraits of Prince Francesco and his sisters Maria Teresa (soon to be Empress of Austria), Maria Luisa (later Grand Duchess of Tuscany), and Maria Cristina (future Queen of Sardinia). The correspondence of the Director of the Academie de France at Rome helps us date the portrait with precision. In his report of July 21, 1790, Menageot states that "Mme Le Brun
Figure 34
Maria Caroline
Queen of Naples
Conde Chantilly, France
Art Page 37
is very busy in Naples; she just began the portrait of the Prince Royal and will paint in succession those of the entire family" (A. de Montaiglon and J. Guiffrey, Correspondance des Directeurs de I'Academie de Fratice a Rome avec les Stirinteridants des Biltiments, Paris, 1906, XV, p. 437, doc. no. 9100). Today all four portraits are in the Museo di Capodimonte. In 1791, during a return trip to Naples, Vigee Le Brun also painted a state portrait of Queen Maria Carolina (fig. 34). That very elegant and impressive effigy, formerly the property of Dr. Luigi Maiello of Providence, Rhode Island, was unfortunately destroyed by fire in July 1940.

Mme Le Brun complained of the intense heat and sunlight from which she suffered while painting the portrait of the seventeen-year-old Prince: "The hour of the posing sessions at court was noon, and to get there I had to take the Chiaia road at the hottest moment of the day. The houses, which are built ... looking out over the sea, were painted in pure white, and the sun shone on them with such force that I was blinded" (Souvenirs, 11, 118). At the time, the artist was living at the Hotel du Maroc at Chiaia, to the south of Naples. From her apartment she had a view of Mount Vesuvius and hills dotted with white villas. These are discernible through the balustrade in the portrait of Francesco. "I was delighted to stay at the Hotel du Maroc .... From my window I enjoyed a splendid view and the most entertaining spectacle. The sea and the Isle of Capri in front of me; to the left Vesuvius, from the quantity of smoke it spewed forth, it was threatening to erupt; to the right the hills of Posillipo, covered with charming houses and a superb vegetation ... " (Souvenirs, II, 97). A similar landscape is depicted in the background of Vigee Le Brun's portrait of the Earl of Bristol (1790), in the National Trust, Ickworth (illus., in Helm, [19151, p. 114).

A small copy on panel of the present portrait was in the sale of the Princesse de Faucigny-Lucinge, Paris, November 17-18, 1924.

PROVENANCE: Royal Collection, Naples.

EXHIBITION: Naples, Arte Francese a Napoli, 1967, no. 34.

REFERENCES:Souvenirs, 11, 118, 369;B. Molajoli, Notizie sii Capoditnotite: catalogo del Museo e Gallerie Nazionale, Naples, 1964, no. 112.

[Next][Previous][Kimbell Catalog Index][Vigee Le Brun's Home Page]

Reproduced with the permission of the
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.

Web Site Designed and Maintained by
Bat Guano Web Works ®
Tucson , Arizona