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

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Catalog Number 6

Art Page 104
Oil on canvas, oval: 27 x 21 inches
(68.5 x 53.3 cm.)
Private Collection

Marie Adelaide de Bourbon (1753-1821) was bom in Paris at the palatial Hotel de'Toulouse (today the Banque de France). By her father, the Duc de Penthievre (1725-1793), she was a direct descendant of Louis XIV and his mistress Mme de Montespan; she therefore belonged to the "bastard" branch of the Bourbon family. Her mother, a Princess of Este - Modena, died the year after she was bom. She grew up timid and pious in the extreme, and like her father, derived much pleasure from her private charities. In 1768 the death of her brother, the Prince de Lamballe, made her heiress to the greatest fortune in France, and this prize induced the Duc d'Orleans (fig. 3), the head of the younger branch of the royal family, to sue for her hand in marriage on behalf of his son, Philippe, Duc de Chartres (1747-1793). The two were wed at Versailles in 1769 when Nflle de Penthievre was barely sixteen. The center of the Orleans court was the Palais Royal, and a large household
Figure 3
1779, pastel
Louis Philippe
Duc d Orleans
Private Collection, France
Art Page 105
was created for her there. By Chartres, Marie Adelaide had four children who survived infancy. The eldest, Louis Philippe (1773-1860), reigned as King of France from 1830 to 1848. She was sincerely devoted to her husband, but the happiness she derived from marriage with him was short-lived. One of the most notorious rakes of the period, he soon abandoned her for the pleasures of the brothel and the gambling tables. Against her will, he entrusted the education of their children, male and female, to his scheming mistress Felicite de Genlis, and she managed to alienate them from their mother. Already prone to depression, in this adversity the Duchesse became withdrawn and melancholic and was known to weep for hours on end.

In 1785 her father-in-law died, leaving Chartres to assume the title and prerogatives of the Duc d'Orleans. The rebellious Duc consistently opposed the authority of Louis XVI. The Queen, who despised him as a trouble-maker, did all she could to thwart his ambitions. In 1787 when he openly espoused the cause of the Paris Parlement against that of the monarchy, he was exiled to his Chateau de Villers-Cotterets, not far from Paris. But he became bored, said his mea ctilpas, and was permitted to return to the capital. By May of 1789 the Palais Royal had become the nerve and financial center of revolutionary agitation. By an act of demagoguery, d'Orleans put even more distance between himself and the King. When the Estates General were convened, he joined the deputies of the Third Estate and abandoned his titles. His hope was to have Louis XVI deposed and himself set up as Lieutenant General of the realm.

Henceforth, Marie Adelaide's life was filled with tragedy. Scandalized by her husband's betrayal of the monarchy, insulted by him in her religious and moral principles, deprived of her children, she finally left d'Orleans in April of 1791. The following year her sister-in-law, the Princesse de Lamballe, became the most famous victim of the bloody September Massacres. In 1793, Citizen "EgalitLe" (alias the Duc d'Orleans) became a regicide by voting in the Convention for the execution of his cousin, Louis XVI. The old Duc de Penthievre died soon thereafter, leaving his daughter despondent but wealthy almost beyond measure. In , November Orleans himself was guillotined, and his wife was arrested and imprisoned in Luxembourg Palace. Detained until 1797, the widow "Egalite" was then deported to Spain. There she was joined by her "bon ami," a commoner and former member of the Convention, Jacques Marie Rouzet; he would remain by her side until his death in 1820. Together they returned to France in 1814. Under the restored monarchy, the bulk of her wealth was returned to her. Her last years were embittered by disputes with her children over money. On June 23, 1821, the dowager Duchesse d'Orleans died of cancer at her Chateau d'lvry.

This handsome portrait appeared twice in public auction as the work of Joseph Siffrrede Duplessis, and it has now been reassigned to Vigee Le Brun (see Baillio, cited below). The model was identified in both sale catalogues as the Duchesse de Chartres (see cat. no. 28), and there is some iconographic evidence to suggest that this is indeed NMme Le Brun's first portrait of the sitter, recorded in her list of 1778 ("I Madame la duchesse de Chartres"). The large portrait of the Duchesse de Chartres, shown at the Marie Antoinette exhibition at Versailles in 1955 (no. 268), is misattributed to Vigee Le Brun.

The influence of Jean Baptiste Greuze on Vigee Le Brun was preponderant in the early stages of her career; no other work demonstrates this influence more clearlv than does the present portrait. One can point, for example, to its multiple stylistic and technical affinities with Greuze's Mme Goiigenot de Croissy in the New Orleans Museum of Art (illus. in exhibition catalogue, Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, Jean-Baptiste Greii--e, December 1, 1976-january 23, 1977, no. 18).

PROVENANCE: With Agnew, London, as of 1921; acquired by Lord Buckland; sold, London, Christie's, Important Picttires by Old Masters, July 1972, lot 62, illus. (as by Duplessis); sold, London, Christie's, Fine Old Masters, April 13, 1973, lot 85 (as by Duplessis); acquired at that sale by the present owner.

REFERENCE: Soiiveizirs, 1, 325; Baiflio, 1982, p. 28, iuus. p. 31, fig. 13.

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