Pastel on paper adapted on original canvas, coeval frame
“The widespread interest in portraits in pastel throughout eighteenth-century Europe was sparked in Paris in 1720–21 by the visit of the Venetian pastelist Rosalba Carriera (1673–1757), the guest of the influential collector and connoisseur Pierre Crozat. Many factors contributed to the resounding reception of the medium at that time and over the next decades. Among them was a new, prosperous buying public—the aristocracy and wealthy financiers who, with Louis XV, began to leave Versailles in about 1715 and established themselves in opulent Parisian “hôtels particuliers” (urban private homes). To decorate the walls of the small rooms of these luxurious homes they turned to the newly fashionable intimate paintings by seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish artists, contemporary drawings in gouache and red chalk, and their own likenesses, which they commissioned in pastel.
Whereas portraits in pastel were known in the previous century, by 1700 the ready availability of cast plate glass made it possible for these powdery compositions, always requiring surface protection, to be executed on a scale comparable to easel painting, a feature that would contribute to their growing prestige. Pastel’s capacity to imitate, if not surpass, the effects of oil led contemporary viewers to regard these works as aesthetically comparable. Many pastelists—such as Rosalba Carriera, Maurice Quentin de La Tour (French, 1704–1788), Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (French, 1755–1842), Francis Cotes (English, 1726–1770) and John Russell (English, 1745–1806)—were accepted into their country’s academy or appointed as pastelists to royalty, a testament to the high regard in which the medium was held.”
Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Sherman Fairchild Center for Works on Paper and Photograph Conservation.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Website.