Firmin Massot (1766-1849)
The present portrait was painted in the early 19th century, when Massot was greatly influenced by the naturalistic portraiture so popular in Britain...
The present portrait by the Swiss-born artist Firmin Massot is a rare example of the artist working in a ‘miniature’ format. Trained in his home city of Geneva, Massot was the son of André, a watchmaker. He was a pupil of Pernette Massot, his elder sister prior to his enrolment at the drawing school of the Société des arts. Here, his interest in miniature painting may have been furthered by Arlaud and Liotard.
Unlike many artists of his generation, Massot did not travel widely – his one sojourn to Italy lasted barely a year (1788/89), when he travelled to Naples passing Rome on the way. His career was under additional pressure after the death of his father in 1790, when Massot was required to support the family financially. This entailed teaching at the drawing school where he himself had learned his craft, as well as embarking on his first paid commissions.
Massot’s most important patron was arguably Anne Louise Germaine Necker, baronne de Staël (1766-1817), usually known as Mme de Staël. De Staël was a fierce opponent of Napoleon and a celebrated writer. She housed Massot during the Revolution, offering him protection at Coppet.
Although Massot himself was not well travelled, many British citizens journeyed to Geneva and the exchange of artistic practices between Switzerland and England led to his portrait style being influenced by these links. In 1792, Massot’s fellow student Jacques-Laurent Agasse (1767-1849) went to London and returned with new artistic notions that he passed on. Massot did not visit Britain until 1828 but he painted many British sitters in his Geneva studio, passing through on their Grand Tour.
The present portrait was painted in the early 19th century, when Massot was greatly influenced by the naturalistic portraiture so popular in Britain. Although unknown, the sitter in this portrait exudes an air of contemplation, her deep thought encouraged by the surrounding beauty of the landscape. The scale of the portrait shows Massot’s painterly diversity, as well as his interest in working in a variety of media.
 For further discussion on this see: The works of Firmin Massot (1766-1849) in British collections Author(s): Valérie Louzier-Gentaz Source: The British Art Journal, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Autumn 2006), pp. 92-100 Published by: British Art Journal Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41614696
 Many of his smaller portraits were drawn in monochromatic crayon and wash on paper