Jean-Antoine Laurent (1763-1832)
The composition of the present work is ambitious for a miniaturist and the accurate depiction of anatomy and careful rendering of drapery recalls the excellent training that Laurent received under the guidance of painter Jean-Baptiste Claudot (1733-1805)...
This tender portrait miniature of a mother and her two children depicts the Countess of Rochefoucauld (1767-1849), born Marie Anne Marguerite de Chéry, and her daughters Louise Alexandrine (b.1790), standing, and Henriette Marie (b.1797), the infant seated on her lap. This family group by the French-born painter Laurent showcases his exemplary techniques in depicting fabric and texture alongside his ability to capture natural expression in a variety of ages. This depiction includes a portrait miniature, probably representing the sitter’s husband and father of her children. His presence is still central to the composition, despite his absence in person, as all three figures point to the miniature worn on a gold chain around the neck of the eldest child.
Dating this portrait to circa 1799 would make Marie Anne Marguerite aged thirty-two, her daughter Louise Alexandrine nine years old and the infant Henriette Marie just two years old. The children’s father Alexandre Louis Armand Henri de la Rochefoucauld (1767-1830) was a colonel de cavalerie and chevalier de l’ordre de Saint-Louis and is absent from the present portrait. He is, however, depicted in a small portrait miniature around Louise Alexandrine’s neck. His exclusion from the family portrait is possibly because a companion miniature was also commissioned simultaneously by Laurent of Alexandre Louis. However, it is also possible that the Count of Rochefoucauld was away on military duty at the time this portrait was executed. Painted in the closing years of the eighteenth century, this portrait demonstrates Laurent’s affinity with the Rochefoucauld family, the portraits of the two children recalling the miniature he painted of his own daughters.
Alexandre Louis Armand Henri de la Rochefoucauld and his family were not the primary branch of the ancient Rochefoucauld family but a branch originating from Nivernais and titled the marquises de Cousages. Louise Alexandrine de la Rochefoucauld went on to marry Louis Francois Henri Gabriel Ferdinand de Montrichard in 1811 and Henriette Marie de la Rochefoucauld later married Auguste Pierre Fulbert de la Roche-Fontenilles in 1817.
The composition of the present work is ambitious for a miniaturist and the accurate depiction of anatomy and careful rendering of drapery recalls the excellent training that Laurent received under the guidance of painter Jean-Baptiste Claudot (1733-1805). A pioneering artist in the field of still life and landscape, Claudot had a lasting influence on Laurent.
In around 1808 Laurent gained the patronage of Hortense de Beauharnais, Queen Consort of Holland (1783-1837), most probably through her mother Josephine, who went on to marry as her second husband Napoleon I (1769-1821). In 1808 he was also decorated with an Honour Medal (first class) for his works. When Napoleon I created the Kingdom of Westphalia in 1807, Laurent was appointed to paint King Jerome I (1784-1860) and Catharina, Queen Consort (1783-1835), which he did in 1810. The Bourbon Restoration (1814-1830), following the downfall of Napoleon, did little to hinder Laurent’s successes at court and he soon found a new patron in Marie Caroline Fernandes Louise, Duchess of Berry (1798-1870), wife of the restored Louis XVIII’s nephew. In 1815 he was appointed curator of the museum in Epinal. In 1832 he was awarded the Legion of Honour - an attack of apoplexy following his surprise at such a tribute is said to have contributed to his sudden death.
 M. Laine, Archives Généalogiques et Historiques de la Nobless de France, (Paris, 1850), p.29; M. Bachelin-Deflorenne, État Présent de la Noblesse Française contenant le Dictionnaire de la Noblesse Contemporaine, (Paris, 1873), p.1308.
 Sold Christies, London, 24 may 2000, lot 42 (this double portrait realised £22, 325). For further information, see F. Pupil, La miniature, Nancy, 1993, p. 111.
 E. Pattou, Maison de La Rochefoucauld, (accessed online, 2004), p.19.
 M. Bachelin-Deflorenne, État Présent de la Noblesse Française contenant le Dictionnaire de la Noblesse Contemporaine, (Paris, 1873), p.1308.
 At the Paris Salon in 1791, Laurent exhibited two still-life miniatures.