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Zoomable Image of Three Portrait miniatures; one, an elderly Gentleman, wearing black robes and white collar, called Edme-Claude le Roux, Seigneur de la Vallée; a Gentleman, aged 42, wearing black slashed doublet and white lawn collar, called Edme Pierre […], Seigneur du […] Joy and a Lady, aged 34, wearing a black chaperon à bavolet, black dress with white standing collar, lace-edged collar and gold cross on a black ribbon, 1618

Three Portrait miniatures; one, an elderly Gentleman, wearing black robes and white collar, called Edme-Claude le Roux, Seigneur de la Vallée; a Gentleman, aged 42, wearing black slashed doublet and white lawn collar, called Edme Pierre […], Seigneur du […] Joy and a Lady, aged 34, wearing a black chaperon à bavolet, black dress with white standing collar, lace-edged collar and gold cross on a black ribbon, 1618

Flemish School 1618

Three Portrait miniatures; one, an elderly Gentleman, wearing black robes and white collar, called Edme-Claude le Roux, Seigneur de la Vallée; a Gentleman, aged 42, wearing black slashed doublet and white lawn collar, called Edme Pierre […], Seigneur du […] Joy and a Lady, aged 34, wearing a black chaperon à bavolet, black dress with white standing collar, lace-edged collar and gold cross on a black ribbon, 1618

Flemish School 1618

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Phone +44(0)20 7499 6818

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Price:

£4,250

Materials:

Watercolour and shell gold on vellum

Dimensions:

Ovals, 1 7/8in (48mm) each (3)

Provenance:

Collection Achille Fontaine (1836-1912), Thence by family descent

Inscriptions:

Two with gold calligraphy detailing the sitter’s age and the year 1618

Frame:

Later silver frames (with labels noting the sitter’s names)

Technical Expertise:

We are indebted to Céline Cachaud for her assistance in researching these portrait miniatures.

It can be assumed that the Vallée family were French and the miniatures, while aping certain characteristics of English miniature painting (or limning) are distinctively Continental in their costume...

Probably painted by two different artists, it is extremely unusual for three portrait miniatures of members of the same family from the early seventeenth century to remain together. It has not been possible to work out the exact relationship between this group, but the probable status of the female sitter as a widow suggests that the older man is the father of her and the younger male her brother, whose age is given as forty-two.


The black chaperon à bavolet worn by the female sitter is typical apparel for a widow of the seventeenth century and was also worn by the bourgeoisie of the time, distinguishing them from the nobility, and also from the lower ranks of society. Interestingly, the female sitter wears almost identical costume to that of the famed midwife Louise Bourgeois (1563-1636), who assisted Marie de Medici, and she may be announcing her professional status in this guise. [1]

It can be assumed that the Vallée family were French and the miniatures, while aping certain characteristics of English miniature painting (or limning) are distinctively Continental in their costume. Celine Cachaud, who researched the family and provenance of this set of miniatures, suggests that the male hairstyles are quite English in style, so perhaps here we have a well-travelled family with links to both England and France? Certainly, both the most prominent artists of the day, Nicholas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver, painted townspeople alongside their more noble sitters.

As noted, the three miniatures all show knowledge of the techniques of English miniature painting. The leading practitioners in the art form at this time had either spent some time in France (Nicholas Hilliard was still alive in 1618, the year of these portraits, dying the following year) or indeed hailed from France (Hilliard’s pupil, the French-born Isaac Oliver, had died in 1617). In the second decade of the seventeenth century, when these portraits were painted, many miniaturists had crossed the Channel and thus techniques were shared. The blue background and gold calligraphy seen in the paintings of the younger couple are distinctively English attributes, as is the female sitter’s delicately rendered lace bordered collar. The older sitter, however, has been painted with coarser brushwork, the background painted in short strokes and not ‘floated’ in smoothly around the sitter. The suggestion of Flemish artists for these portraits arises from the connection between the large Flemish community of illuminated manuscript artists and their longstanding relationship with portrait miniatures (early portrait miniatures or ‘limnings’ being born out of this branch). The trio of portraits have been painted in a technique which relates more closely to manuscript illumination than to the new advances in miniature painting taking place in France and England at this time, where the blue background was gradually being replaced by red curtains or simple grey.



[1] See the various engravings of Louise Bourgeois, also wearing dark gown, standing collar, lawn collar and cross, the chaperon on her head.


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