FRANÇOIS DE TROY

(Toulouse 1646 1730 Paris)

Pair of Portraits of an Elegant Man and Woman

oil on canvas

49 ½ x 38 ¼ inches each (126 x 97 cm.)

 

Provenance:

Private collection, Canada.

 

François de Troy was born in Toulouse in 1645.[1]  He was taught the rudiments of

painting  by his father, and probably also by the more accomplished regional painter

Antoine Durand.  Some time after 1662 he moved to Paris to study with the portrait

painter Claude Lefebvre and with Nicolas-Pierre Loir, whose sister-in-law, Jeanne

Cotelle, he married in 1669.  Two yeas later he was approved by the Académie Royale

and in 1674 was received as a history painter with a morceau de réception that depicted

Mercury and Argus (Paris, École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts).  His known works

of this period include tapestry designs for Madame de Montespan, mistress of Louis

XIV, and several religious and mythological paintings.  Early in his career he became

friendly with Roger de Piles, who first introduced him to Dutch and Flemish painting. 

After Lefebvre’s death in 1675 de Troy dedicated himself to portraiture in the hope of

attracting the same clientele as his late teacher.  In 1679 he received his first important

commission, for a portrait of the Swedish ambassador Nils Bielke, and a year later was

commissioned for the portrait of Anne-Maire of Bavaria, the bride of the Grand

Dauphin.  Following these successes, his clients included Madame de Montespan and

her descendants, especially her son by Louis XIV, Louis –Auguste de Bourbon, Duc du

Maine, and  his wife, as with the work Louise-Bénédicte de Bourbon, Duchesse du

Maine; 1694; Sceaux, Château, Musée Ile de France).  Henceforward, De Troy worked

continuously in court circles for nearly five decades and was highly praised for his ability

to capture the nobility’s pre-occupation with manners, sartorial modes and social

position.

 

By the mid 1690’s De Troy had acquired a reputation as a painter of women.  As

Dézallier d’Argenville observed, women favored him for his ability to make them look

beautiful.  A superb example is his portrayal of Anne-Marie de Bosmelet, Duchesse de la

Force (1714; Rouen, Musée de beaux-arts), which is often considered his masterpiece. 

The somewhat heavy features of the sitter in the Rouen painting are enhanced by

shimmering silk draperies and the presence of an exotically garbed servant.  De Troy’s

style derived in composition and palette from van Dyke, but was tempered by a French

classicizing reserve and grandeur that still characterized the transitional period of the

early 18th century.  During the Regency his most admired works were the mythological

portraits in which he disguised his patrons as Olympian deities such as Venus and Ceres. 

By using sensual costuming and attributes, he created an aura of charm and

prettification without sacrificing the sitter’s individual likeness.  Mythological portrayals

had existed previously, but his were novel in their combination of realism and

sensuality, and therein provided important prototypes for the Rococo portraiture of

Hubert Drouais and Jean-Marc Nattier.  His other important paintings for the court

included Marie-Adélaïde of Savoy, bride of the Duc de Bourgogne (1697; Moscow,

Puskin Museum of Fine Art); James Edward Stuart, pretender to the English throne

(1700; Hannover, Niedersächsische Landesgalerie); and the Banquet of Dido and Aeneas

(exhibited Salon 1704; Private Collection), a historiated portrait depicting more than

forty members of the Duc and Duchesse du Maine’s family.

 

De Troy also executed portraits of the Parisian bourgeoisie.  Unlike his competitors and

friends Hyacinthe Rigaud, who concentrated on painting for the court, and Nicolas de

Largillierre, who painted almost exclusively for the bourgeoisie, he worked readily and

frequently for both classes.  His portraits of the bourgeoisie, however, differ from those

of the court in their greater naturalism, intimacy and reliance on Dutch rather than

Flemish formulae.  For example, his Self-Portrait (circa 1702; Châlons-sur-Marne, Musée

Garinet) derives its enframng window treatment from the works of Gerrit Dou and the

deep, shadowy lighting from Rembrandt.

 

Around 1700 De Troy began to produce northern-inspired group and family portraits, thus helping to initiate the popular 18th century subject of figures intimately arranged in contemporary settings, as in the Family of François de Troy (circa 1708-10; Versailles, Château, on depot Le Mans, Musée Tessé) and the Magistrate’s Family at Home ( circa 1722-5; Paris, Private Collection).  He also commemorated historical events such as the Peace of Utrecht of 1715 and the Peace of 1719 for the Echevins of the City of Paris. 

 

François de Troy received numerous honors.  He advanced in the hierarchy of the

Académie, becoming Adjunct Professor in 1692, Professor in 1693, Director from 1708

to 1711 and Assistant Rector in 1722.  He participated in the Salons of 1699 and 1704,

where he exhibited no less than 24  and 31 works respectively.  He ranks, moreover,

among the best portrait painters of the late Baroque period, along with Rigaud and

Largillierre, with whose works his own are often confused.  De Troy’s many students

included André Boys, Alexis-Simon Belle and Drouais, as well as his son Jean-François de

Troy.  François de Troy died in Paris in 1730.

 

The present works depict a man and woman in elegant late 17th century dress and are

accented by their original period frames.  The woman is presented in a red draped 

interior opening onto a formal garden accented with a dramatic flowing fountain.  She

is dressed in opulent silk and brocade and rests her arm over the gilded mask handle of

a flower-filled urn.  The man on the other hand is presented in the darkened interior of

a library, again draped in flowing silk and his hand points to the page of an opened

book.  The two portraits can be dated circa 1690-95.

 

The attribution to De Troy is accepted by Dominique Brême, who has examined these

works in the original.

 

[1] Biographical information take from Laurie G. Winters, Grove Dictionary of Art.