Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême 1825

Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA and Studio (1769-1830)

Portrait of Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême, Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA and Studio
Oil and Canvas
19th Century
30 x 25 inches, 76 x 63.5 cm
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This important portrait was painted by Lawrence in 1825 – the year in which he said ‘I have never painted better’ – and once formed part of the French royal collection. It is an autograph, reduced version of the full-length commissioned by George IV for the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle (Royal Collection), which celebrated the defeat of Napoleon. The Duke of Angouleme was included in the Chamber not only because he was the son of the French King Charles X, but because he had been instrumental in leading the Bourbon Restoration, and had taken a personal part in the military campaign against Napoleon. He saw action first at the battle of Hohenlinden in 1800, and then alongside Wellington in the Peninsula war in 1814. He also attempted to raise an army against Napoleon during the Hundred Days. Today, the Duke is perhaps best known as France’s last Dauphin, having been forced to abdicate during the July Revolution of 1830, when this portrait was singled out for attack by the mob. As such, it is a rare icon of both monarchical and revolutionary France in one image.

Lawrence arrived in Paris to paint the recently crowned Charles X (the youngest brother of the executed Louis XVI) and his son in August 1825. He was given studio space in the Tuileries Palace, which can be seen in the background of the portrait of Charles X (Royal Collection). Both of the full-lengths were begun in Paris and then transported back to England, being officially received by George IV in 1829. However, Lawrence must also have completed versions to remain in Paris. The present portrait is stamped on the reverse with the wax seal of the Bourbon restoration, and contemporary accounts also point to the presence of a portrait by Lawrence of Charles X in Paris in 1830. Further evidence that Lawrence received additional commissions from the French King in 1825 are the missing portrait of the Dauphine, Louis-Antoine’s wife the Dauphine and the well known portrait of Charles X’s daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Berri [Versailles], both of which were private commissions, and the same size as the present picture. In recognition of his work, Lawrence was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by Charles X.

Exactly how the present picture left the French royal collection remains something of a mystery. On 2nd August 1830, the increasingly unpopular Charles X was forced to abdicate following the July Revolution, bringing to an end the Bourbon monarchy. Louis-Antoine also abdicated, in favour of his nephew, the putative ‘Henri V’, although in the event the throne was seized by Louis-Philippe, Duc D’Orleans, who became the ‘Citizen King’. During the revolution both the Tuileries and the Louvre palaces were stormed by the mob, and the contents ransacked. As Louis-Antoine by then shared the unpopularity of his father, the present picture was singled out for attack.

A contemporary account by the Countess of Blessington, who then lived in Paris with her lover Count D’Orsay, records the fate of the portrait. Her journal, published in 1841 in ‘The Idler in France’, states;

“… the Tuilleries and the Louvre are taken by the people! Comte A. d’O[orsay] sent two of his servants… to the Tuilleries to endeavour to save the portrait of the Dauphin by Sir Thomas Lawrence – an admirable picture. His instructions as to its emplacement were so correct, that the servants found it instantly, but torn in pieces, and the fragments strewn on the floor.”

This account by Blessington, who of course would have known Lawrence’s work intimately, having been painted by him in 1822 [Wallace Collection], must refer to the present picture, for it has suffered a very deliberate act of vandalism to the head caused by two well-directed cuts with a knife. The account given to Blessington by D’Orsay’s servants had been somewhat exaggerated; the picture would not have been strewn in pieces on the floor, as the damage is contained within two very precise areas at the centre of the picture. And at least two copies of the portrait were commissioned by Louis-Philippe in c.1835, after the revolution, thus attesting to its survival. One copy was for the Chateau D’Eu (now in a private collection), while the other, by Charles Lefebvre, was for Versailles (and still belongs to the French State). Unfortunately, Lawrence’s portrait of Charles X did not survive the mob’s attention, as it was shot at repeatedly.

The present portrait was, until now, thought to have remained at the Tuileries, but lost when the palace was destroyed by fire during the Commune in 1871. However, it is known that the bulk of the paintings were removed from the Tuileries prior to its destruction, as Prussian troops advanced towards Paris during the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian war. It is therefore very unlikely that the portrait was still there at the time of the Commune. Instead, the presence of a label dated 30th June 1908 and written in German on the reverse of the picture, stating that the picture was restored in Drussdorf, suggests that it was in a German collection by the early twentieth century, and may even have been removed from Paris at the time of the Prussian invasion in 1871.
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