Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Two Brothers, Louis and Charles de Rassi , Late 18th Century

 French School 

Portrait of Two Brothers, Louis and Charles de Rassi,  French School
Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Circular, 2 ¾ in (7 cm) diameter
Profile portraits in miniature were extremely popular in France during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. A heightened interest and appreciation in classical art and architecture spurred on this trend. Portraits were more frequently painted in this format, aping Roman cameos in their monochromatic palette.

Artists such as Jacques Joseph de Gault (1738-1817) took this technique to extremes, showing the sitter as carved out of gemstones, shell or glass. A contender for the artist of this double portrait, the engraver and portrait miniaturist Edmé Quenedey (1756–1830), had a more naturalistic approach, showing the sitter in muted colours.

During the French Revolution many portraits of the French royal family in profile were painted for supporters, following a tradition begun by artists such as Louis Bertin Parent (1768-1851).

The present work depicts two young brothers facing each other in profile. Possibly twins, the artist has found a fashionable and striking way to present the two boys in the same composition. Whilst drawing on their similarities – they are dressed in the same blue coat and shirt with frilled collar – the artist has also recorded subtle differences in their features. The profile format also adds a formality and seriousness of purpose which belies the young age of the sitters.
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