Jan. 8 Art Minute: Nicolas de Largillière, Portrait of a Man

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Nicolas de Largillière (French, 1656-1746), <em>Portrait of a Man</em>. Oil on canvas, 1703. 57 3/4 by 45 1/4 inches. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1955.35. Gallery 24

Nicolas de Largillière (French, 1656-1746), Portrait of a Man. Oil on canvas, 1703. 57 3/4 by 45 1/4 inches. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1955.35. Gallery 24

Although the identities of the man and women in this portrait are unknown, the painting was probably meant to commemorate their liaison, possibly even their marriage. The cherub holding an apple (is he a portrait of a specific child?) is an allusion to the theme of love, perhaps suggesting the judgment of Paris who awarded a golden apple to Venus as the fairest of three goddesses.

Largillière’s portraits focused on the middle-class professionals and civic leaders who were becoming art patrons in the late 17th- and early 18th-centuries. He combined naturalism learned from training in Flanders and England with the tradition of ideal beauty valued in allegorical court portraiture. This canvas represents a change in his style after 1700, when his portraits began to have a greater intimacy and express a new Rococo sensibility. Figures are closer to the picture plane, and warm colors, like the orange, scarlet, and reds here, accent the sitter and surrounding details.


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