An Unknown French Noblewoman

Attributed to François Quesnel
(c.1543 – 1619)

An Unknown French Noblewoman

Painted Painted circa 1580 – 1585

Oil on unlined canvas: 33 ¾ x 24 in. (85.5 x 61 cm.)

Provenance

Private collection, France;

with Colnaghi, London, 1996;

Private collection, London;

with The Weiss Gallery, 2002;

Private collection, UK.

Literature

The Weiss Gallery, The Courtly Image: Early Portraiture 1550 – 1680, no. 6. 

Apart from its rarity, as an example of late 16th century French portraiture, this painting is also remarkable for having survived as an unlined canvas in an exceptionally fine state of preservation. Worthy of note is the head and hair, where much of the original brushwork and subtle glazes remain intact. There are the remnants of an old label on the back of the canvas which once gave the identity of our sitter, however it is now too damaged to be interpreted.[1]

 

Our portrait may well be the work of François Quesnel, who was born in Edinburgh in 1543, the son of Pierre Quesnel (d. c.1574), a French artist then in the service of James V of Scotland. François and his two brothers Nicolas and Jacques were all to follow their father’s profession. By 1572, François must have left Scotland and settled in Paris. It was as a portraitist in crayon that Quesnel established his reputation. Though he rarely signed his work, some two-hundred drawings have been attributed to his hand consisting of portrait figures from the Courts of Henry III and Henry IV. Of the small number of portraits in oils attributable to the artist, only one is signed. It is a half-length portrait painted on panel, which reputedly depicts Mary Ann Waltham, one of the attendants of Mary Queen of Scots, monogrammed ‘FQ’ and dated 1572 (Althorp). Three other portraits are also attributed, those of Madame de Cheverny (Versailles), Madame de Laval (Le Mans Museum) and another portrait on canvas of an Jeanne de Bourdeille and her Daughter, also with the Weiss Gallery.

 

Of the small number of portraits in oils attributable to the artist, only one is signed. It is a half-length portrait painted on panel, which reputedly depicts Mary Ann Waltham, one of the attendants of Mary Queen of Scots, monogrammed ‘FQ’ and dated 1572 (Althorp). Three other portraits are also attributed, those of Madame de Cheverny (Versailles), Madame de Laval (Le Mans Museum) and another portrait on canvas of an Unknown French Noblewoman, formerly with the Weiss Gallery in 2002.[2] The latter work shares a similar palette and execution, as well the usual truncated, off-centre positioning of the sitter.

 

 

 

[1]De la Femme de M.re Sieur Del /g (ou b)ennes Seigneur de Villes(eine)…[?]’.

[2] The Courtly Image: early portraiture: 1550–1680, 2002, no.6.

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