This intimate, cabinet-scale portrait by Claude Deruet has an illustrious 20th century provenance. Robert Lehman (1891 – 1972), banker, philanthropist and art collector, amassed one of the greatest collections of early European art during his lifetime, with a particular focus on French paintings. For six decades he built upon an art collection begun by his father in 1911 and was a long-time member of the Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and chairman of its board in the 1960s. The importance of Lehman’s collection was such that in 1957, around three hundred works were displayed in a solo exhibition at the Musée de l’Orangerie in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris.
donated 1944 to The Denver Art Museum, Colorado, USA;
Our portrait was gifted by Lehman to The Denver Art Museum in Colarado, and deaccessioned in 1998. The fashionable noblewoman wears a bright green silk bodice with scalloped edges and gold trim, perhaps a masquerade costume. It is unbuttoned to reveal her fine silk chemise beneath, and she wears a real rose in her carefully curled hair, as well as exquisite transparent glass flowers, part of a diamond studded hair-piece. It is an intriguing and purposeful juxtaposition of natural and man-made artifice; a playful nod to the sitter’s youth and beauty, but also to her status as a gilded member of the elite French court in the 1620s.
The painting has recently been re-attributed to the accomplished court portraitist, Claude Deruet, the official court painter to Charles IV, Duke of Lorraine (1604 – 1675). Deruet had studied in Rome between 1612 and 1619, where, according to the famous French chronicler of the arts, André Félibien (1619 – 1695), he studied with the painter and etcher Antonio Tempesta (1555 – 1630). It was during this period that Deruet painted the Japanese samurai Hasekura Tsunenaga, who was on an ambassadorial visit to Europe in 1615. He returned to his native Nancy by 1620 and was soon much in demand as a portraitist for the fashionable elite, with his smooth mannerist style. Cardinal Richelieu was among his most influential patrons, and he was enobled by the Duke of Lorraine in 1621. In 1625 – 1626 the young Claude Lorrain worked as Deruet’s assistant. In 1645 he was made a Knight of the Order of St. Michel by Louis XIII, who had in 1641 absorbed most of Lorraine into France. Deruet lived in great opulence, with a luxurious residence in Nancy, which he named ‘La Romaine’ in tribute to his Roman sojourn, and where Louis XIII and his Queen stayed in 1633. His best known works are four vast allegorical scenes representing the Elements, painted c.1640, painted for Richelieu and now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Orléans.
 After his death in 1969, the Robert Lehman Foundation donated close to 3,000 works of art to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Housed in the Robert Lehman Wing, which opened to the public in 1975, the museum has called it ‘one of the most extraordinary private art collections ever assembled in the United States’.