PRINT January 1965


A RECENT ACQUISITION of the Phoenix Art Museum, the portrait of Madame Adelaide de France by Ma­dame Adelaide Labille-Guiard was presented to the Museum by an anonymous New York foundation this year.

Madame Adelaide de France, the eldest daughter of Louis XV, is depicted painting an imitation bronze medallion of portraits of Louis XV, the Queen, and the Dauphin (father of Louis XVI), all of whom were deceased at the time this work was painted, c. 1787. She is about to add the following inscription to the medallion: “Leur image est encore le charme de ma vie.”

The work was originally given by Louis XVI to the Due de Brancas, Comte de Lauraguais. It was many years in the collection of the Marquis de Cazeaux; later passed into the hands of Wildenstein and Company of New York. The painting has been catalogued and exhibited in the West in the Los Angeles County Museum’s “Five Centuries of European Painting” in 1933.

The artist, Adelaide Labille-Guiard, was born in 1749 in Paris and died there in 1803. She received her early training in art from the miniaturist, Francois Elie Vincent, and she was admitted into the Royal Academy in 1783, at the same time that Louis Elizabeth Vigee-LeBrun was so honored. Soon after, the daughters of Louis XV named her their first painter and she was accorded a royal pension. Labille-Guiard is well-known for her notable portraits of French Aristocracy before the Revolution and of the revolutionary leaders afterwards.

In this work, the artist’s penetration into the char­acter of the Royal sitter may be said to be lacking in depth, a lack which is particular to 18th-Century French official portraiture. However, the work’s great size, 84 1/2'' x 60 1/4'', and meticulous surface quality, its vigorous presentation of a historical per­sonage marks it as the key work in the Museum’s 18th-Century collection.

James Harithas, Curator of Collections, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona.