Madame Philippe Panon Desbassayns de Richemont (Jeanne Eglé Mourgue, 1778–1855) and Her Son, Eugène (1800–1859)
Marie Guillelmine Benoist (French, Paris 1768–1826 Paris)
Oil on canvas
46 x 35 1/4 in. (116.8 x 89.5 cm)
Gift of Julia A. Berwind, 1953
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 613
Jeanne Eglé Fulcrande Catherine Mourgue, called Égle, born in Montpellier in 1778, married Philippe Panon Desbassayns de Richemont (1774–1840) in 1799. Her husband enjoyed a successful administrative and diplomatic career under the Consulat, Empire, and Restoration.
This double portrait, once attributed to Jacques-Louis David, is now given to David's pupil Marie-Guillelmine Benoist and is probably identifiable with a portrait she showed at the Salon of 1802.
Jeanne Eglé Fulcrande Catherine Mourgue, called Égle, was born in Montpellier on June 5, 1778 and died in Paris on March 20, 1855. She married at Montlhéry on June 18, 1799 Philippe Panon Desbassayns de Richemont (1774–1840), who belonged to a wealthy colonial family from the island of La Réunion. They had eight children of whom the oldest were a son, Eugène (1800–1859), and a daughter, Camille (1801–1804). Panon de Richemont enjoyed a successful administrative and diplomatic career under the Consulat and Empire and under the Restoration. In 1824 he was elected a deputy for the Meuse. He became a baron in 1815, a count in 1827, and commander of the Légion d’honneur.
The double portrait, having passed by descent to Hélène Mourgue Chabert, was shown in Paris in 1897 and then appeared on the art market in 1905 as Madame de Richmont and her daughter by Jacques Louis David. Much exhibited at first, though undocumented, in the second half of the twentieth century the painting went largely unnoticed until in the 1970s the attribution came into question. In 1996, Margaret Oppenheimer put forward the name of a woman artist who was a pupil of David, Marie Guillelmine Benoist. She also pointed out that the child wears the costume of a boy and must therefore be Eugénè and not Camille, as had previously been thought. If one accepts her argument, this portrait of Madame de Richemont appeared at the Salon of 1802 as Portrait d’une jeune femme avec un enfant by Madame Benoist, née Leroulx de la Ville, who was described in the livret as a student of citizen David. A contemporary critic, praising the picture, observed that the unnamed lady much resembled the beautiful "Mme. D * *" and that she was accompanied by a blond child. The work compares well with two others by Benoist of the same period, the famous Portrait of a Negress (Musée du Louvre, Paris) which was shown at the Salon of 1800 and a portrait of Jean-Dominique Larry (Musée des Augustins, Toulouse), exhibited there in 1804. A replica and two variants, which show the mother without her child, seated beside a table and holding a book, descended in the family and one of the variants has long been attributed to Madame Benoist. An unfinished version in the Ritz Hotel, Paris, is described by Reuter as possibly by her as well.
By 1784 Marie Guillelmine Leroulx-Delaville seems to have entered the studio of Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842) whereas in 1786 she was first identified as a pupil of Jacques Louis David (1748–1825). She exhibited at Place Dauphine each year from 1784 through 1788 and in 1791. That year she was one of a number of women who took advantage of the new policy of open admissions to the Salon: she sent work for the first time and showed there regularly until 1812. In 1793 she married an attorney, Pierre Vincent Benoist. She was provided with a studio in the Louvre in 1795 and won a small prize, as well as a second class medal at the 1804 Salon. Madame Benoist was patronized by Napoleon and various members of his family who sat to her for portraits.
[Katharine Baetjer 2012]
M. and Mme Philippe Panon Desbassayns de Richemont, Paris and Suresnes (until no later than her d. in 1855); her brother, Scipion Mourgue (by 1855–d. 1860); his son, Edmond Mourgue (1860–ca. 1866); his niece, Hélène Mourgue (later Mme Camille Chabert), Paris (ca. 1866–1905, as by Jacques Louis David; sold through Gimpel & Wildenstein to Bardac); Sigismond Bardac, Paris (1905–18); [Gimpel & Wildenstein, Paris and New York, 1918; sold for $228,000 to Berwind]; Edward J. Berwind, New York (1918–d. 1936); his sister, Julia A. Berwind, New York (1936–53)
Paris. Salon. "[no title]," 1802, no. 17 (as "Portrait d'une jeune femme avec un enfant," by Mme Benoist).
Paris. École des Beaux-Arts. "Portraits de femmes et d'enfants," April 30–?, 1897, no. 45 (as "Madame de Richemont et sa fille," by Jacques-Louis David, lent by M. Chabert).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "French Art: 1200–1900," January 4–March 12, 1932, not in catalogue (lent by E. J. Berwind, New York) [see Wildenstein 1932].
Art Institute of Chicago. "A Century of Progress," June 1–November 1, 1933, no. 213 (as "Mme. Jeanne de Richemond and Her Son, Eugène," by Jacques-Louis David, lent by Mr. Edward J. Berwind, New York).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "French Painting and Sculpture of the XVIII Century," November 6, 1935–January 5, 1936, no. 58 (as "Jeanne, Comtesse de Richemont, and Her Daughter Camille," by Jacques-Louis David, lent by Edward J. Berwind).
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800," May–October 1939, no. 80 (as "Madame de Richemond, and her son Eugène," by Jacques-Louis David, lent by Miss Julia Berwind, New York).
San Diego. Timken Museum of Art. "Portraiture in Paris around 1800: Cooper Penrose by Jacques-Louis David," October 17, 2003–February 15, 2004, no. 1.
Northampton, Mass. Smith College Museum of Art. "The French Portrait: Revolution to Restoration," September 30–December 11, 2005, no. 5.
"Beaux-Arts. Suite de l'examen du Salon." La décade philosophique, littéraire et politique (1802 (an XI-Ier trimestre)), p. 107 (McWilliam 1991, no. 0726), as "Le portrait d'une jeune femme avec un enfant" by Mme Benoist exhibited at the Salon of 1802 as no. 17; refers to it as a good likeness of "Mme D * *, whose beauty is known and whose complexion is as delicate as her forms"; comments on the high quality of the drawing and composition but finds the skin tone too gray.
"Salon de l'an dix, No. IX." Journal des débats et loix du pouvoir législatif, et des actes du gouvernement (November 2, 1802 (11 Brumaire an XI)), p. 3 (Collection Deloynes, vol. 28, no. 778; McWilliam 1991, no. 0740), mentions favorably the portrait exhibited in the Salon as no. 17.
Revue du salon de l'an X, ou examen critique, de tous les tableaux qui ont été exposés, au Muséum. Paris, 1802 (an X), p. 4 (Collection Deloynes, vol. 28, no. 769; McWilliam 1991, no. 0755), in discussing no. 17, claims that it is easy to see that David has worked less on this picture than on the preceding one ["Portrait d'une jeune personne tenant une branche de lilas"].
Armand Dayot. L'image de la femme. [Paris], 1899, p. 297, ill. on title page (detail) and pl. 15, as Mme. de Richemond by David.
Marie-Juliette Ballot. Une élève de David: La comtesse Benoist, l'Émilie de Demoustier, 1768–1826. Paris, 1914, p. 253, lists a portrait of Mme. de Richemont in the collection of the Vicomtesse de Richemont, Paris, as a copy after David by Mme. Benoist.
"Le carnet d'un curieux." La Renaissance 2 (February 1919), p. 79, ill. p. 80, as Mme. de Richemond and Eugène (1800–59) by David; provides information about the sitters; notes that the picture was formerly in the collections of Chabert and Sigismond Bardac.
Henry Caro-Delvaille. "Jacques Louis David." Art in America 7 (June 1919), p. 148, ill. opp. p. 145, as Mme. de Richemond and her son, Eugène, by David.
W. R. Valentiner. Jacques Louis David and the French Revolution. New York, 1929, fig. 14, as Mme. de Richmond and her Son by David; dates it about 1800.
Wilhelm R. Valentiner, ed. Unknown Masterpieces in Public and Private Collections. Vol. 1, London, 1930, no. 83, pl. 83, as Mme. de Richemond and her Son by David.
Henri Focillon. "The French Portrait." Formes 20 (December 1931), pl. foll. p. 166, as Mme Richemont and her Son by David.
R. H. Wile[n]ski. French Painting. Boston, 1931, p. 181, as Mme de Richemont and her son by David, about 1805.
Alfred M. Frankfurter. "Thirty-Five Portraits from American Collections." Art News 29, no. 33 (May 16, 1931), p. 4, as by David; calls it "one of the greatest pictorial achievements of the Directoire period".
Jacques-Émile Blanche. "The French Art Exhibition, London, 1932." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 7 (1932), fig. 5, as Mme Richemont et son fils by David.
Tancred Borenius. "Die Ausstellung französischer Kunst in London." Pantheon 9 (1932), ill. p. 19, as Mme. Richmond mit Söhnchen.
W.-K. "Die Londoner Ausstellung 'Französische Kunst von 1200–1900'." Die Kunst 65 (March 1932), ill. p. 175, as Mme Richemont mit Söhnchen by David.
Georges Wildenstein. "Paintings from America in the French Exhibition." The Fine Arts 18 (January 1932), p. 54, ill. p. 24, as "a delightful though slightly melancholy canvas . . . a forerunner of the romantic school," by Jacques-Louis David.
Jacques Riche. "Renseignements." Intermediaire des chercheurs et curieux (1933) [extracts from Mourgue family archives, Marseilles], mentions that according to a note in the Mourgue papers, the portrait of Mme de Richemont and her son Eugène, was painted not by David but by Mme Benoist and the head was "retouched by David"; notes that Monsieur Benoist was a friend of Jacques Antoine Mourgue, the sitter's father.
Katharine Dunlap. Letter to the Frick Art Reference Library. Summer 1935, relates the story, told to her by the Count de Richemont, that his ancestor is shown with her daughter, Camille, and that the picture was sold because the mother could not bear to look at it after the child was killed in an accident; states that the next child was a son, Eugène, and speculates that the portrait may have been listed at one time as Mme de Richemont and her eldest child, leading to confusion over the child's identity.
Agnès Humbert. Louis David. Paris, [194?], pl. 55, as "Madame de Richemont et sa fille"; "vers 1810?".
Gaston Brière. "Sur David portraitiste." Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français, années 1945–46, (1948), p. 176, finds the attribution to David convincing, but includes it among portraits for which documentary evidence is lacking.
Elizabeth E. Gardner. "David's Portrait of Madame de Richemont and Her Daughter." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12 (November 1953), pp. 57–59, ill. pp. 58 and 59 (details of heads) and in color on cover, states that it was sold by Sigismond Bardac to Viscount G. Chabert before 1897.
Viscount Hubert de Richemont. Letter to Mrs. Dunlap. November 24, 1953, states that Camille was born in 1801 and died in 1804; that Eugène, born in 1800, was the eldest child; that the portrait was given to relatives on Mme de Richemont's side (the Mourgue family); one of them, "I believe a Chabert," sold the portrait to Bardac.
Charles Sterling. Letter to Elizabeth Gardner. March 22, 1954, notes that the identification of the sitters appears to be based exclusively on family tradition.
Louis Hautecœur. Histoire de l'art. Vol. 3, De la nature à l'abstraction. Paris, 1959, p. 71, includes it among portraits by David from 1799–1800.
René Gimpel. Diary of an Art Dealer. English ed. New York, 1966, pp. 37–38, in a journal entry of June 18, 1918, as by David.
James Laver. "Fashion, Art, and Beauty." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 26 (November 1967), ill. p. 125, as Mme. de Richemont and Her Daughter, Camille; dates it about 1800.
Robert L. Herbert. Letter to Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann. July 15, 1970, states that Peter Walch feels that it is probably by David, and that he himself feels, without much certainty, that it probably is not, commenting on the "rather flat and unfunctional area of neck and shoulder".
J. de Moussac. Letter to Theodore Rousseau. March 15, 1973, describes a copy showing Mme de Richemont without the child which, according to family tradition, was commissioned in 1804 and painted by Mme Benoist.
J. de Moussac. Letter. April 17, 1982, sends transcriptions of Camille's birth and death certificates.
Margaret A. Oppenheimer. "Three Newly Identified Paintings by Marie Guillelmine Benoist." Metropolitan Museum Journal 31 (1996), pp. 143–50, ill., attributes this portrait and two others to Marie-Guillelmine Benoist; identifies the child as Eugène, observing that "the yellow pantaloons, short jacket, and open shirt are the clothing of a boy"; believes our picture was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1802 as no. 17 and points out that a contemporary source [see Ref. 1802] identifies the female sitter as "Mme D**" and specifies that the child, a boy, was blond; remarks that the same chair was used in Benoist's portrait of her brother-in-law, Jean-Dominique Larrey, exhibited in the Salon of 1804 (ill. fig. 5); identifies a third painting, a portrait of a young woman holding a spray of lilacs (fig. 8, location unknown), as no. 16 in the Salon of 1802.
Margaret A. Oppenheimer. "Women Artists in Paris, 1791–1814." PhD diss., Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 1996, pp. 113, 309, fig. 13.
Margaret A. Oppenheimer. Letter to Mary Sprinson. March 15, 1996, cites contemporary sources.
Astrid Reuter. Marie-Guilhelmine Benoist: Gestaltungsräume einer Künstlerin um 1800. Berlin, 2002, pp. 160–61, 273–74, 319–22, ill., cites 1802 Salon criticism; believes the unfinished painting in the Hotel Ritz, Paris, could be by Benoist.
Philippe Bordes. Portraiture in Paris around 1800: Cooper Penrose by Jacques-Louis David. Exh. cat., Timken Museum of Art. San Diego, 2003, pp. 45, 55–56, ill. (color), notes that the "beckoning sweetness" of the sitters' expressions is alien to David.
The frame is from Paris and dates to about 1787 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–3). This exceptional frame is made of walnut and retains its original water-gilded surface on a red bole. Constructed with mitred corners secured with tapered keys it has never been altered. The carved lotus leaf sight edge is within a frieze ornamented with crisp applied volutes. They undulate between anthemion in the form of palmettes and acanthus which also continue through the corners. A row of bead and twisted leaf-cap reel ornament emanating from center points lies on a step before a bold, elaborate egg and dart pattern quarter round carved in the form of bursting acanthus buds and leaves. The top edge is a flat fillet sided channel containing a delicate rod encased in alternating acanthus and laurel leaf and berry carving, also emanating from centers. The back edge hollow is further carved in stop fluting with cables and husks. This tour de force of Neoclassical motifs can also be found on royal seating furniture in the Musée du Louvre.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2016; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
There are many copies of the portrait, including two of good quality that do not show the child and belong or belonged to family members, comte Yorick de Beauregard, château du Deffend, Montravers (1996) and comtesse du Cheyron du Pavillon, née Desbassayns de Richmont (before 1982). The latter was attributed to Madame Benoist.
A third copy is recorded as having passed by descent to the comtesse d’Hauteville, château de la Brosse, Saint Laurent en Gâtines. A fourth is in the Ritz Hotel Paris; a fifth was with the London dealers Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox (1979); and a sixth was in a house in Lorraine (see Henri Longnon and Francis Wilson Huard, French Provincial Furniture, 1927, ill. p. 156).