Eugène Foulon d'Écotier must have commissioned the portrait to commemorate his appointment in June 1785 as Intendant of Guadeloupe. It was painted prior to his departure for the French colonial island that November. He holds a map of Guadeloupe, and behind him is a book entitled Ordonnances de la Marine, the regulations for administering French colonies. The picture was exhibited by Vestier at the Salon of 1787 and is a fine example of the sort of work on which his reputation was based.
The son of the Intendant Général des Finances of France, Foullon d’Écotier began his career in 1772 as Conseiller au Châtelet in Paris. In 1785, Louis XVI appointed him Intendant of Guadeloupe and its dependencies. Foullon d’Écotier was in Guadeloupe continuously from 1785 to 1791, except for a brief period in 1786, when he became interim Intendant of Martinique. In 1789 a revolution broke out in Guadeloupe in reaction to the one taking place in France. Foullon d’Écotier, joining the patriots rather than the landowners, was forced to give up his position. He returned to France in 1791, spent eighteen months in jail during the Terror, and after repeated requests finally returned to Guadeloupe as Intendant in 1816 under Louis XVIII. In September 1817, however, he was recalled for misappropriation of tax funds. Pleading with the Ministère de la Marine for retirement pay, he was awarded a pension by order of the king in July 1820 and, posthumously, the Cross of Saint Louis in January 1822.
This portrait was painted in 1785, between the sitter's appointment as Intendant of Guadeloupe in June and his departure to assume his post in November. The book titled Ordonnances de la Marine contains regulations for administering French colonies. Next to it is a pamphlet titled Mémoire, which might possibly be a copy of the report given to Baron Clugny when he was named governor of Guadeloupe; dated March 20, 1784, it carries instructions for the administration of Guadeloupe and its dependent islands. The map covers the territory to be under his jurisdiction: Guadeloupe, Marie Galante, and the cluster of tiny islands called Les Isles des Saintes. The map Vestier depicts was published by Bellin in Paris in 1759. Vestier faithfully copied its cartouche, reproducing every detail except the Roman numerals of the date, for which he substituted his own name and the date of the portrait.
[Katharine Baetjer 2014]
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right, on map cartouche): vestier / pinxit— / 1785; inscribed: (on book) ORDON[NANCES] / DE LA / MARINE (naval regulations); (on pamphlet) MEMOIR[E] (report); (on map) CARTE REDUITE DES ISLE[S DE] / LA GUADELOUPE / MARIE GALANTE ET LES SAINT[ES] / Dressé au Depon des Pl . . . / POUR LE SERVICE DE . . . / Par Ordre de M. BE . . . (Reduced map of the islands of Guadeloupe, Marie Galante, and Les Saintes, drawn up for the depository of maps [of the naval ministry], for the use of [the king's vessels], by order of M. Be[rryer . . . ] [This inscription is a faithful copy of a cartouche from a map of 1759, with the artist's name and the date substituted for the date of publication.])
[Galerie Heim-Gairac, Paris, in 1930; sold to Balmain]; Mme Balmain, Paris (until her d.; sold by her estate to Heim-Gairac); [Galerie Heim-Gairac, Paris]; private collection; [art dealer, London, until 1965; sale, Sotheby's, London, March 24, 1965, no. 84, for £2,000 to S. & R. Rosenberg for Wrightsman]; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, New York (1965–83; cat., 1973, no. 33)
Paris. Salon. September 1787, no. 148 (as "M. *** en habit de satin noir, tenant en sa main la carte des Isles de la Guadeloupe").
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "The Eye of Thomas Jefferson," June 5–September 6, 1976, no. 260 (lent anonymously).
Émile Bellier de la Chavignerie continued by Louis Auvray. Dictionnaire général des artistes de l'école française depuis l'origine des arts du dessin jusqu'à nos jours: architectes, peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs et lithographes. Vol. 2, Paris, 1885, p. 665.
Jules Guiffrey in "Table des portraits exposés aux salons du dix-huitième siècle jusqu'en 1800." Nouvelles archives de l'art français (Revue de l'art français ancien et moderne), 3rd ser., 5 (1889), p. 35.
André Foulon de Vaulx. "Antoine Vestier (1740–1824): notes et renseignements." Le Carnet historique & littéraire 7 (January–March 1901), p. 232, lists it among pictures shown at the 1787 Salon.
Denys Sutton. "Pleasure for the Aesthete." Apollo 90 (September 1969), p. 238, no. 6, ill.
Everett Fahy inThe Wrightsman Collection. Vol. 5, Paintings, Drawings. [New York], 1973, pp. 323–29, no. 33, ill. p. 325 (color), figs. 2, 4 (details), states that Foullon d'Écotier sat for Vestier in 1785, and notes that in June 1785 he was named Intendant de la Guadeloupe, and not Governor as stated in the 1965 Sotheby's catalogue (the Intendant administered taxes); suggests that an oval portrait with the same dimensions (fig. 6) might be a companion piece.
Jean-Claude Sueur. Le portraitiste Antoine Vestier (1740–1824). Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1974, p. 52.
Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée inThe Eye of Thomas Jefferson. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1976, pp. 161, 373, no. 260, ill., finds it stylistically close to portraits by Duplessis.
R. A. Cecil. "The Wrightsman Collection." Burlington Magazine 118 (July 1976), p. 518.
Katharine Baetjer inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1983–1984. New York, 1984, pp. 65–66, no. 6, ill.
Anne-Marie Passez. Antoine Vestier, 1740–1824. Paris, 1989, pp. 40, 77, 136, 144, 170, no. 48, ill. p. 145, rejects Fahy's (1973) suggestion that a portrait dated 1787 and sold at the Hôtel Drouot, Paris, in 1947 is a pendant to the MMA work, noting that Foullon d'Écotier did not meet his future wife until he moved to Martinique in 1788 and did not marry her until after her divorce was granted in 1792.
Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts. Frameworks: Form, Function & Ornament in European Portrait Frames. London, 1996, pp. 323–24, colorpl. 252 (in frame), describe the frame; call it original to the picture.
Everett Fahy inThe Wrightsman Pictures. Ed. Everett Fahy. New York, 2005, pp. 244–47, no. 67, ill. (color).
French Louis XVI oval scotia frame with molded piastres, beading, and leaves; original to the picture (see Mitchell and Roberts 1996).