Jean Baptiste Perronneau (French, 1715–1783)
Pastel on paper, laid down on canvas
22 7/8 x 18 1/2 in. (58.1 x 47 cm)
Wrightsman Fund, 2003 (2003.26)
Perronneau, a Parisian of bourgeois birth, was in his maturity exclusively a portraitist. A pupil of the engraver Laurent Cars (1699–1771), he may also have studied with Hubert Drouais (1699–1767) or Charles Joseph Natoire (1700–1777). He was admitted a candidate of the Acadèmie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1746 and received in 1753. By this time, Maurice Quentin de La Tour had captured the market for pastel portraits among the aristocracy in Paris and at the court of Versailles. Although Perronneau had many Salon exhibits to his credit and was admired as a colorist, thereafter he generally found his clients among the upper middle classes and outside the capital, becoming an itinerant. In addition to Paris, he worked in Orlèans, Toulouse, and Bordeaux. He may also have been in Italy, visited Amsterdam more than once, and reportedly traveled to Saint Petersburg. It was perhaps a matter of expediency rather than of his clients' taste that Perronneau preferred frontal or three-quarter view pastel portraits of less than half-length format. He achieved his expressive characterizations with effort; his pastels may show evidence of reworking. His work is remarkable for the subtle variety of coloring in both the lights and the shadows.
In 1756, Perronneau visited Bordeaux to paint a member of the Journu family of merchants. Madame Claude Journu was the widowed mother of eighteen children, one of whom, Bernard, called Olivier, born in 1724, is pictured here. Its success engendered additional commissions, including the 1767 portrait of Bonaventure and those of his brother, Jacques, Abbè Journu-Dumoncey, and of their mother, the latter dating to 1769 (all are oil paintings belonging now to the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.). Olivier Journu has brilliant turquoise blue eyes and the square jaw and very dark brows typical of his family. He wears point d'Alençon lace and a corsage of roses. While his expression is opaque, he seems to be acutely self-aware.