Sunday, 9 February 2020

The Dauphin Louis-Charles: by Kucharski

Alexander Kucharski became painter to Marie-Antoinette when Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun emigrated in 1789.  In 1791 he was commissioned to paint the portrait of the dauphin Louis-Charles.

Portrait of Louis-Charles, given by Marie-Antoinette to the baron de Breteuil
(Getty Images: Photo by Raphael GAILLARDE/Gamma-Rapho, 2005)

Madamoiselle Robaday, who was in charge of the prince's wardrobe, noted in her account book, now in the National Archives,  that on 8th July 1791 she paid the valet de chambre for a carriage to go "chez le peintre", presumably Kucharski.  Shortly afterwards she purchased  a "cane" similar to the one shown in the portrait.  As was customary, Kucharski was given a set of his sitter's clothes;  he retained a coat of shot silk and the cordon bleu which belonging to the Dauphin.   According to Jean Eckard, the outfit was sent to him shortly before 10 August 1792 so that he could finish the portrait for Mme de Tourzel that he was working on in his studio.  At the Restoration, his pupil Mme Barbot returned the clothes to the Duchess of Angoulême via the intermediary of the abbé Davaux.  

The original portrait is thought to have been destroyed on 10th August.  However,  Kucharski produced numerous other versions, in oil, pastel, as well as miniatures.  A receipt shows that he received 600 livres from Mme de Touzel for one of these copies.  

Marie-Antoinette ordered two additional paintings; one for Mme de Tourzel and one for the baron de Breteuil. The latter is now on display in the Château de Breteuil.  The pastel in the Petit-Trianon in Versailles, which once belonged to the Empress Eugénie, is generally considered to be a 19th-century copy; in Marguérite Jallet's view it dates only from the Second Empire. There were engraved versions by Manceaux and Hourdain - the latter specifies "Kucharski pinxit 1792".

Laurentie, Plate 61. Oil painting 17.6cm x 14.6 cm. Signed "Kucharsky fecit 1792"
A "Superbe portrait" which originally  belonged to Mme de Tourzel, then in the possession of her descendent Mlle de Montesquiou



Pastel which once belonged to the Empress Eugénie: 
62.3cm x 52.1cm. Versailles Collections 

References

"Le peintre KUCHARSKY",  Musée Louis XVII
http://musee.louis.xvii.online.fr/kucharsky.htm

"KUCHARSKI, Alexandre" in Neil Jeffares, Dictionary of pastellists before 1800 [online edition. Updated 12 Feb 2014]
http://www.pastellists.com/Articles/Kucharski.pdf
Jean Eckard,  Mémoires historiques sur louis XVII, 3rd ed.(1818), p.444-5
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6L5CAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA444#v=onepage&q&f=false

Marguerite Jallut, "Kucharski, dernier peintre de Marie-Antoinette", in Revue d'Histoire de la Philosophie et d'Histoire générale de la Civilisation, Lille, juillet-décembre 1939, p.251-271.
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k19346g/f61.image

Thérese Poudade "Un dauphin peu cacher un autre", Carnets Louis XVII,  No 8: February 1996 p.11-22
http://louisxvii.chez.com/Files/544_carnets_08.pdf
This article puts forward the view that Kucharski's portrait might represent the Dauphin Louis-Joseph - but I'm not sure this idea has gained much favour.

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