Wikimedia [from ArtNet]
Tuesday 12 July 2022
Wikimedia [from ArtNet]
Saturday 9 July 2022
|Madame de La Pouplinière by Quentin La Tour, Musée Antoine-Lécuyer, Saint-Quentin, c.1741 [Wikimedia]|
Tuesday 5 July 2022
|Detail from Greuze's L'Enfant gâté (Louvre)|
The story of Bouret and his dog has been made famous by Diderot in Rameau' s Nephew:
Rameau's nephew ("Lui") defends his reprehensible life as a social parasite on the grounds of moral determinism and cites Bouret 's innate natural ability in the art of flattery, a skill which has served him well: "Only God and a few rare geniuses can have careers that keep stretching out before them as they advance". His incident concerning the dog is one of three, ostensibly well-known, examples of Bouret's ingenuity, the others being the "Book of Felicity" and "torches lighting the way to Versailles". The first of these references is clearly to Bouret's famous book in the pavillon du roi, described in the Correspondance littéraire for March 1764. Bouret is recorded in 1759 as having stationed torchbearers at intervals along the King's progress from Versailles to La Croix-Fontaine.
According to Rameau's nephew, the Keeper of the Seals took a fancy to Bouret's little pet dog and Bouret decided to make him a present of it. He was obliged to go extraordinary lengths since he had to persuade the animal to accept the minister as his new master. The creature, who was extremely attached to Bouret, was frightened by the minister's bizarre clothing. Moreover Bouret was under time pressure, for he has only a week to achieve the feat. He had a mask made to disguise himself as the Keeper of the Seals, borrowed the man's wig and voluminous robe, then petted the dog and enticed it with titbits to eat; reverting to his own identity, he then gave the animal a beating. By repeating the exercise from morning to night, the dog was soon persuaded to prefer the minister. Rameau's nephew professes admiration for this remorseless attention to detail - "Having a mask made to look like him! It's the mask I find so staggering". Genius of this sort is born, not made: "Who ever gave Bouret any lessons? No-one. It's nature that forms these rare men. Do you think the dog and the mask is written down anywhere?" (2014 English edition, p.52-55)
Saturday 2 July 2022
This portrait, by Louis-Michel Van Loo, is from the collection of the late couturier Hubert de Givency which is to be auctioned by Christie's in Paris at the end of the month. If you have €60,000-€ 80,000 to spare, this glossy, this splendid, rather self-satisfied eighteenth-century gentleman could soon adorn your walls....
Louis-Michel Van Loo (1707-1771) and workshop, Portrait of Étienne-Michel Bouret (1710-1777) in front of the Pavillon Bouret
According to Lenotre, Bouret was "le prototype des parvenus". The most famous of three brothers, he rose from modest origins - legend he had it he arrived in Paris with only 20 écus - and amassed fortune through transport of salt for the gabelle and later through speculation in the grain trade. He accumulated even greater wealth through a series of lucrative Royal offices - General Treasurer to the Royal Household in 1738 and Postmaster General in 1752 - and in 1741 joined the exalted ranks of the Farmer-Generals.
In an age of ostentatious luxury, Bouret stood out for his extravagance. Biographers estimate that his fortune at its peak could have been reached as much 42 million livres. Voltaire later maintained that he spent up to 200 livres a day to have fresh seafood relayed by road from Dieppe.(Requête à tous les magistrats du royaume, 1769). It was above all the scale of his building projects which drew scandalised attention. He maintained a splendid hôtel in the rue de la Grange-Batelière (later sold to Laborde), and constructed an magnificent "pavilion" at Gonesse ("What folly!", wrote d'Argenson, who disliked him: "What an insult all this is to the people.").