A Portrait of Rousseau by Quentin de La Tour acquired by the Musée Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Maurice Quentin de
La Tour (1704-1788)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1764
Pastel - 52.3 x 37.4 cm
Montmorency, Musée Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Photo : Sotheby’s Londres

10/07/2007 — Acquisition — Montmorency (France), Musée Jean-Jacques Rousseau — The Musée Jean-Jacques Rousseau, located in the house (enlarged in the XIXth C.) where he lived between 1757 and 1762, acquired at public auction in London, at Sotheby’s last July 5th, a pastel portrait of the writer by Maurice Quentin de la Tour (144, 000 euros with charges). The first instance of a portrait of Rousseau by de la Tour was at the Salon in 1753 [1] This work, which showed the philosopher sitting on a wicker chair, has been lost. Diderot poked fun at it, finding it a bit dull : “Where is the censor, the Caton and Brutus of our day...all I see is the author of the ‘Village Fortuneteller’, well dressed, well powdered and sitting ridiculously on a wicker chair”. In later versions, Rousseau still looks just the same but the picture is cut off at the waistline. A similar one is owned by the Musée Antoine Lécuyer in Saint-Quentin.
The pastel purchased by Montmorency had been offered as a gift by La Tour to Rousseau who thanked him in a letter dated on October 10, 1764, in which he stated that the portrait would never leave his side and that he would always enjoy looking at it. This did not keep him from giving it, from all appearances, to one of his friends, Madame Delessert, whose heirs kept it until 1911.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 10 juillet 2007


[1] Mentioned in the catalog under n° 90 : “M. Rousseau, Citizen of Geneva”.

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