Marianne Loir (c. 1715-1769)
Portrait of a man sitting at his desk, c. 1750
Oil on canvas -
Portland, Art Museum
Photo : Portland Art Museum
24/4/14 - Acquisition - Portland, Art Museum - The sacrosanct principle of equality will soon dictate museum policies as well, determining not only the choice of directors but also the acquisitions in art works. Thus, the goal of the Portland Art Museum is to add 125 works by women by the year 2017, when it will celebrate its 125th anniversary. Obviously, the risk is that it acquire pieces based on the sex of the artist before that of quality.
In any case, this is the stated reason behind the acquisition of this portrait of a man seated at a desk, his head on his left hand, seemingly interrupted while reading, his body half turned toward the viewer with a book open before him. He is wearing a coat of violet gray velvet trimmed with cheetah fur with a richly embroidered silk vest and a frilled lace shirt. This portrait was long attributed to the Swedish painter, Alexander Roslin then to the French Jacques Aved, before Joseph Baillio identified Loir, particularly for the treatment of the eyes, the lace and the highlights on the velvet fabric as well as the the desk, decorated with gilt bronzes which can be found in other portraits by this artist.
Marianne Loir came from a family of Parisian silversmiths and her brother was the painter and sculptor Alexis III Loir (1712-1785). She probably trained in the studios of Hubert Drouais and Jean François de Troy - whose Allegory of Music resides in the museum - then enjoyed a fine career as a portraitist, depicting the Duke of Bourbon and the Marquise du Châtelet (Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux). Another famous portrait, that of the young Antoine Duplaa, dressed as a gardener (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tours) was on view at the exhibition "L’Enfant chéri au siècle des Lumières"  ; the catalogue entry, written by Xavier Salmon, does not mince its words in judging the artist : "Her works are much indebted to the art of Pierre Gobert (1662-1744) for their static character, their inexorably smiling little faces, their provincial affability and their lack of psychological perception". Admittedly, this applies to the painting here in Portland as well. The conclusion is less severe and just as pertinent : "She also shares with Jean-Marc Nattier a palette favoring pearl gray, green, pink and blue as well as costumes which are generally historically documented."
The artist finally settled in southern France and became a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Marseille in 1762.