This middle-aged man regards us with a serious and thoughtful gaze. Greuze took great care painting his face, using a series of glazes to capture his slightly droopy eyes, barely parted lips, pink cheeks and light grey stubble. His blue velvet jacket is decorated with a gold trim and gold-coloured buttons. Greuze has painted the trim beautifully, using linear, parallel strokes of the brush.
About the time the picture was painted, Greuze became famous as a portraitist. Although we do not know the identity of the sitter, it has been proposed that he may be Comte Pierre de Lupé, whose portrait Greuze exhibited at the Salon in 1763, the same year that this picture was painted. It is also possible that he may be Louis, also comte de Lupé and marquis de Besmaux (1699–1774). Alternatively, he may be a Russian businessman from St Petersburg called Bacherach, whose portrait Greuze painted in 1763.
Greuze portrays this middle-aged man half-length, facing three-quarters towards the right but looking out towards us with a serious and thoughtful gaze. He took great care painting the man’s face, using a series of glazes to capture his slightly droopy eyes, barely parted lips, pink cheeks and light grey stubble shadow. The man’s blue velvet jacket is decorated with a gold trim and gold-coloured buttons. Greuze paints the trim beautifully, using linear, parallel strokes of the brush. The blue colour of the coat may originally have been more of a purplish or inky blue. Beneath the jacket is a matching waistcoat with white lining. A delicate and convincingly painted white lace jabot (ornamental frill) spills out of the waistcoat.The tightly wrapped white cravat above the man’s jabot emphasises his double chin. His grey powdered wig is fastened at the back by a large black ribbon known as a solitaire, which extends to the front.
Greuze signed and dated the portrait above the man’s left sleeve. About the time the picture was painted, Greuze became famous as a portraitist and was considered by his contemporaries to be on a par with Rubens and Van Dyck. However, it is hard to see their influence here. Greuze used a similar pose for his portrait of Comte d’Angiviller (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), painted in the same year.
Although we do not know the identity of the sitter, several suggestions have been made as to who he might be. It has been proposed that he is Comte Pierre de Lupé, whose portrait Greuze exhibited at the Salon in 1763, the same year that this picture was painted. The portrait of the count is the only one of a male sitter exhibited by Greuze at the 1763 Salon that has not yet been located. Pierre-Marie de Lupé, comte de Lupé et de Falaise in Normandy (1724–1770) was an army officer. In 1764 he was appointed Gentilhomme de la Manche (Governor) to the Comte d’Artois, who later became Charles X of France. Eight years earlier he had been made a chevalier of the Order of Saint Louis. However, the absence of the cross of the Order, and the sitter’s age suggest that this is unlikely to be a portrait of Pierre-Marie, who would have been in his late thirties at the time. It is possible that he may be Louis, also a comte de Lupé and a marquis de Besmaux (1699–1774), who is not recorded as a member of the Order of Saint Louis.
Alternatively, the sitter may be a Russian businessman from St Petersburg called Bacherach. On 11 November 1763 the engraver and dealer Johann Georg Wille recorded in his journal that Greuze received 25 gold louis from Bacherach for completing his portrait. From Wille’s diary it appears that Bacherach was in Paris after the closure of the 1763 Salon, explaining why his portrait is not listed in the booklet that accompanied the 1763 Salon.
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