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Studio of Hyacinthe Rigaud, Cardinal Fleury

Key facts
Full title Cardinal Fleury
Artist Studio of Hyacinthe Rigaud
Artist dates 1659 - 1743
Date made perhaps 1734 or 1735
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 80 × 64.8 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Katharine Fox, the widow of General Charles Richard Fox, son of the 3rd Lord Holland, 1874
Inventory number NG903
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Cardinal Fleury
Studio of Hyacinthe Rigaud

This is a portrait of the powerful Cardinal André-Hercule de Fleury (1653–1743) who became, in effect, Prime Minister of France during the reign of King Louis XV.

Fleury is shown seated and facing us, directly meeting our gaze with a slight smile. He wears crimson fur-lined cardinal’s robes – a glimpse of his elaborate lace sleeve appears from beneath his ivory fur. He is seated against a plain greyish background decorated only with a length of red velvet fabric, the sweep of which echoes the diagonal lines of the cardinal’s collars and shoulder.

Our painting is one of the numerous half-length studio copies of a 1728 portrait by Hyacinthe Rigaud, possibly made for James, 2nd Earl Waldegrave, in the years around 1734–5. The cardinal was 75 in 1728, but his comparatively youthful look here may be because the likeness was based on an earlier portrait (now lost) that Rigaud had painted in 1706 when Fleury was 52.

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