Portrait miniature artist’s brother, Alexandre Nicolas Ducruet (1788-1858), seated reading next to a fireplace; circa 1830

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Object Description

Watercolour on ivory (ivory registration number: BBPSLHWE), giltwood frame.

This portrait was brought to life by the talented miniature painter Madeleine Pauline Augustin. Born in Paris in 1781, she was the daughter of Germain du Cruet, Chevalier de Barailhon, one of the numerous secretaries to King Louis XVI. Although her early education is unclear, it is believed that she studied painting with her godmother, the highly recognized 18th century still life painter, Anne Valleyer-Coster (1744-1818). It was unusual in this period for women to begin their career studying with another female artist – usually a male member of the family gave instruction. In this case, her godmother must have been a source of inspiration both artistically and professionally.

In the 1790s, Pauline entered the studio of renowned miniature painter and Premier Peintre of Miniatures to Louis XVIII in 1814, Jean-Baptiste Jacques Augustin (1759-1832). Augustin had gained tremendous notability for establishing a drawing academy that nurtured talented miniaturists, helping solidify his reputation as one of the most influential miniaturists of the late 18th century. Their relationship deepened, and in 1800, Pauline and Augustin married in Fussyny where her family had property. She was not only quickly regarded as her husband’s best pupil but was considered an important collaborator and artistic partner. Her ability to adopt her husband’s style to such a meticulous extent has made it so it is often impossible to distinguish her works from his.

Pauline was highly regarded in the Paris Salons where she started exhibiting in 1822 with miniature portraits of her husband and painter friends such as Merry-Joseph Blondel (1781-1853) and Abel de Pujol (1785-1861). In 1824, she exhibited a portrait of Belgian violinist Lambert Massard (1811-1892) which earned her a medal of the 2nd class. She continued to exhibit regularly in the Paris Salons of 1827, 1831, 1834, 1835 and 1838. It was during this time, not much longer after her husbands’ death, that she retired to Arras until her death in 1865, surviving her husband by almost 3 decades. Pauline’s miniature portraits are now exhibited all over the world, from the Metropolitan Museum in New York to several European collections.

The present work, datable from the sitter’s costume as circa 1830, represents Pauline’s brother Alexandre. The suggestion that it might be a portrait of her father, Germain du Cruet, Chevalier Barailhon (1726-1805), can be ruled out on the basis of dating and the existence of another portrait of the Chevalier by Pauline’s husband, showing a much older man and dated 1801.[1] The distinct features of Pauline’s brother, namely his thick facial hair on his sides, confirms it as a portrait of him.

[1] This portrait, by Jean-Baptiste Jacques Augustin of his father in law, is in the collection of the Nationalmuseum, Sweden. ID 25288.

Object History

By descent to the Coincy Family form the artist, from whom acquired by Maxime Hébert (1853-1945), Paris (inv. No. 1442); With Leo R. Schidlof, from whom acquired by Ernst Holzscheiter in London, 11 February 1953 (inv. Nos. MD/0580 and 35); Christie’s, London, Treasured Portraits from the Collection of Ernst Holzscheiter, 4 July 2018, lot 28; Private Collection, UK (since 2018).

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