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Portrait of Louis-Philippe, Duc d’Orléans and His Son Louis-Philippe-Joseph, Duc de Chartres. Etching.
29.6 x 19.5 cm. 1759. Baudicour 3, Portalis-Béraldi 23, Inventaire du Fonds Français 3.
Louis Carmontelle, a highly gifted chronicler of his times, was the son of a cobbler and, as an artist, self-taught. A combination of natural talent and mastery of the social graces enabled him to rise to the highest circles of French society. In 1763 he entered the service of the Duc d’Orléans, at whose court he distinguished himself as an organizer of festivities, playwright and portraitist up to the outbreak of the French Revolution. In 1757/58 Carmontelle began to draw portraits, showing great dedication and astonishing skill. For the rest of his life the artist was to execute portraits of personalities he encountered privately, noble patrons and visitors to the court of the duke, including such luminaries as Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin and the young Mozart. His masterly, never banal, portrait drawings offer a visual cross-section of the various social strata of the ancien régime. From an enormous fund of about 750 portrait drawings only six were reproduced as etchings by Carmontelle himself and circulated in a limited edition.
The double portrait of the duc d’Orléans and the young Louis-Philippe-Joseph showing father and son in a billiard room also forms part of that small and rare printed oeuvre. At the ducal court Carmontelle was active, among other things, as a lecteur for the young duc de Chartres and thus established a close relationship with both father and son. This seems to be reflected in the intimacy of the sensitively observed scene. The etching, which is distinguished primarily by its subtle technical execution and perceptive characterisation, is commonly regarded as Carmontelle’s finest and most ambitious printed work.
The present impression is possibly of an unrecorded early state, before the inscription “Lat.” in the top right-hand corner. See exhibition catalogue Regency to Empire. French Printmaking 1715–1814, Baltimore-Boston-Minneapolis 1984–85, no. 43, fig. p. 145, impression with inscription. Superb, crisp impression, trimmed to the platemark.