• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 12109

    Old Masters

    26 October 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 96

    Jean Restout II (Rouen 1692-1768 Paris)

    Portrait of Pierre Vigné, called Vigné de Vigny (1690-1772), half-length


    Jean Restout II (Rouen 1692-1768 Paris)
    Portrait of Pierre Vigné, called Vigné de Vigny (1690-1772), half-length
    oil on canvas, unlined
    32 1/8 x 25 5/8 in. (81.6 x 65 cm.)

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    This elegant and sensitive portrait -- one of Restout’s finest and most celebrated -- depicts the artist’s friend, the distinguished architect Pierre Vigné, called Vigné de Vigny (1690-1772). Pierre de Vigny is depicted in his work cabinet or library, his head looking back, his expression pensive but lively, his long and nervous fingers holding the tools of his trade: an open compass and architectural plans, with bound volumes of Vitruvius resting on the shelves behind him. Restout and Pierre de Vigny seem to have been well-acquainted: they were almost exact contemporaries and fellow members of the Académie, both were regularly patronized by the Church, the Regent, and the powerful Duc de Luynes, and several paintings by the artist appeared in the estate sale of the architect’s collections in 1773 and the inventaire après décès of his widow. This graceful portrait reveals a familiarity and sensitivity that seems borne of a close friendship between the sitter and his portraitist.

    Pierre de Vigny was a pupil of the master architect, Robert de Cotte, who had his protégé sent to Constantinople in 1722 to build a new French Legation to the Sublime Porte on the banks of the Bosporus. On his return, Vigny spent an extended period in Rome, studying Roman Baroque building, and he became a devoted admirer of the architecture of Borromini. Once back in Paris, Vigny became an advocate of the exuberant designs of Oppenordt, whose influence is evident in his early works, including the Cour de Dragon (1728-32; demolished) – a monumental residential complex built for the wealthy banker Antoine Crozat with a sober classical façade decorated with flamboyantly rococo façade sculptures by P-A Slodtz; and the Hôtel Chenizot (1726), which still stands at 51, rue Saint Louis-en-l’ile. Vigny’s early work was mostly for Paris financiers, like Crozat, but after 1740 he worked largely for the clergy and nobility. His great reputation earned him election to the Royal Society in London, for which he wrote in 1740 an admired historical treatise as his reception essay, Dissertation sur l’architecture (published in 1752).

    Christine Gouzi dates the present painting to the early 1720s, near the beginning of Vigny’s career, in part because of the sitter’s apparent age in the portrait, which does not seem much beyond his early 30s, and because the broad, creamy touch in the handling of the draperies is characteristic of Restout’s works at this time. The beautiful, milky surface of the painting has been almost perfectly preserved on the original, unlined canvas support. A drawing probably made in preparation for the portrait is in the Art Museum of Princeton University (Gouzi, no. D.5).


    Pierre Vigné, called Vigné de Vigny (1690-1772), and by descent to
    The Count of Beaumont, a descendant of the sitter, Saumur, c. 1890, and by descent to the following.
    Private collection, Périgord; Artcurial, Paris, 13 November 2013, lot 89.


    C. de Beaumont, Documents nouveaux sur Pierre Vigné de Vigny architecte, Paris, 1898, p. 19.
    M. Gallet, 'L'architecte Pierre de Vigny 1690-1772: Ses constructions, son esthétique', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, November 1973, p. 268, 283, no. 26, pl. 1.
    H. Geissler and P. Rosenberg, 'Un nouveau groupe de dessins de Jean-Restout (1692-1768) au musée de Stuttgart', Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen in Baden-Württenberg, XVII, 1980, p. 152, fig. 26.
    C. Gouzi, Jean Restout: 1692-1768: Peintre d'histoire à Paris, Paris, 2000, p. 208, no. P. 23.
    A. Gady and J.-M. Pérouse de Montclos, De l'esprit des villes: Nancy et l'Europe urbaine au siècle des Lumières 1720-1770, exhibition catalogue, Nancy, 2005, p. 301, under no. 2.


    Toledo, Museum of Art; Chicago, Art Institute; Ottawa, Galerie Nationale du Canada, The Age of Louis XV: French Painting 1710-1774, 26 October 1975-2 May 1976, no. 84 (entry by P. Rosenberg).