Jean-Siméon Chardin (Paris 1699-1779)
Jean-Siméon Chardin (Paris 1699-1779)

Portrait of the surgeon, André Levret, bust-length in a black coat

Details
Jean-Siméon Chardin (Paris 1699-1779)
Portrait of the surgeon, André Levret, bust-length in a black coat
oil on canvas
23½ x 19½ in. (59.6 x 49.5 cm.)
Provenance
Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 17 December 1993, lot 73.
Literature
La Font de Saint-Yenne, Réflexions sur quelques causes de l'état présent de la peinture en France..., Paris, 1746, pp. 109-10.
J. Guiffrey, J.B.S. Chardin. Catalogue complet de l'oeuvre du maître, Paris, 1907, p. 8.
G. Wildenstein, Chardin, Paris, 1933, pp. 79, 188-89, no. 454.
G. Wildenstein, Chardin, Paris, 1963, p. 182, no. 213.
G. Wildenstein, Chardin, Paris, 1969, p. 191, no. 213.
P. Rosenberg, Chardin, 1699-1779, Paris, Grand Palais, 1979, pp. 191, 280, under no. 90.
M. Roland Michel, Chardin, Paris, 1994, pp. 49, 55, 206-207, notes 19, 240.
P. Rosenberg, 'Book reviews: Chardin. By Marianne Roland Michel...,' Burlington Magazine, CXXXVIII, No. 1115, February 1996, p. 138.
Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Jean Siméon Chardin, 1699-1779: Werk, Herkunft, Wirkung, 1999, p. 78.
P. Rosenberg and H. Prigent, Chardin: la nature silenscieuse, Paris, 1999, p. 118.
P. Rosenberg and R. Temperini, Chardin, suivi du catalogue des oeuvres, Paris, 1999, pp. 79, 181, 255, 293, no. 123.
Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Chardin, 1999-2000, pp. 22, 324, under no. 96.
P. Sanchez, Dictionnaire des artistes exposant dans les salons des XVII et XVIIIEME siècles à Paris et en province, 1673-1800, Dijon, 2004, I, p. 342.
Exhibited
Paris, Salon, 1746, no. 74.

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Lot Essay

Famed for his atmospheric still lifes and tender domestic interiors, Chardin rarely ventured into the realm of conventional portraiture (until the early 1770s when, near the end of his life, he produced a small series of superb bust-length portraits in pastel). One of only two oil portraits that Chardin undertook mid-career is the present painting of André Levret (1703-1780), a prominent gynecologist and obstetrician who was a member of the Académie Royale de Chirurgie. (Curiously, the other portrait, which dates from 1757 and is lost, was of another doctor, the surgeon Antoine Louis). Levret was exhibited in the Salon of 1746, where it received a cool reception, and the portrait was known only through a 1753 engraving by Louis Le Grand until its reappearance at auction in Paris in 1993. It may be that the lack of enthusiasm for the painting when it was exhibited in 1746 discouraged the artist from further experiments in the field of portraiture.

Chardin's portrait of Levret was described in the Salon livret as 'grand comme nature' ('life size'). It was originally of oval format, like Le Grand's engraving, and was subsequently made up into an upright rectangle. It is, in fact, a fine likeness, sensitively drawn and handsomely executed. Levret is presented as a dignified figure with attentive eyes and an expression of gentle authority. It is not known if Chardin and Levret where friends, but the surgeon (who was 'Obstetrician to the Dauphine') was cited by Diderot in articles on modern medicine in the Encyclopédie for his many advances in the science of obstetrics. We may infer from Chardin's acquaintance with Levret and Antoine Louis that the artist travelled in intellectual circles that were at least on the periphery of the Enlightenment movement.

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