As a child aged 8, Alfred de Dreux sat for a double portrait with his sister Elisabeth for Théodore Géricault (Portrait d'Alfred et Elisabeth Dedreux, 1818). This portrait would become the world auction record for a painting by Théodore Géricault when it was offered in Christie’s Paris as part of the Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé collection (23 February 2009, lot 83, 9,025,000 Euros).
The present lot gives a rare insight into de Dreux’s studio. Famed for his prized equestrian scenes, a sketch featuring three horses - unfinished but nevertheless filled with movement and energy - forms the background to this portrait. The three painted horses in the upper background are mirrored by the three lively dogs in the foreground below.
Vibrant colour is created with the considered inclusion of opulent red and blue fabrics with ornate gold detailing around the sitter. These luxuriant fabrics, draped over the monumental gilt frame, bring a richness to the interior. The fabrics appear to be examples of costume which de Dreux used in his powerful Orientalist paintings, such as Guerrier Ottoman à cheval. The embroidery and gathered clothing is very close to that of an Ottoman courier and bears a particularly striking resemblance to that worn in a portrait by Delacroix of the singer Paul Baroilhet in Turkish Dress.
The sitter of this painting, who so far remains unidentified, confronts the viewer with a self-assured stare. This stare is paralleled by the assertive gaze of the dog which the boy holds.
Alfred de Dreux’s dramatic death in 1860, following a duel over payment for a portrait of the Emperor Napoleon III, ended an artistic career in its prime.