Louis Gauffier (Poitiers or La Rochelle 1762-1801 Livorno)
Louis Gauffier (Poitiers or La Rochelle 1762-1801 Livorno)

Portrait of Elizabeth, Lady Webster, later Lady Holland (1771-1845), full-length, in a white dress and feathered hat, with her spaniel, Pierrot, on a chaise-longue, with a guitar

Louis Gauffier (Poitiers or La Rochelle 1762-1801 Livorno)
Portrait of Elizabeth, Lady Webster, later Lady Holland (1771-1845), full-length, in a white dress and feathered hat, with her spaniel, Pierrot, on a chaise-longue, with a guitar
signed, inscribed, and dated 'L. Gauffier. Flor. ce 1795' (lower left)
oil on canvas
20 1/8 x 26 5/8 in. (51 x 67.6 cm.)
Henry Richard Vassall Fox, 3rd Lord Holland (1773-1840), and by inheritance to his illegitimate son
General Charles Richard Fox (1796-1873), and by descent to
Charles Fox Frederick Adam (died 1913), and by descent to his son
Frederick Edward Fox Adam, by whom bequeathed to his cousin
Elenora Constance Mylne (née Adam); (†), Sotheby's, London, 3 July 1985, lot 77.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 13 December 1996, lot 63, where acquired by the present owner.
(Possibly) Princess Marie Liechtenstein, Holland House, I, London, 1874, p. 282, as located in the Journal Room.
Earl of Ilchester, ed., The Journal of Elizabeth Lady Holland (1791-1811), I, London, 1908, pp. 212-13.
P. Bordes, "Louis Gauffier and Thomas Penrose in Florence," in The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin, LX, 1971-73, pp. 73-4, note 12.
F. Davis, "The High-stepper of Holland House," in Country Life, 7 November 1985.
F. Russell, "Notes on Grand Tour Portraiture," in The Burlington Magazine, July 1994, p. 443.
C.E. James, Grand Tour Portraits of Women, B.A. Thesis, Ohio State University, 2001, pp. 43, 86, fig. 40.
J. Bryant, Kenwood: Paintings in the Iveagh Bequest, New Haven and London, 2003, p. 126, fig. 1.
S.-A. Kitts, "Leandro Fernandez de Moratin's 'La Mogigata': The significance of the Holland Manuscript in the Light of Comments from Elizabeth, Lady Holland's 'Spanish Journal'' (BL, Add. MS, 51931), in Electronic British Library Journal, 2006, p. 11, fig. 4.

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Lot Essay

Born in Poitiers in 1762, Louis Gauffier relocated at an early age to Paris, where he studied under the tutelage of Hugues Taraval. When he was just twenty-two years old, Gauffier won the Prix de Rome and entered the École des Beaux-Arts in the Italian capital. In 1789, he returned to Paris and was accepted into the Académie as a history painter, but soon after was forced to return to Italy to escape the worsening situation in Revolutionary Paris. He and his wife settled in Rome, but the anti-French demonstrations there in 1793 forced the couple to relocate to Florence, where he joined a group of French emigré painters – including François-Xavier Fabre, who had been a close friend in Rome – and occupied himself as a society portraitist, painting mostly important military and diplomatic sitters stationed in Italy.

Gauffier painted the present portrait, one of the most compelling likenesses of his Florentine period, two years after he had settled in the Arno City. Elizabeth Vassall, successively Lady Webster and Lady Holland (1771-1845), was the only child of Richard Vassall, who owned extensive estates in Jamaica. In 1786 she married Sir Geoffrey Webster, Bt. of Battle Abbey (1748-1800). In June 1791 Lady Webster left England for Paris. She subsequently travelled extensively, accompanied at times by her husband, briefly visiting Florence in June 1793. She returned to the city on 8 January 1794, leaving some five weeks later for Rome and Naples, but was back in Florence in June, remaining in Tuscany for over a year. Her marriage, never happy, broke down irretrievably in 1795, and Henry Richard Fox, 3rd Lord Holland, whom she met on his Grand Tour in January 1794, was widely known to be her lover: following the birth of their son and her divorce in 1796, they married in July 1797. Lady Holland was to become one of the most forceful women of her generation, and it was due in large measure to her personality that Holland House had so central a place in political and intellectual life until her husband's death in 1840.

Lady Webster's residence in Florence must be seen against the background of the European War that resulted from the French Revolution. There were fewer English tourists than in recent decades but, as her journal demonstrates, those who passed through Florence were met with friendship and warm comradery. Of the identified English sitters whose commissions establish Gauffier's claims as the last in the series of major 18th-century grand tour portraitists, almost all were friends of Lady Webster: Sir George Webster, her first husband (private collection); her second husband, Lord Holland (examples from Holland House and a private collection); the Countess of Bessborough, with whom he had previously been in love (examples respectively inherited from the sitter and from Holland House); Holland's travelling companion, Lord Wycombe (private collection); and the latter's Wiltshire neighbors, Lord and Lady Ailesbury (private collection). Unlike other portraits, which are of uniform vertical format, those of Lady Webster and Lady Bessborough are of horizontal format and may well have been intended, however loosely, as pendants. However, the present work may also have been one of a group of three portraits commissioned by Lord Holland, along with a portrait of Lord Holland himself dated 1794 (sold Sotheby’s, London, 3 July 1985, lot 78) and a 1795 portrait of Lord Webster (Kenwood House, London). All three paintings were given by Lord Holland to his friend, the painter François-Xavier Fabre, who brought them to England (J. Bryant, op. cit., p. 126). Fabre recorded the present work in a list in the Holland House papers on 17 April 1796 (British Library, Add. Mss. 51637,f52) as “un petit portrait en pied de My Lord Holland, par Gauffier/celui de Milady Webster/celui de chevalier Webster”. The portraits of Lady Webster and her new husband, Lord Holland, were inherited by their son, Charles Richard Fox (1796-1873), who, born before their marriage was thus unable to succeed the peerage or entailed estates. Another version of the present portrait, also signed and dated 1795 and unquestionably autograph, remained at Holland House.

Lady Webster had previously sat for Gauffier in 1794, together with one of her sons from her first marriage, resulting in the portrait now housed in the Musée Fabre, Montpellier. As in the present painting, Lady Webster also poses with her spaniel, Pierrot. The artist may have favored his second portrait of this fascinating woman, since he included it, on a reduced scale, in a composite work of eleven finished oil sketches all painted on a single canvas (fig. 1; Musée Fabre, Montpellier). Presumably all of these miniature paintings record full-scale portraits that Gauffier painted during his Italian sojourn. Within the group, for example, may be recognized The Salucci Family of 1800 and the Portrait of an officer of the Cisalpine Republic of 1801 (both Musée Marmottan, Paris), as well as the Portrait of an officer, thought to be Général Jean-Claude Moreau (private collection).

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