Louis Tocqué (Paris 1696-1772)
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Louis Tocqué (Paris 1696-1772)

La Mouche: a lady at her toilet

Details
Louis Tocqué (Paris 1696-1772)
La Mouche: a lady at her toilet
signed 'L Tocque.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
32 x 25½ in. (81.3 x 64.8 cm.)
Literature
J. Luna, 'Algunos retratos franceses del XVIII en colecciones españolas', Archivio español de arte, pp. 377-8, fig. 5.
Special notice

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Lot Essay

This elegant portrait depicts a lady seated at her dressing table, about to apply to her face with her right hand a mouche (beauty spot) that she has just taken out of the small box she holds. Another, presumably rejected, mouche is visible on the table top by a posy, ribbons and a mirror. Getting the right placement for the mouche was clearly important: an engraving after Boucher of a similar subject is inscribed 'ces taches Artificielles donnent aux yeux, au Teint plus de vivacité: Mais en les plaçant mal, on s'expose avec elles A défigurer la beauté'.

Tocqué studied briefly with the history painter Nicolas Bertin but was more influenced by the portrait painter Jean-Marc Nattier, whose studio he entered in about 1718, and whose daughter he married in 1747. In Nattier'’s studio he executed copies of portraits b Vvan Dyck, Nicolas de Largillierre and Hyacinthe Rigaud. It was at the relatively late date of 1731 that Tocqué was approved by the Académie Royale on presentation of the Family of Peirenc de Moras (untraced). He was received as a full member in 1734 with his three-quarter-length portraits of Louis Galloche and Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne (Paris, Louvre). His talents as a portrait painter were quickly recognized, and he received a number of royal commissions, including the full-length portrait of the Dauphin, Louis de Bourbon (1738) and of Maria Leczinska (1740; both Paris, Louvre).

As in this picture, Tocqué imbued his sitters with an immediacy that avoids all artificiality or pomposity. His sitters include many aristocrats, but also artists, intellectuals and members of the haute-bourgeoisie: subjects who required an informal and objective representation rather than an idealized one (see P. Marandel, in The Dictionary of Art, 1996, XXXI, pp. 69-70).

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