Louis-François Rufin (often Ruffin), from Poitou, was ordained in 1751 and became a leading light in the order of Théatins, of which he was supérieur in 1780. He was also rector of the college at Tulle, an institution which he was instrumental in taking over from the Jesuits. The present portrait was executed in the same year as the drawing by Labille-Guiard's teacher and future husband, François-André Vincent (Louvre RF 6062). They are remarkably similar. Portalis, the last known owner of this hitherto unpublished pastel, described Rufin's 'physonomie intelligente'.
Rufin's connections may have been of particular significance for Labille-Guiard: her first biographer, Joachim Lebreton (of whom she exhibited an oil portrait in the Salon of 1795, now in the Nelson-Atkins Museum), was a student at the collège des Théatins 1772-79, and taught at Tulle 1779-89. Two years after the pastel of Père Rufin, Labille-Guiard exhibited at the Salon de la Correspondance the portrait of 'Ruffin, chirugien au Châtelet', possibly a relative of the present sitter, although he is said to have come from Montéimar. He was Antoine Rufin, who qualified as a surgeon in Paris in 1771, later becoming 'chirurgien ordinaire du roi' at Châtelet and the 'chirurgien de Monsieur' (later Louis XVIII) in 1790. After the Revolution, he became the 'chef des officiers de santé des prisons et maisons d'arrêt'.
We are grateful to Neil Jeffares for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.