The duc de Berry, later King Louis XVI of France (1754-1793), was the grandson of Louis XV and, as the last representative of the ancien régime, ruled France from 1774 to 1792, when he fell victim to the Revolution and was subsequently guillotined in January 1793. While much of the official court patronage of the arts during his reign was directed by the influential Directeur-Général des Batiments du Roi, the comte d'Angivillier, Louis himself seems to have been particularly fond of the lesser genres of portraiture, still-life and landscape (indeed, it is said that he told the portrait painter Elisabeth-Louis Vigée Le Brun, 'I have no knowledge of painting, but you make me fond of it').
Louis-Michel van Loo trained with his father, Jean-Baptiste van Loo, in Turin and Rome, and later attended courses at the Académie Royale, Paris. By 1735 he had become renowned as a specialist in portrait painting, and a few years later, became Pintor de la Corte for King Philip V of Spain and later for his successor, King Ferdinand VI. Between 1760-1770 Louis-Michel van Loo painted King Louis XV and every member of the French Royal family. The prime version of this portrait of the duc de Berry is in Versailles (inv. no. 3889), which is signed and dated 1769. Other versions are in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, and the Musée Garret, Vesoul.
We are grateful to Alastair Laing for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.