Display | The Comte de Vaudreuil: Courtier and Collector

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 7, 2012

I included notice of this display in April, but here’s a bit more information, including a portion of the wall text. -CH

From the National Gallery of Art:

The Comte de Vaudreuil: Courtier and Collector
National Gallery, London, 7 March — 12 June 2012

The Comte de Vaudreuil (1740–1817) was one of the leading courtiers and collectors of paintings in Paris during the 1780s. This display features Dutch and Flemish Old Master paintings in the National Gallery’s collection that were once owned by Vaudreuil or were in Parisian collections at that time. Vaudreuil’s collection provides an example of the decoration of wealthy homes in pre-Revolution Paris. Reflecting the fashion of the time, the paintings are hung according to their size and symmetry rather than by subject or chronology.

The Paintings

The display features paintings from the Comte’s collections by artists Jan Wijnants, Jacob van Ruisdael, Jan Steen and Adriaen van Ostade. Alongside these are works that were in French collections in the same period by artists Nicolaes Berchem, Aelbert Cuyp, Willem van de Velde and Gabriel Metsu. The paintings show a variety of subjects, from portraits of peasants to social life in 17th-century Holland to landscapes with ruined castles.

From the Wall Text of the Display

Vaudreuil gained his position in Parisian society thanks to his aristocratic status and the wealth generated from his sugar plantations in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). His advancement at court was secured through the purchase of military office and by his friendship with the Duchesse de Polignac, the favourite of the queen, Marie-Antoinette.

Vaudreuil’s collection provides an example of the decoration of wealthy homes in Paris during this period. The largest part of it comprised Dutch and Flemish Old Master Paintings, four of which are displayed here alongside other Northern paintings then in Parisian collections. Reflecting the fashion of the time, they are hung according to size and symmetry rather than by subject of chronology (see also the display of pictures in Danloux’s Baron de Besenval in his Salon de Compagnie, Room 33).

In 1784 Vaudreuil decided to sell his Italian, Dutch, and Flemish works in order to focus his interest extensively on French paintings. His collection comprised both works by fashionable contemporary artists, such as a version of David’s Oath of the Horatii [now in the Toledo Museum of Art], and those from the past, including Poussin’s Bacchanalian Revel before a Term (Room 19).


• François-Hubert Drouais, Le Comte de Vaudreuil, 1758

• Willem van de Velde, Dutch Ships in a Calm, ca. 1660

• Aelbert Cuyp, A Herdsman with Five Cows by a River, ca. 1650-55

• Nicolaes Berchem, Peasants with Cattle Fording a Stream, 1670s

• Gabriel Metsu, An Old Woman with a Book, ca. 1660

• Jan Wijnants, A Landscape with a Dead Tree, 1659 [from Vaudreuil’s collection]

• Adriaen van Ostade, A Peasant Holding a Jug and a Pipe, ca. 1650-55 [from Vaudreuil’s collection]

• Jan Steen, Skittle Players outside an Inn, probably 1660-63 [from Vaudreuil’s collection]

• Jacob van Ruisdael, A Ruined Castle Gateway, ca. 1650-55 [from Vaudreuil’s collection]

• Nicolaes Berchem, Peasants by a Ruined Aqueduct, 1655-60

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

Usually on display in Room 15 are paintings by Claude and J.M.W. Turner. Claude’s Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba and Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca are shown with Turner’s Dido Building Carthage and Sun Rising through Vapor, as stipulated in the latter’s will. All four pictures were part of the exhibition, Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude in the National Gallery’s Sainsbury Wing. The exhibition was itself useful for the eighteenth century in terms of collectors’ interest in Claude and the eighteenth-century origins of Turner’s work.

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