L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Presumed portrait of the duc de Choiseul and two companions, by Jacques Wilbaut, circa 1775

Étienne-François, comte de Stainville, duc de Choiseul (28 June 1719, Nancy – 8 May 1785, Paris), French military officer, diplomat and statesman. Between 1758 and 1761, and again from 1766 to 1770, he was Foreign Minister of France. He was successful in his early military career and, in 1750, he married Louise Honorine Crozat, who brought to the marriage her share of the huge fortune of her grandfather Antoine Crozat. She proved a devoted wife, though he would be notoriously unfaithful. His rise to power was in part evinced through the friendship and patronage of Louis XV's mistress, the marquise de Pompadour. During his tenure, he had a profound influence on France's global strategy in his direction of French foreign and military policy; after the king, he was the most powerful man in France.

Described by a contemporary as, "a wonderful mixture of selfishness and charm and recklessness and exquisite taste", in his private life, Choiseul lived extravagantly, amassing, among other things, an outstanding collection of paintings. But in 1770, general anger over his expulsion of the Jesuits three years before, and his haste to involve France in a dispute between England and Spain, caused the war-weary Louis XV to demand his dismissal and order the duke's retirement to his estate at Chanteloup. Choiseul was disappointed that, at the accession of Louis XVI in 1774, he was not recalled to his former position.  He was allowed to return to Paris, though, and he died there eleven years later, leaving huge debts, which his faithful wife scrupulously paid.

In this triple portrait, Choiseul - on the left - is shown in exile at Chanteloup with his mistress Louise-Julie-Constance de Rohan, comtesse de Brionne, and the Abbé Barthélemy, the curator of the king's collection of antiquities and a close friend and adviser to both the duke and the duchess, his wife.


Jacques Wilbaut (28 March 1729, Château-Porcien - 18 June 1816, Château-Porcien), French painter. In his youth he trained with his uncle, the decorative painter Nicolas Wilbaut. On his uncle's recommendation he was accepted into the Académie Royale in Paris in 1750; he studied there for two years, then worked with his uncle until the latter's death in 1763. Wilbaut mostly painted religious subjects, sometimes landscapes and historically themed works, but his portraits are usually considered his best work.

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