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

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Konrad Detlef Graf von Dehn, by Nicolas de Largillière, 1724

Konrad Detlef Graf von Dehn (1688, Preetz, Holstein - 28 January 28 1753, The Hague), German minister, diplomat, and favorite of Herzog August Wilhelm of Brunswick. The son of a Danish officer, he joined the court of Herzog Anton Ulrich von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel at about the age of fifteen. The good-looking young page was soon taken under the wing of the Herzog's son and eventual successor, the thrice-married but vigorously homosexual Prinz August Wilhelm - twenty-six years Dehn's senior - who saw to his education. After the succession of August Wilhelm in 1714, Dehn was quickly promoted up the ranks of government offices, and was soon described as one of the most powerful men at the Brunswick ducal court. Diplomatic missions led him as envoyé extraordinaire to the courts of Versailles, London, The Hague, and Vienna. He made two profitable marriages, built and lived lavishly, and amassed a collection of more than five hundred paintings. In 1730, though, he was dismissed from his positions, the result of embezzlement and years of too-obvious favoritism. And the following year, at the death of August Wilhelm, he had to leave the country. He gave himself to the service of the Danish that same year and worked as a Danish envoy in St. Petersburg, Madrid, and The Hague. He died in the latter city at the age of sixty-four.

Interesting enough story, interesting enough fellow. But, of course, this post is really only about the remarkable portrait. I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I love everything about this. And I've certainly featured the work of Largillière many times. But I just marvel at what he does. The color harmonies, the delicate yet vigorous application of paint, the fully realized details, the reflection of light. His description of the textures, all distinct: the nearly phosphorescent gauziness of the wig; the soft drape and weight of the white lace and the spiky stiffness of the metallic lace; the cool semi-translucence of the marble table top; the thick bend and shimmer of the remarkably beautiful silver and rose-colored brocade.

The rising seam in the sleeve catches the light, giving off the brightest highlights.
I love the light coming through the backlit fingers of the held kid glove, and the light reflecting back onto them.
Of course I love the detail of the diamond-framed miniature in its case, which looks to be, from what appears to be a stamped
seal from the French court (?) and what's legible on the accompanying note, a gift intended for Herzog August Wilhelm. (The
discernible words on the note: "a Mon Cousin...Wolfenbutel Prince...." Rulers of countries, even when unrelated, would address
each other cousin.) I think the depiction of the case is even more interesting than that of the jeweled order; the simple clasps, the
gold tooling on the edges, and the way the Morocco leather flushes the note with its color.

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