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, December 4, 2022

Charmingly sat - Madame Marthe Letellier Sitting on a Sofa, Holding a Fan, by Paul-César Helleu, circa 1895

This elegant portrait is in pastel on canvas, 50.5 by 48.5 inches, and is part of the permanent collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art..
I love the background Helleu has given this portrait. Such subtle, muted coloration, but then rendered in rather wild layers of pastel strokes.
Maybe my favorite detail is the squiggle and dots describing the piping and buttons of her upturned glove opening.


Here are other of Helleu's portraits of madame Letellier, circa 1900-05.

Portrait de Marthe Letellier au chapeau.

Marthe Letellier née Fourton (1878-1954) was one of the artist's favorite models, and apparently very much aware of her own assets. 

The artist's daughter Paulette later related that one of her father's images of madame Letellier, her bust exposed - I'm assuming the same as that above - was, without his knowledge, reproduced in a newspaper and bearing only the title, "Portrait of Madame X .... ” In response, madame Letellier, reproached the artist, but her reason for complaint was quite contrary to what he'd expected; she explained to him that, "When the subject is so beautiful, one indicates the name!"


  1. First painting reminds one of Lady Windemere's Fan, the second set of drawings reminds one that perhaps Mademoiselle Lettelier was a French version of America's famous Gibson Girl.
    The last drawing of a naughty Gibson Girl. -Rj/IE