La Liseuse (Louise Charlotte Marini?)
Signed with monogram in pen and brown ink, lower left, T[rinquesse].f[ecit].; and numbered, lower right, in pen and brown ink, no. 61
390 x 245 mm
M. Georges Bourgarel, his sale: Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 15-16 June 1922, lot 228, illustrated
J. Cailleux, ‘The Drawings of Louis Roland Trinquesse,’ in The Burlington Magazine, February 1974, pp. I-XIV, cat. no. 31, fig. 33 (detail)
This bust-length portrait of a young woman seated at a table holding a book is highly characteristic of Louis-Rolland Trinquesse’s draughtsmanship. With the book in her left hand, and her right hand resting on her left forearm, she looks out at us as if her quiet reading has just been interrupted. A strong light illuminates the intimate scene, possibly from multiple sources, casting a shadow on the figure’s left side. Trinquesse’s deft use of red chalk is displayed in the modulation of sharp outlines and minute details, offset by the bold parallel hatching that provide a backdrop for the figure’s luminous complexion, skillfully enhanced by the white reserve of the paper.
While possessing all the features of Trinquesse’s favourite subject matter and technique, our sheet also offers a point of difference. Trinquesse is best known for his red chalk drawings of elegantly dressed young women, usually shown at full-length, intent in genteel activities, such as reading and music-making, or simply posing on chairs or sofas making agood show of their voluminous gowns.¹ In contrast with the majority of such images, our Liseuse strikes us as a portrait of an individual rather than a study of an anonymous fashionable lady in a refined pose. This is suggested by the choice of the bust-length format, the intensity of the woman’s direct gaze and the attention paid to the delineation of her features. While her attire is carefully studied, it does not take centre stage as in other examples.
The sitter can be tentatively identified as Louise Charlotte Marini, about whom nothing is known beyond the fact that she was one of Trinquesse’s favourite models, together with two others, Marianne Franmery and Louise Elizabeth Bain. They must have exemplified the artist’s ideal of beauty. The drawn portrait medallions of the three women, with identifying inscriptions, by Trinquesse’s hand, signed and dated 1780, assist only in part when attempting to discern their characteristic facial features in his extant works from the 1770s.² On the basis of our drawing, we can say that the model (possibly Marini) had an oval face with rather pointy chin, gently arched brows, a straight nose, and small, well defined lips. The same features, together with the same brushed back hairdo and small cap, can be found in another drawing, formerly on the art market, showing a seated young woman, her hand supporting her chin, looking out at the viewer (fig. X).³
In spite of the relevance and success of his works, held in major public and private collections worldwide, little is known of Trinquesse’s life. The son of a Parisian bourgeois, he is recorded as a student at the Royal Academy of Painting in 1758 and known to have won medals at the school of the Académie Royale in 1770. He exhibited at the Salon de la Correspondence from 1779 to 1787, and in the open Salons of 1791 and 1793. His surviving oeuvre includes works variously dated from 1763 through 1797.⁴ Also active as a painter of portraits and scènes galantes, he is today best known for his distinctive red chalk drawings. Aside from his intimate portrayals of women in domestic interiors, he also executed a number of small portraits of men in medallions, bust-length and highly detailed, of the type made fashionable by Charles-Nicolas Cochin and Augustin de Saint-Aubin. Formerly in the collection of the economist Georges Bourgarel, our Liseuse was included in one of a succession of sales of the Bourgarel estate held in the Hôtel Drouot in 1922.
See, for instance, Portrait of Marianne Franmery, dated in red chalk, lower right, 14. mars. / 1780, red chalk, 357 x 220 mm, sale: New York, Sotheby’s, 14 October 2020, lot 2.
Cailleux, op. cit., cat. nos. 4, 28, 36, plates 1-3.
Signed, lower left, Trinquesse F., red chalk, 323 x 234 mm; sale, Paris, Piasa, 7 December 2011, lot 64.
For relevant bibliography and a short biography of the artist, see P. Stein, Eighteenth-Century French Drawings in New York Collections, exhibition catalogue, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, pp. 220-21, under cat. no. 955.