A happy exile at Chanteloup

24 May 2010

A beautiful portrait painted in 1775 by Jacques Wilbaut of the Duc de Choiseul with his mistress, the Comtesse de Brionne and best friend, Abbé Barthélmy, enjoying each other’s company in one of Choiseul’s beautiful salons in his château at Chanteloup.

The Duc, once such a favourite of Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour had failed to secure the good wishes of La Pompadour’s successor in the King’s bed and thanks to a falling out with Madame du Barry, he found himself banished from court and Paris and exiled to his country estate in the Touraine.

Undaunted by this set back in his fortunes, the Duc set about making his already beautiful château a worthy rival to Versailles and then filled it with a constant parade of all the most glamorous, witty and elegant people in French high society, much to the undoubted chagrin of the King and his favourite.

A constant presence at Chanteloup was the Duc’s mistress, Louise-Julie-Constance de Rohan, Comtesse de Brionne, one of the most beautiful and witty women of the age. The young Princesse de Ligne, who was a regular visitor to Chanteloup with her best friend, the teenage Comtesse de Choiseul-Stainville, remarked in her memoirs that she was rather scared of Madame de Brionne.

Monsieur Thierry Andre, whose family have owned the magnificent Chinese styled Pagoda, that is all that now remains of exquisite Chanteloup very kindly identified this painting of Madame de Brionne posing as either Venus or Helen of Troy for me. It is still owned by his family and is a particularly lovely piece of work.

The Duc’s beautiful and exceptionally forgiving and sweet natured wife, Louise Honorine de Crozat, Duchesse de Choiseul also shared his exile. The beautiful portrait above of the Duchesse was also identified for me by Monsieur Andre and was painted by Greuze while the Duc and Duchesse were resident in Rome.

This painting was described by Margaret Trouncer in her book about the Duchesse: ‘A Duchess of Versailles‘:

Greuze, who painted her in Rome… has caught her look of reserve – the eyes of a woman who has wept much in secret. A delicate pastel in the possession of Mademoiselle d’Orliac of Chanteloup in Touraine shows the charming hair style, with her chestnut coloured hair arranged in five natural widows’ peaks over her brow; delicate, sensitive eyebrows; a long, slender neck, small nose, full lips. There is an air of serene disenchantment in the eyes. In both portraits there is ample proof that the duchesse was very fastidious and fashionable in her dress and that her hair was arranged by skilled hands. (This was to be expected as she had four ladies maids.) Greuze tucks a bunch of full blown roses into her bodice and there are cherries painted on her ruched coatee. Her sleeves are full lace ruffles, and she has negligently thrown a filmy scarf around her shoulders.’

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