A sweet boy painted by Boucher

10 January 2012

This has been one of my favourite portraits ever since I was a little girl and came across it in a book about Waddesdon Manor. I was really thrilled to see the real thing a couple of years ago when we went there for the day and it was just as lovely as I had always anticipated.

The portrait is of the two year old Louis-Philippe-Joseph de Montpensier, the future Duc d’Orléans and was painted in 1749 by François Boucher. Lavish portraits of children have always been popular amongst royalty and the aristocracy, which may be surprising when you consider the high rates of infant mortality but when portraits by a master such as Boucher didn’t come cheap what better way to show off your wealth than by commissioning a painting of your toddler son and heir?

The boy in the painting grew up to succeed his father as Duc d’Orléans and became husband to Mademoiselle de Penthièvre, who I have featured before here. He would go on to embrace liberal politics and ended up voting for the execution of his cousin, Louis XVI before ultimately being guillotined himself in November 1793.

Luckily, there are no grim foreshadowings of his awful fate in this lovely portrait and instead we can enjoy the shimmering silver brocade of his dress and the interesting paraphenalia of priveliged eighteenth century childhood that surrounds him such as his beautiful silver and coral teething rattle, his sweet little clumpy silver shoes and the splendid rocking horse at his side.

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