Today’s painting by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun is a portrait that is believed to be that of Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Rémy, who called herself the Comtesse de la Motte and was at the very centre of the infamous Affair of the Diamond Necklace that caused terrible damage to Marie Antoinette’s reputation in the 1780s.
A thoroughly unpleasant woman, Jeanne used her position as a descendent of an illegitimate son of Henri IV to inveigle her way into court, although despite her very best efforts to enter Marie Antoinette’s circle, a sure fire means to gain social success, she was never able to even secure a private audience with the Queen.
This portrait, if it is indeed of Jeanne, which is not confirmed, was probably painted in 1780 shortly after she had assumed the pretend title of Comtesse de la Motte (how tacky) and started hanging about the fringes of the court. Jeanne de Valois doesn’t appear on Vigée Le Brun’s list of portraits but this doesn’t necessarily mean that she didn’t paint her as she might simply have forgotten or omitted her for other reasons (she probably wasn’t a fan either!)
It was sold by Sotheby’s for £109,553 in 2017.