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Self-portrait as a naval officer

Joseph Ducreux

(1735 - 1802) | 842.2.2

Date : Vers 1795 | Medium : Oil on canvas

Marie-Antoinette was still just thirteen when her marriage with Louis XVI was arranged. And Joseph Ducreux, a pupil of Quentin Latour, was sent to Vienna in 1769 to paint her portrait. The artist was only 24.

Marie-Antoinette seems to have liked the result, because when she became Queen a year later, she made Joseph Ducreux her first painter, and employed his wife in the royal household. From then on, the painter worked as a gifted portraitist and pastellist at the French court, later executing pictures of Mirabeau, Robespierre, Saint-Just and himself on occasion. He exhibited at the Salon from 1791 to 1801.

Joseph Ducreux is somewhat forgotten today. And yet, one look at this self-portrait of the painter in a naval officer's uniform is enough to convince us of his painterly qualities: a simple, effective composition, a straightforward and vigorous style, and a sharp psychological rendering. To this we can add realism, a natural style and even a touch of mischief. In other self-portraits, the artist adopts a merry, mocking tone, and even shows himself in the act of yawning. We can assume that Ducreux dressed up for the Rouen picture, as he was not a naval officer.