22 March 2010

about Liotard, Laura, Mary, Emile, celebrity mythmaking

 & about  TREASURE HUNT National Trust Acquisitions

 This relatively new born blog-written by Emile de Bruijn is indeed the rarest of  treasure. About the HUNT Emile says: "National Trust curators are always on the look-out for works of art and other chattels that have ‘escaped’ from the historic houses in their care. I help to co-ordinate these ‘treasure hunts’, and in this blog I present our acquisitions in their historic context."

recently this came up-
Little Augury to Emile de Bruijn of Treasure Hunt:
(read Our Conversation here too- )
 Love this portrait and period,( referring to a portrait in the Treasure Hunt post). Lady Mary Wortley Montagu is on the top of my list of iconic women. There are several portraits of Lady Mary that depict this same Turkish style

(little augury referring to this)

 Lady Mary Wortley Montagu by Johnathan Richardson

"We travelers are in very hard circumstances.
If we say nothing but what has been said before us, 
we are dull and have observed nothing. 
If we tell anything new, 
we are laughed at as fabulous and romantic."
 lady mary wortley montagu

 Emile of Treasure Hunt in reply:

The artist Jean-Etienne Liotard also played a role in popularising Turkish dress. His ravishing pastel portrait of Laura Tarsi (early 1740s) has recently been acquired by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge: http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/gallery/recentacquisitionsdrawingsprints/gallery/16.html-

following Emile's link takes you to this-

Jean-Etienne Liotard's portrait of Laura Tarsi

 to which little augury replies:
Look at this image of MWM as compared to the Liotard  http://www.jamessmithnoelcollection.org/images/lady%20mary%20wortley%20montagu.jpg

 the link takes you here-

 the engraving states-
from an original miniature in possession (1844) of the Earl of Harrington

To which Emile replies:  
Yes this portrait was thought to depict Lady MWM in the past. However, according to the Fitzwilliam’s acquisition records, it has now been established that the sitter was a Greek girl living in Constantinople called Laura Tarsi. She was probably the mistress of John Manners, Marquess of Granby, who commissioned this portrait from Liotard when in Constantinople on the Grand Tour.
Lady MWM did know Granby, and of course she was famous for wearing Turkish dress, so that may have caused this portrait to become associated with her – an interesting example of celebrity myth-making.

Laura Tarsi-A star is Born!

image from The Fitzwilliam Museum here
watercolour on ivory
from the Estate of the 10th Duke of Rutland

This extraordinary Liotard painting never ceases to grab my attention. The painting evokes all of the intrigue of a period in the 18th century for exotic Turkish dress in portraiture. Liotard is the painter that exemplifies this best. Here- Liotard's sitter wears a deep green robe embellished with brocade bands of gold. The robe is lined in a printed fabric seen in the painting just inside the sleeves. The cerulean velvet gown is again trimmed in gold bands- lined in what appears to be a  stripe. Liotard's expertise with the brush tells the story  with great clarity. The  gold necklaces, drop earrings and large belt buckle were certainly authentic  pieces from Constantinople- Laura Tarsi wears an extravagant turban encrusted with jewels completes the costume.

below-another of the Liotard portraits of Laura Tarsi
Jean-Étienne Liotard (Geneva 1702-1789)
Presumed portrait of Laura Tarsi in Turkish dress
($638,500 in 2009 from Christie's-here)

from Christie's:
This previously unrecorded image and three other versions of it have traditionally been considered portraits of Laura Tarsi, a Greek woman thought to be the mistress of the Marques of Granby (1721-1770) when both were living in Constantinople in the 1740s... Although the identification of the sitter cannot be confirmed definitively, this type of portrait of a Western woman in exotic dress is one at which Liotard excelled and made popular while in Constantinople and after his return to Western Europe... The sitters in a number of Liotard's portraits are wearing variations of the same costume... One can imagine Liotard keeping these costumes in his studio for models and other sitters to wear, and the commissions could have been for specific portraits in turquerie style or of beautiful and exotic images in an Orientalist style.

I told you it would be a treasure hunt-
Go to Treasure Hunt and get caught up in Emile's de Bruijn exploration of recovering Britain's National Treasures.

more about Liotard from Christie's

Born to French parents in Geneva, Liotard was an extremely well-travelled artist whose portraits were highly sought-after throughout Europe and beyond. He trained as an enamel painter and miniaturist before continuing his training in Paris, under Jean-Baptiste Massé, miniature painter to Louis XV. In 1735 he travelled to Italy in the retinue of the French Ambassador, and three years later moved to Constantinople, where he established himself in the European community. During his four-year stay there, Liotard famously adopted Ottoman-style costume (for which, as a European, he would have required special dispensation) and grew a long beard. He retained both after leaving Turkey in 1742, and not surprisingly gained renown as the 'Turkish painter' in the many European capitals (including London) where he worked over the following decades. Many of his sitters, male and female, chose to be depicted in similarly exotic costume. Laura Tarsi's outfit epitomises the layered look and richly embroidered fabrics that enjoyed such a vogue among fashionable Europeans.


  1. What an intriguing story, and the complete joy of art, and what in my case makes it so addictive.

  2. Ok,Ok I have been remiss at visiting. I find your blog enticing, unexpected, educational and fun. I will be a regular reader and will have to go through some past posts to make the effort to get to know you Better. If this is any indication of what you do, and will do then, well done!We seem to have many blogging friends in common. Maryanne:)

  3. This is a most pleasant surprise. The blogosphere is indeed fortunate to have this scholar's presence. Certainly there are many bloggers that could learn something.Anything.

  4. Goodness, you have turned this into a celebration of Liotard, wonderful. And thank you for your kind words about me.

    I vividly remember being transfixed by the Liotard of the woman on the divan with her head in her hand (which you feature in your post of 28 July 2009) when I came upon it unexpectedly hanging in a quiet corridor in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The delicacy of the details and the quality of the light in this picture are entrancing.

  5. Columnist, I know you will love Emile's blog-if you don't already. Yes the hunt and unraveling is addictive. Terribly sick here!

  6. Beadboard, Welcome and thank you for the praise, especially the unexpected part. All the blogs I love bring something unique to the table, Emile's is definitely unique and wonderful. pgt

  7. Thanks Enzie!

    Anon- Yes I agree on all accounts!

  8. Emile, as mentioned Liotard is intriguing, for many reasons. I am drawn to the clothing,textiles, draping, symbolism of portraits. I have often thought I would have love and been a good detective. I may have missed my calling.

  9. As I have written before Liotard is a favorite at our house, too. We are fortunate to have one at the Nelson-Atkins. My husband a great fan of the Rijksmuseum (his great six months tour in Europe before law school) introduced me to Liotard decades ago. He loves the exotic. I like, you, am drawn to the clothing. I swear I wore combos like this in the Summer of Love. Might have to again.

    I think your calling was to have been a set/costume designer. Creating worlds of meaning with something so small as a button. Love this post, LA.

  10. The images are just breathtaking. The fabrics so luxe and the richness of these colors after so many years! A true testament to a great artist!

    Art by Karena.

    I too live in Kansas City and love the work of art at the Nelson-Atkins!

  11. I think there must be something more to the story of mistaken identity, no? Funny how History likes to keep her secrets.

    Love the Lady MWM quote. It really resonates.

  12. Good fun - and great link! Pity that costumes don't stand the test of time as well as some other things. I'd love to get into Liotard's dress up chest!

  13. So interesting - the turkish style is not seen much nowadays. Time for turbans!

  14. You might enjoy this posting which follows Turqueire in American colonial fashions.


  15. Wonderful post. I've seen that painting over the years(reproductions), but never spent so much time on it. You call up the period well, and the link... Well, I'll be spending a while there this weekend.

  16. I've always wanted to get a portrait done of myself. I absolutely love the first portrait of the Lady!

  17. I do love treasure hunts....beautiful portrait paintings. xv

  18. I have just read a review in the current (April 2010) issue of Apollo of what seems to be the definitve monograph on Liotard: Marcel Roethlisberger and Renee Loche, 'Liotard: catalogue, sources et correspondance', Doornspijk, Davaco, 2008, 2 vols. It is in French, comes to more than 900 pages and costs €475, but apparantly it contains everything you could ever want to know about Liotard.



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