Nicolas de Largillierre
Paris 1656 – Paris 1746
Portrait of a Woman as Astrea, Probably Mary Josephine Drummond, Condesa de Castelblanco
Oil on canvas
140 x 106 cm
Purchase, special replacement fund, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest, anonymous gift in honour of Dr. Sean B. Murphy, gift of David Y. Hodgson, Dr. William L. Glen and other friends of the Museum, inv. 1977.1
Portraiture was a popular genre during the age of enlightenment, and Largillierre was among its most renowned early Rococo practitioners in France. Besides serving as a visual memorial, a portrait could express a patron's social position, sentiments and, allegorically, taste and aspirations. Although essentially an allegory, this painting conveys the vitality and warmth of the subject — a sensual woman, full of charm and possessed of great, subtly idealized beauty, in a spectacular brocade gown. The sitter is portrayed as the shepherdess Astrea, the heroine of a seventeenth-century pastoral novel, L’Astrée, by Honoré d’Urfé, a character who embodies chaste love — an appropriate, if contrived, image for a young aristocrat entering marriage.