Nicolas de Largilliere soon above a million?

[08 Sep 2020]

La Belle Strasbourgeoise is an emblem, a symbol, both aristocratic and popular at the same time. It is a perfect French image, almost solemn, of the nascent 18th century… free, elegant and feminine”. (Christie’s),

…So ends the somewhat rapturous essay concerning the portrait by Nicolas DE LARGILLIERE (1656-1746) in the catalogue for the upcoming sale of a collection of works belonging to Commandant Paul-Louis Weiller. A little over one metre thirty tall and over a metre wide, the work will be offered in Paris on 15 September (lot number 212). This beautiful Strasbourgeois woman, who some believe could be the artist’s own daughter, is immediately striking for the extraordinary hat with two large “aristocratic” horns, typical of Strasbourgeois customs at the end of the 17th century.

The catalogue essay also tells us that “This work, also known under the famous name of La Belle Strasbourgeoise, is undoubtedly the most famous work of one of the greatest masters of the genre in Europe: Nicolas de Largillière. We owe its fame to another version, kept in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Strasbourg since its acquisition in 1963 on the English art market. By the strength of its image, La Belle Strasbourgeoise is one of the most widely distributed French portraits in the world, thus ensuring its notoriety and its aura ”.

But the version presented by Christie’s is more meticulous and more baroque than the one kept at the Strasbourg museum. It also has an extremely well documented provenance since the 19th century: Arthur Barker collection, then J. Stewart Hodgeson Collection, before 1893. Acquired in 1893 at Christie’s in London through the British art dealer and collector Sir George Donaldson for 250 guineas (£262.5). It then joined the Major Baring collection and was finally acquired by Commander Paul-Louis Weiller in 1967 from Frank Partridge & Sons Gallery in London.

“…this unique and ‘emblematic’ work could reach one million and set a new record for Nicolas de Largillière.”


la belle strasbourgoise

Nicolas de Largilliere (1656-1746). La Belle Strasbourgeoise.


Christie’s low estimate is 600,000 euros, but this unique and ‘emblematic’ work (étandard in the French, suggesting ‘widely known’) could reach one million and set a new record for Nicolas de Largillière. His current auction record stands at €684,000 for an homely double portrait of François Pommyer and Yves Joseph Charles Pommyer which was sold in 2001 at Sotheby’s New York. The work had already been auctioned in 1993 in London at Christie’s (Portrait of François Pommyer and Yves Joseph Charles Pommyer).

La Belle strasbourgeoise is not the only masterpiece in this collection belonging to Commandant Paul-Louis Weiller, the sale of which will offer 163 lots on 15 and 16 September. The two sales include fine furniture, precious crockery and selected canvases, among which a Lucretia masterfully executed by a follower of Cranach (16th century) estimated €40,000 – €60,000, and a pair of oils-on-canvas by Francesco GUARDI estimated €300,000 – €500,000 (Un caprice avec un obélisque à l’entrée d’un port fortifié; Un caprice avec une arche en ruines sur le lagon).


Francesco Guardi (1712-1793). Un caprice avec un obélisque à l’entrée d’un port fortifié.


Nicolas de Largillière spent his youth in Antwerp and from 1675 to 1679 worked in England, assisting Lely and Verrio. After moving to Paris in 1679, he quickly conquered the position of best portrait painter, with only Rigaud, almost his contemporary, as principal rival.