· • Amelot de Chaillou Family, and then through descendants.
1827, Paris, Salon, no 607: “Portrait of Mme the Marchioness *** with her Children.”
It is remarkable both for its graceful taste which is not without a certain naivety, and its soft brilliant coloring. Resemblances, [drawn] from life, are perfect, and execution flawless. Accessories are extremely well finished and make the whole composition quite captivating.
François-Joseph Kinsoen, who later Frenchified his name to Kinson, was the son of a wrought iron smith in Bruges who specialized in wrought iron. He studied at the Academy in his native town under Bernard Fricx and the ornamentalist Louis Frederik De Grave, and then perfected his style in Brussels. His reputation as a portraitist was already well established in Belgium when he decided, in 1799, to participate in the Paris Salon with a monumental picture – 292 by 200 cm (9 ft. 7 in. x 6 ft. 6 ¾ in.) – depicting “a standing Portrait of a woman leaning against a harp; she is wearing a black silk dress draped with a red shawl.” This large formal portrait made an impression and guaranteed Kinson many commissions from the highest ranks of Parisian Consulate society who were avid for legitimization and ostentation, as well as from the Imperial family and the State. Influenced for a while by Jacques Louis David’s austere solemn style, the young artist then turned towards the elegance of François Gérard, portraitist of princes, from Bonaparte to Frederick-William III of Prussia. Thanks to Gérard, the Belgian painter’s style gained in suppleness, his coloring became richer, his settings more elaborate, and the inevitable idealization of his sitters – as was expected by his patrons – became more contained and discrete. Kinson’s oeuvre stands out by the expressiveness of faces and brilliant rendering of both fabrics and chiaroscuro.
In 1808, Kinson received a medal from Napoleon and was appointed court painter to Jerome Bonaparte, the Emperor’s brother who was made King of Westphalia. The artist followed his patron to the court of Kassel where he stayed three years, until Jerome’s fall in 1813. Back in Paris, he barely suffered from regime change: the nobility under Louis XVIII, and the king himself, shared the same attraction for grand state portraits as had the Empire dignitaries. In 1816, Kinson became painter to Louis-Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Angoulême, son of the future Charles X. The 1820s marked the apogee of his career: overbooked with commissions, sought everywhere for female portraits, he exhibited at the Paris Salons, as well as in Ghent and Brussels, where his works were received enthusiastically. In 1823, he was made Knight of the Order of the Belgian Lion for his standing portraits of the Prince and Princess of Orange (The Hague, Orange-Nassau Museum). A witty man with pleasing conversation, the artist led a brilliant high society life in Paris and held his own musical salon.
The Revolution of July 1830 incited Kinson to return to Bruges. But the French aristocracy hardly stopped requesting him and the artist returned to France where he continued to participate in the Salons until 1838. He died however in his native town, where he had returned to visit his sisters. The eleven works which remained in his studio were acquired by English collectors, John and Josephine Bowes, founders of the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle.
The artist exhibited our large picture at the Salon of 1827 with two other standing portraits – that of the Marshall Prince of Hohenlohe belonging to the Ministère de la Maison du roi (no 606) and that of a lady with her grandson (no 608) -, as well as several bust effigies exhibited under a single number (no 609). That year, all of the paintings which Kinson sent were accepted by the jury: the number 587 inscribed on the stretcher of our canvas corresponds to the register of received works. Although the register and the livret preserved the sitter’s anonymity, the lady’s identity was no mystery for the informed visitor. “Mr. Kinson succeeds in painting women, he knows how to adjust them with taste. Madame the Marchioness Amelot with her children (n. 607) is good: it is a very pleasing picture,” wrote the Art Historian Augustin Jal in his critique, Esquisse, croquis, pochades ou Tout ce qu’on voudra sur le Salon de 1827 (Rough plan, draft, hasty sketches or What have you on the 1827 Salon).
Antoine Victor Anne Dijon Amelot, Marquis of Chaillou (1784-1846), came from an illustrious family of the administrative nobility and servants of the State before and after the Revolution. His father, Antoine Jean Amelot, was Intendant of Burgundy, administrator of the national domains and commissary to the Directory in Italy. As opposed to his ancestors, Antoine Victor preferred first a military career and then a local one in the Loiret: he usually lived in his château of Lamivoye and became Mayor of Nogent-sur-Vernisson. His bust portrait by Kinson was realized shortly before his resignation from the army in 1808. In 1818, the Marquis married Céline, daughter of Marie-Bernard Chagot de Fays, member of the Disputed Claims Council (Conseil du contentieux) at the Finance Ministry, and the famous Comedie Française actress, Emilie Contat. The couple had four children: Antoine (1819-1872), Anna (1823-1890), Marie (1828-1887) and Léon (1831-1904). The boys had brilliant careers and the girls made good marriages: Anna wed the Marquis Séguier of Saint Brisson, and Marie the Marquis of Selves d’Audeville. The Marchioness d’Amelot passed away in 1881, the year her grand-daughter, Catherine Amelot, married Napoleon, third Duke of Tascher de la Pagerie.
Conserved until recently in the sitter’s family, our sumptuous portrait is a remarkable example of Kinson’s art as a portraitist, and one of his most successful works, both in terms of virtuoso technique with dazzling coloring, and composition, its equilibrium not in the least disrupted by the artist’s later addition, in the lower foreground, of little Marie who was born after the painting was done.
The artist, in effect, adapts the formula of a work which brought him glory seven years earlier, the moving Portrait of Marie-Caroline, Duchess of Berry holding her daughter on her knee while in mourning for her murdered spouse. In our picture, the Marchioness of Chaillou, her face seen in three-quarter view, is thus seated beside her elder daughter on a sumptuous couch characteristic of contemporary taste. The standing figure of the sitter’s son with his hands on the armrest replaces the marble bust of the Duke of Berry. In the background, voluminous drapery can also be seen, but here, similarities between the two portraits cease. For if sober heavy hues predominate in the young widow’s image, our portrait d’apparat appears marvelously solar. Around the deep black of a velvet dress inspired by 17th century styles and its matching beret blaze a red vermilion shawl, a boy’s blue-green costume, golden tones of silk damask and sculpted gilt wood, and a bronze Borghese vase, not to mention the ochre tones of column and fur. The ensemble is spangled with iridescent reflections and highlighted with luminous whites, along with a few silvery greys, in sumptuous yet elegant consonance.
Here, Kinson demonstrates in particular that he is up to date with the latest tendancies. Thus, the boy’s pose is a citation of the Portrait of the Countess of Cayla between her two Children, painted by Gérard in 1824 (Maisons-Laffitte, château de Maisons). Above all, the sweet melancholy which emanates from our work, as well as dreamy gazes, accentuated chiaroscuro, lively draperies, and sky traversed by clouds, reveals the Romantic sensitivity of an artist who seems to have been one of the first to introduce it into court portraiture.
General Bibliography (Unpublished Work)
Berenice VANRENTERGHEM, Kinsoen Kinson (Brugge 1770-Brugge 1839), unpublished university memoir, 2007.
Daniël DE CLERCK, “Brugse kunstenaars in Parijs : Kinsoen versus Suvée,” Biekorf, vol. 119, 2019, pp. 76-85.