61 x 50 cm. (2 ft. x 1 ft. 7 11⁄16in.)
Oil on canvas.
• Belgium, Private Collection.
• Denis Coekelberghs and Pierre Loze, 1770 -1830: Autour du néo-classicisme en Belgique, [exh. cat.], Ixelles Community Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels, Nov. 14th – Feb. 8th, 1986.
From the Bourbon Restoration to 1830, François-Joseph Kinson and his wife widely participated in Parisian social life. Known and appreciated by a wealthy clientele, the majority of his production came from private commissions, most of which presented now anonymous female faces whose exceptionally high quality in execution recalls the patrons’ exigencies.
Kinson was the painter of a more and more powerful bourgeoisie who benefited from the post-Revolutionary period and sought, in depictions of self, the reflection of their social condition. Our picture illustrates this demand and presents one of these women in her privacy wearing indoor attire. Against a plainly brushed background, she is seen half-length, slightly turned three-quarters, and with a calm appeasing gaze, looks at the viewer. Her clothing illustrates 1820 to 1825 fashion: beneath a red shawl draped over her right shoulder, a belt under her bosom binds her black velvet dress with its embroidered gold frogging. Her face is elegantly brought out by a black velvet and lace hood embellished with white plumes, typical of the Restoration period and delicately tied with a ribbon under the chin.
Kinson’s works were highly successful among his patrons because he knew how to flatter sitters’ physiques with elegance. The naturalness is studied and adapted to the demand. In this portrait in which tight framing of the composition reinforces the expected intimacy, aging lines are ingeniously masked through a smooth brushstroke which delicately defines facial contours. The use of black in the dress, probably inspired by a few works by his contemporary François Gérard (Rome, 1770 – Paris, 1837) allowed the artist to bring out the flesh tints of her clear skin, high-lighted by pinkened cheeks.
The sitter’s intense gaze recalls the attention that François-Joseph Kinson gave to the psychological illustration of his sitters. By depicting the bourgeoisie to whom he was connected, the artist enjoyed broad recognition and a comfortable situation which made it possible for him to come and go between France and Belgium in order to visit his family. The artist passed away during a last trip to Bruges in 1839 after having led a brilliant career.