Pierre Rivalz, (1718-1785), knighted in 1754.
France, Private collection.
Baptized in Toulouse in 1667, Antoine Rivalz began his apprenticeship in his father’s studio, Jean-Pierre Rivalz, architect and painter at the Toulouse City Hall. He made two important connections: one with the sculptor Marc Arcis and the other with the already famous draughtsman Raymond Lafage whose student he became. Rivalz then left for Paris to perfect his education and on to Rome where he remained for more than ten years. This long contact with Italian traditions was a period to mature and when he received his first important commissions, some of which came from his native Toulouse and laid the groundwork for his return.
By 1703, Rivalz had taken over from his father as the town painter at the Toulouse City Hall, a responsibility which he assumed until his death in 1735. Essential to the city government and the image of the urban elite, this position entailed the annual production of portraits of the Capitouls (the elected members of the municipal council), and the execution of quite diverse public commissions: commemorative pictures, ornamentation of official documents, coats of arms, ephemeral architectural projects, and even restoration of works of art. Poorly paid, – only 400 pounds per month – the responsibilities as town painter made it possible for Rivalz to establish worthwhile relationships with the Toulousain upper class and benefit from a virtual monopoly on public, religious, and private commissions in Toulouse. He was able to impose his own personal brilliant style, and had a vast studio in the Capitol where many students gathered, including his favorite disciple, Subleyras.
In 1726, at the height of his career, Rivalz succeeded in obtaining the creation of a drawing school from the Capitouls. In 1750, with charter letters from Louis XV, it became the Royal Academy of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture in Toulouse, the only one aside from that in Paris, to ever bear this title. On the occasion of its first exhibition, presided by the Bust of Rivalz by Jean-Beaptiste Péru realized from the artist’s Self-Portrait , special homage was paid to the illustrious painter with twenty-two paintings and drawings loaned by his son Pierre, called Sir Rivalz, and various collectors. Not a year went by until 1791 that one of his works was not presented, including three of his Self-Portraits loaned by Sir Rivalz: the one which had inspired Péru in 1751 (Pierre Rivalz bequeathed it to the Toulouse Academy in 1783; a late one on which the artist, marked by age, holds the oval painting of his wife in 1762 (private collection); and the “Pastel Portrait of Antoine Rivals, painted by himself” in 1754 under the number 74.
A second « Pastel Portrait » — without any other indication – under number 76 at the 1754 exhibition could be the one of Louise Rivalz, exhibited in 1773 (n° 112). Recently it reappeared on the market, unless it is a beautiful copy, and was acquired by the Paul-Dupuy Museum of Dupuy. Until now, it was the only known pastel in Antoine Rivalz’ vast oeuvre. As for the Self-Portrait, scholars agree that a mediocre pastel copy is conserved in a Toulousain collection.
The rediscovery of our work not only confirms this hypothesis, but also makes it possible to consider the very particular pastel technique of Rivalz. A remarkable draughtsman – one can sense the solid and sure underlying stroke of black chalk in each portrait, - he handles pastel like a painter, and sculpts forms through large surfaces as in his portraits in oil. More tenderly in the portrait of Louise Rivalz, more emphatic in his own image, he is mainly occupied with rendering light reflections in the skin and clothes which he transforms into barely identifiable voluptuous draperies. Louise has a black cape which advantageously sets off the clarity of her complexion. In the Self-Portraits, his cape is a hot powerful red which can be found in the robes of the Capitouls of Toulouse, and the Rivalz red which is present in almost all of his paintings.
The pastels are not dated, but in view of other depictions of Antoine Rivalz and his wife, they must be dated in about 1710 to 1715. In fact, the faces of the couple have lost their youthful freshness which characterizes the double portrait painted by Jean-Pierre Rivalz in about 1703, the year Antoine married his cousin Louise Rivalz. Glowing in his forties, the artist in our portrait appears as he does in the Self-Portrait with the Drawing of Saint Michael which must also date to about the years 1710-1715, and not 1726, as is mistakenly believed: this later date is the one of the engraving by Barthélemy Rivalz, but can not be the one for the painting, because the painter was fifty-nine years old by then. Louise, as well, in her pastel portrait, with her round face and brown hair, appears a much different age from the painting which her husband holds in his last Self-Portrait.
It is tempting to see these two pastels as pendants. Identical technique, presentation, scale, and provenance do not contradict this idea, but associating these two portraits as a single pair proves unfortunately problematic. As much as Louise’s image is open, so is Rivalz’ portrait of himself introspective and powerful. It is not that of a devoted spouse as in his late Self-Portrait, but that of a great artist conscious of his talent, position, and importance.
Pastel copy, signed Haydié and dated May 1879. 46 x 37 cm (18-1/8 x 14-9/16 in.) Formerly Audémar-Luxeuil collection, then Sale, Toulouse Auction House, November 7th, 2001 (attr. To J.P. Rivalz the Younger, without identification).
1754, Salon of Toulouse, no 74.
Pierre RIVALZ, Catalogue de la collection laissée par Antoine au Chevalier, s. l. n. d. (before 1765).
Jean PENENT, Antoine Rivalz. 1667-1735. Le Romain de Toulouse, exh.cat. Paris, Somogy, 2004, p. 210, no 315 (as lost).
Henri VIENNE, « L’œuvre gravé d’Antoine Rivals », Revue de Toulouse, 1866, p. 276.
Robert MESURET, Les Miniaturistes du Capitole de 1610 à 1790, exh. cat. Toulouse, Paul-Dupuy Museum, 1956, CCCXLIX.
Robert MESURET, Les Expositions de l’Académie royale de Toulouse de 1751 à 1791, Toulouse, 1972, no 407.
Neil JEFFARES, Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800, Londres, 2006, p. 437 (as lost).
Valérie Néouze, Le peintre Antoine Rivalz (1667-1735), Ecole des Chartes, thesis, 2000.