64.5 x 54.5 cm. (25 3⁄8 x 21 7⁄16in.)
Oil on its original canvas and stretcher
Signed and dated lower right: Kinson 1820
Stamp: BELOT Rue de l’Arbre-Sec N°3 A PARIS
• 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
• Bérénice Vanrenterghem, Kinsoen Kinson (Brugge – 1770 – Brugge 1839), Unpublished University thesis, 2007.
• Sandra Janssens, Paul Knolle, Joseph Benoit Suvée et le néoclassicisme en Belgique, exh. cat., 2007
“Back in Paris, he consolidated his successes (…) he is known by all those who love the arts
And employed by the wealthy who protect them.”
After following Jerome Bonaparte to Kassel in 1810, and remaining there until the fall of the Kingdom of Westphalia in 1813, François-Joseph returned to Paris to pursue his brilliant career by becoming painter to the Duke of Angouleme, son of the future Charles X. Later he was appointed Knight of the Royal Order of the Legion of Honor by Louis XVIII.
In Paris, the artist had a meteoric rise in portrait painting. Through an inclination for showing feelings in faces in a manner similar to those painted by his contemporary François Gérard, Kinson gained a new bourgeois clientele. His dizzying skill in conveying his sitters’ charms increasingly guaranteed a lot of commissions.
Produced during this period, our portrait shows a young woman seen half-length with her torso turned in a three-quarter view. She wears a white dress of vaporous muslin, surrounded by a fine lightweight blue veil. This beautiful bourgeois lady has been identified as Madame Heme, the wife of Albert-Frederic Heme and Kinson’s niece. Her gentle gaze, delicately settled on the viewer, brings out the sitter’s almost timid delicacy. Her cosmetics give her face this extremely coveted porcelain effect of feminine elegance. The whiteness of her skin thus creates a striking contrast with the dark background and concentrates the viewer’s attention on the young woman’s features.
Madame Heme is attired in the fashion of the time, her vaporous dress with its wide low neckline is adorned with a ruffle, while her hairdo in an “Apollo’s knot” allows a few elegant curls to fall over her forehead. Indeed, the portrait is a means to illustrate the sitter’s social condition: in addition to the restrained style of her attire, her arm delicately resting on her bosom displays a gold bracelet with precious stones, a reflection of her social rank.
The gentle sensual atmosphere of our portrait suggests it is the result of a private commission. Realized at the height of Kinson’s career, this portrait displays all the qualities of his art, while manifesting his sense of psychology as well as his technical mastery. The sketched and lightly brushed dark background gives the illusion of a stormy sky at the dawn of Romanticism, in which the sitter’s face is magnified and softly brushed in well-blended brushstrokes expressing gentleness and melancholy.
The timeless poetry which François-Joseph Kinson displays in his portraits is highly appreciated. Our picture reflects the brilliant career of this accomplished internationally famous artist as a high society portraitist.