A small, 18th-century portrait of Marie Antoinette’s dog made a surprising sale at auction early on Friday. The piece sold at Sotheby’s for an astonishing $279,400, nearly 56 times its $5,000 estimate. The charming oil painting features a little Poodle, thought to belong to the ill-fated French queen.
18th-century portrait believed to be of Marie Antoinette’s dog
While it remains uncertain, the subject is thought to be the ill-fated French queen’s companion, a Poodle named Pompon. Like the painting, not much is known about the artist.
Sotheby’s Old Masters Specialist Elisabeth Lobkowicz told Hyperallergic, an online art magazine based in Brooklyn, that little is known about the painter’s collection of work. The artist, Jacques Barthélémy Delamarre studied at the Académie de St-Luc, a guild of painters and sculptors founded in the late 14th century and later dissolved in 1776.
Delamarre primarily worked in Paris in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Known for painting different versions of this poodle, Delamarre also painted other small animals such as rabbits and cats. It is unknown if these subjects were also royal or aristocratic pets. Not much is known about the work itself. Even the dog’s breed remains a question. Lobkowicz says the mystery is a point of conversation, as it is not certain whether the dog is in fact, a Poodle.
“Is it a Poodle? Is it a King Charles Spaniel? Or is it another toy breed altogether,” Lobkowicz said.
Groomed like a lion, the dog’s mane-like curls fold around its neck. This type of companion dog was fashionable in aristocratic circles and at Versailles.
Famed French queen known for lavish lifestyle and love of pets
Marie Antoinette’s lived at the Palace of Versailles until her imprisonment and execution in 1793. Known for her lavish lifestyle and her adoration of her pets, Marie Antoinette’s menagerie also included monkeys and cats. One of Marie Antoinette’s gilded velvet and silk dog kennel is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Delamarre’s other versions of Marie Antoinette’s dog Pompon show the wide-eyed canine in various states. In a painting quite similar to the piece that sold earlier this week, the pup sits atop a desk near writing instruments. Nearby, a plate of biscuits sits partially eaten. In another portrait, the same dog rests comfortably on a bright red pillow. The representation of the dog remains the same, although the decor differs.
The last time the painting went to auction was in 1986, offered at an estimated $3,000-$5,000.
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