Portrait of Louis XVIII

Portrait of Louis XVIII

1822

Enamel in a stamped gilt metal mount

Framed: 7.7 x 6.8 cm (3 1/16 x 2 11/16 in.); Sight: 4.9 x 3.9 cm (1 15/16 x 1 9/16 in.)

The Edward B. Greene Collection 1940.1201

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Description

As the official miniaturist for the French court of Louis XVIII, Jean-Baptiste Jacques Augustin produced portraits of many elite personalities. This miniature features Louis Stanislas Xavier, King Louis XVIII, in military costume. Taking the throne after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, Louis ruled from 1814 to 1824, except for a brief period in 1815 when Napoleon escaped from exile and regained power. This type of official portrait in miniature was useful as a diplomatic gift and was probably commissioned in large numbers. In fact, there are two versions of this miniature in the museum's collection, one in watercolor on ivory and this one in enamel. Here, Louis wears the blue ribbon and the silver star of the Order of the Holy Ghost, the star and the cross of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Lazarus, and the cross of the Order of Saint Louis. The complicated process of enameling prevented many artists from mastering it well enough to realize such precise details as seen here. To create an enameled portrait, layers of colored metal oxides are fired at various temperatures, affording many opportunities for imperfection. Once an enamel has hardened, however, it is impervious to fading and flaking, making it an ideal material in which to record famous likenesses. Augustin was one of a handful of miniaturists in this period who worked in both enamel and ivory. Ashley Bartman (May 2014)

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