18th Century
Portrait of a Gentleman in a Fur Hat

Oil on canvas
Image size: 20½ x 16¼ inches
Period gilt frame

Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659–1743) was the leading French portraitist of the late 17th and early 18th Centuries. The son of a tailor and painter in Perpignan, Rigaud trained in Montpellier under PaulPetzet and Antoine Ranc.

He moved to Paris in 1681, where he trained under Charles Le Brun, and in 1682 was awarded the Prix de Rome by the French Academy in Rome. Rigaud was inspired by the works of other great masters whose paintings he studied and collected.

His style encompasses thedignity and pose of the works of van Dyck, as well as the realism of Rembrandt, to create themajestically superior and naturalistic images which so appealed to his decidedly high-brow clientele.The artist’s work proved to be extremely popular amongst the aristocracy, and his talent was soonnoticed by Louis XIV.

He became the principal painter to the king under Louis XIV and paintedmany portraits for the royal family under the Sun King and his successor Louis XV, including his mostfamous work, the iconic image of Louis XIV in his state robes (1701).

This handsome portrait, painted by a member of Rigaud’s circle, dates from c.1725-50 and depicts arefined gentleman, dressed in an informal costume referred to as ‘undress’. A gentleman would wearsuch an outfit whilst at home or when paying a visit to the coffee house in the morning.

The sitter’s garments are of a very high quality and serve to reflect the sitter’s wealth, status and elegance. During this period, gentlemen often shaved their heads in order to facilitate the wearing of a wig, which wouldbe worn with a suit. Here the sitter has been depicted in a luxurious turban-like cap lined with lynx fur,a highly fashionable and expensive material at the time.

Over his shirt, he wears a velvet fur-linedgown adorned with decorative clasps fashioned from silver braid. The elegant informality of hisappearance can be seen in his unbuttoned shirt and the unfastened black ribbon hanging from hisbuttonhole, which has been artfully arranged into a fluttering drape by the portraitist.

Literature:- Ribeiro, A. Dress in Eighteenth Century Europe, London, (2002).