French, 1685 – 1766
Portrait of Louis Léon de Bouthillier-Chavigny, Count of Beaujeu, 1745
Oil on canvas
39 15/16 × 31 15/16 in. (101.4 × 81.1 cm.)
52 1/4 × 44 1/2 × 4 1/16 in. (132.7 × 113 × 10.3 cm.) (frame)
Museum purchase, Mrs. Blakemore Wheeler Fund 1966.14
What’s the Backstory?
In the 1700s, French portraits of the king or officers of state contained many symbolic references to the sitters’ status or activities. Here, Chavigny is depicted wearing full armor, with a battle scene taking place behind him. At this time, France was involved in the War of Austrian Succession and was also at war with England. In 1744, Chavigny had the important responsibility of conducting diplomatic missions to Germany in an effort to secure an alliance with France. Even though no one did battle in armor anymore, French generals still wanted to be pictured wearing it. They considered it a status symbol and a way to evoke a nostalgic era of chivalry.