Arti­cle: Wallerant Vaillant: Master Portraitist

Focus on the Peck Feature

Dur­ing the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry, Dutch artist Waller­ant Vail­lant cre­at­ed por­traits of Europe’s most illus­tri­ous mem­bers of soci­ety. Although acclaimed as the first pro­fes­sion­al mez­zotint print­mak­er, Vaillant’s most remark­able works are draw­ings he com­plet­ed using black and white chalk on blue paper. 

This Focus on the Peck Col­lec­tion instal­la­tion fea­tures two por­trait draw­ings by Vail­lant, the first gift­ed to the muse­um by Shel­don and Leena Peck in 1993 and the other pre­sent­ed as part of the couple’s larg­er gift of draw­ings in 2017. Both were made dur­ing the 1658 Diet of Frank­furt, where elec­tors, ambas­sadors, and diplo­mats con­vened to elect Leopold I as the next Holy Roman Emper­or. In the com­pa­ny of his patron Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Vail­lant exe­cut­ed numer­ous drawn por­traits of the dig­ni­taries, many of which were later fash­ioned into prints for wide­spread distribution. 

Vaillant’s skill­ful appli­ca­tion of black and white chalk con­tributed to the high degree of nat­u­ral­ism and fin­ish char­ac­ter­is­tic of his draw­ings. First, the artist applied vary­ing amounts of fine­ly ground chalk, known as sauce,” to the sur­face. He then blend­ed the pow­dered chalk using sticks of tight­ly wrapped pieces of paper, called stump­ing, to cre­ate a broad range of black and gray tones. Next, he erased” some pig­ment from the sur­face with clean stumps or pieces of fresh bread and then applied details and high­light­ing to sug­gest form. The inno­v­a­tive tech­nique, which result­ed in lux­u­ri­ous and fresh like­ness­es of his sit­ters, secured Vaillant’s place among the top por­traitists of the Dutch Gold­en Age.

Antoine III, Duc de Gramont

Waller­ant Vail­lant, Dutch, 1623 – 1677, Antoine III, Duc de Gra­mont, Mar­shal of France, 1658 black and white chalk on blue paper, The Peck Col­lec­tion, 2017.1.83

See this por­trait in more detail here.

Antoine III Agénor de Gra­mont (1604-1678) was an accom­plished French mil­i­tary com­man­der and diplo­mat. In addi­tion to his dis­tin­guished role as Mar­shal of France, he served as French Ambas­sador dur­ing the elec­tion and coro­na­tion of Holy Roman Emper­or Leopold I in 1658. Like other por­traits Waller­ant Vail­lant cre­at­ed at the polit­i­cal event, Gra­mont appears in a stan­dard bust length, three-quar­ter view before a dark back­ground. Dressed in armor and adorned with a broad sash, the mil­i­tary leader appears con­fi­dent and commanding. 

Impressed by the artist’s vir­tu­os­i­ty, Gra­mont brought Vail­lant with him to France, where he por­trayed mem­bers of the French royal fam­i­ly dur­ing the prepa­ra­tions for Louis XIV’s mar­riage to Marie-Thérèse, the Infan­ta of Spain. After sev­er­al years in Paris, Vail­lant returned to Ams­ter­dam in 1665 and remained there until his death in 1677. 

Her­mann Egon von Fürstenberg

Waller­ant Vail­lant, Dutch, 1623 – 1677, Her­mann Egon von Fürsten­berg, Cham­ber­lain and Privy Coun­cilor to the Elec­tor of Bavaria, 1658, black and white chalk and graphite on blue paper, Gift of Leena and Shel­don Peck in honor of Charles Mil­lard, 93.11

See this draw­ing in more detail here.

Although the sit­ter of this por­trait was once thought to be the Span­ish aris­to­crat Gas­par Ibáñez de Segovia Per­al­ta (1628-1708), recent schol­ar­ship has deter­mined a new pos­si­ble iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. William Robin­son has pro­posed Her­mann Egon von Fürsten­berg (1627-1674), the head of the Elec­tor of Bavaria’s house­hold and a mem­ber of his pri­vate coun­cil, as the sub­ject of this por­trait. Unlike Gas­par Ibáñez, Her­mann Egon is list­ed among the Ger­man atten­dees of the Frank­furt Diet of 1658, where Leopold I was elect­ed Holy Roman Emper­or and where Vail­lant pro­duced black and white chalk por­traits of diplo­mats and ambas­sadors. Her­mann Egon was an asso­ciate of the Duc de Gra­mont (at left) and played a role in the League of the Rhine, an agree­ment between the Ger­mans and French meant to weak­en the mil­i­tary power of Leopold I and the Aus­tri­an Hapsburgs. 

Jan­u­ary 20, 2021 to April 18, 2021

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