Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 109

Reflections on a Chinese porcelain cat, seated on bronze cushion, once in the collections of Madame de Pompadour
Reflections on a Chinese porcelain cat, seated on bronze cushion, once in the collections of Madame de Pompadour
the salon [...] Item No. 308. A seated cat of antique
porcelain in celestial blue placed on an embroidered
cushion and acorns in chiselled copper and gilded with
ormolu valued at five hundred livres cy 500.”47 The
precise correlation between this description and the
object under consideration here identifies the latter as
the cat in de Boisset’s collection, formerly belonging to
Madame de Pompadour. This is further corroborated
by the description of the same object in the inventory
of the collector’s goods drawn up the following year at
the time of a sale:
Fig. 8 / Alexandre Roslin,
Portrait of Abel-François
de Poisson (Marquis de
Marigny, Director of the
King's Buildings), 1764, oil on
canvas, Versailles, National
Museum of the Castles of
Versailles and Trianon.
Fig. 9 / Jean-Baptiste Greuze,
Portrait of Pierre Louis Paul
Randon de Boisset, ca. 1770,
oil on canvas, Budapest,
Museum of Fine Arts.
Originally from a very wealthy Reims family, PaulLouis Randon moved to Paris in 1736 and became a
lawyer in Parliament. He quickly embraced a career
in finance, becoming a tax collector in 1757-1758,
and then Receiver-General of Lyons finances. This
very lucrative position allowed him over the course of
three decades to assemble one of the most important
collections in Paris, which was installed in the two
principle floors of his town house in rue Neuve des
Capucines, acquired in 1768.
Randon de Boisset, desiring to update the style
of Madame de Pompadour’s porcelain statuette,
commissioned the stand with four feet and acorns
which were attached to the cushion of the original
base. The work is described in 1776 in an inventory
of de Boisset’s goods: “In the small cabinet after
A sturdy cat, of strong uniform colour, finely
realized hairs, in a seated position, the raised
head with eyes of enamel; it is placed on
a rich cushion with embroidered pattern
finished with four tassels in gilded bronze:
height 13 inches (about 35.18 cm) by 9
(about 24.36 cm) from side to side. This piece
is, of its kind, one of the desirable items
of this Cabinet, by virtue of the very good
quality of the porcelain & the expressive
character of the animal, it is perhaps unique
in this lot: it was acquired at the sale of
Madame the Marquise de Pompadour.48
Once again, this very detailed description, including
dimensions, identifies the object as our cat and reveals
how, only a few years after her death, Madame de
Pompadour had become a point of reference in its
history. In several subsequent prestigious sales of
Chinese and Japanese porcelain, it is clear that when
such objects could be associated with Madame de
Pompadour, they were very highly valued, such was her
renown as a collector of these items.
At the sale of Randon de Boisset’s collection, Madame
de Pompadour’s cat sold for 1,250 livres to Jean-BaptistePierre Le Brun (1748-1813) (fig. 8), painter and merchant
husband of Élizabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun (17551842), the favourite portraitist of Marie Antoinette.


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