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Pierre Adolphe Hall (1739-1793) "Portrait of Countess Sophie Potocka", outstanding miniature on ivory!
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This outstanding quality miniature of one of the young beauties from the period surrounding the French Revolution was acquired in November 2010 from a private German collector as work of an unknown French late-18th-century artist. In reality, it turned out to be an extremely important and particularly rare work of art.
As our additional images illustrate, it is author's fifth (previously unknown!) own replica of his famous miniature portrait of Europe's most renowned late-18th-century beauty, Polish countess Sophie (Zofia) Potocka. It was painted around 1790 by then best Parisian miniaturist, Swedish-born artist Pierre Adolphe (Peter Adolf) Hall.
It is likely that in reality this miniature is none other than the one illustrated in Paris monograph (published in 2000) "Pierre Adolphe Hall /1739-1793" by Régine de Plinval de Guillebon (see our image nr.8). Under No 133 in the registry of the Hall's works, the book's author shows… our miniature. It is described as "non localisée" (English: whereabouts unknown) with the best possible provenance - Collection Pierpont Morgan! Further, Mme de Plinval mentions the second replica of this "lost" miniature, i.e. Krakow Czartoryski Museum. The third replica was formerly in the collection of Grand Duke Nikolaj Mikhailovich Romanov (see our image nr.9).
Besides these three replicas, we discovered the fourth one. It formerly belonged to Spanish collection Gomis and was illustrated in Mariano Tomas' "La Miniatura Retrato En España", Madrid, 1953 (see our image nr.10).
We are, hence, faced with the following question: is our miniature, which has "surfaced from nowhere", is indeed the fifth replica, or is it really the aforementioned "lost" miniature (No 133 from Hall monograph). The only detail that fills us with unease and inclines us to consider the "fifth replica" version is a fact that our piece is 7.9cm in diameter, whereas No 133 is described (perhaps erroneously?) as having diameter of 8.6cm….
Or is it the miniature from Grand Duke N. M. Romanov's collection??
Sophie (in Polish - Zofia), Countess Potocka was born on January 12th 1760 in the village Bursa in the suburb of Constantinople as a daughter of Konstantin and Maria Clavone. In 1772, her mother - a vegetable street seller - sold her at the age of 12 to Polish envoy in Constantinople. The girl was this man's mistress until 1778, until the Polish commander Józef Witte bought her and then married her. They had two sons. Witte sent Sophie to Paris with the princess of Nassau-Siegen, in order to cultivate her and integrate her into the polite society. She made a great success in Paris, where she was called "La Belle Phanariote" and became famous for her remark "My eyes hurt". She was called the most beautiful woman of Europe. During her stay in Paris, she had an affair with two younger brothers of King Louis XVI: Count de Provence and Count d'Artois. It is very likely that P. A. Hall was commissioned to paint this portrait by one of these two royalties.
In 1788, Sophie was present at the camp of Catherine the Great's favorite, Prince Grigory Potyomkin, and became the latter's lover. Their relationship lasted until his death.
In 1798, Sophie's husband, general de Witte, lost a considerable sum of money in card gambling, while playing against Polish aristocrat Count Stanislaw Szczesny Potocki. The latter offered de Witte to waive the entire claim if the general would pass on his lady to him. The terms were accepted and Count Potocki promptly made Sophie his second wife, despite the postulations of his friends. The couple lived together for many years and had eight children.
Also during this marriage, Sophie had a number of lovers, as well as a few illegitimate children (!!). She also had an affair with her stepson, Szczesny Jerzy Potocki, who was likely the father of her son Boleslaw.
Her spouse built for her the Park Sofiowka (in the town Uman, South Ukraine) for 15 million rubles.
After his death in 1805, Sophie received a refund of her dowry and participation in her late husband's property. She spent her last period of life devoted to her children.
She died in Berlin on November 24th 1822.
Peter Adolf Hall was born in 1739 in Boras , Sweden and died in 1793 in Liege.
After studying medicine in Upsala and Greifswald, he went on in 1756 to study painting in Berlin, and in 1758 in Hamburg under K.F. W. Richard, then, between 1760 and 1766 in Stockholm, in the studio of the sculptor P.L'Archveque and of the painter in pastels, G. Lundberg.
In 1766 he received an order from the Court of Sweden to paint a portrait of the King Gustav III. Furthemore, in 1769, for exhibiting his miniatures at the Salon, Hall became an associate at the Academy and an official painter to the King. In 1778 the Academy of Stockholm granted him its membership.
His Studio, in the Rue Neuve-des-Bons-enfants, was an artistic center frequented by Hubert Robert, Greuze, Mme Vigee Lebrun, etc.
The year 1784, however, set a difficult period in motion, and Hall went on to loose all of his capital between 1789 and 1793. Far from his family, he wandered during the last period from Aix to Brussels, Spaa, Maastricht and Liege.
Schidlof writes, "although Hall was Swedish by origin, he is considered as the greatest (!) French miniaturist of the second half of the 18th century".
Many of Hall's miniatures are in Louvre, the Wallace Collection (London), the National Museum of Stockholm, and other prominent international museums.
Condition: good; two minor stains on edges
Creation Year: late 1780s
Measurements:UNFRAMED:6,8x6,8cm/2,7x2,7in FRAMED: 8,1x8,1cm/3,2x3,2in
Object Type:Framed miniature
Style: Portrait Miniatures
Technique: watercolor on ivory
Creator: Peter Adolf (Pierre Adolphe) Hall
Creator Dates: 1739 Boras-1793 Liege
Nationality:Swedish / French
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