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Jean Petitot (1607-91)

Henrietta, Duchess of Orléans (1644-1670) c.1660

RCIN 421755

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Jean Petitot's career as an enamellist spanned seven decades of the seventeenth-century and took him from his birthplace in Geneva to the courts of Charles I in London and of Louis XIV in Paris. He is widely regarded as the most important enamellist of his period on account of the incomparable quality and prolific nature of his work. Petitot achieved notable success at the French court where he had sought refuge after the outbreak of the Civil War in England in 1643 or 1644. He had first developed his skills in enamelling at the court of Charles I in 1637 and the highly accomplished portraits which produced, with their rich colouring, and smoothly blended brushstrokes, were soon much in demand at the French court where he was swiftly appointed Court Painter in Enamel to Louis XIV. He received extensive patronage from the king and his circle at court until the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) when, as a Protestant, he was forced to return to Geneva. The enamel represents Henrietta, Duchess of Orléans, fifth daughter of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, who married, in 1661, Philip, Duke of Orléans, brother of Louis XIV. It is copied from a portrait attributed to Pierre Mignard of which there are versions at Chantilly (Musée Condé), the National Portrait Gallery, London (no. 228) and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (no. 899). The enamel demonstrates admirably the subtle tones and high finish which made Petitot's work so desirable both during his own lifetime and to collectors in later centuries. George IV, as regent and monarch, acquired a large group of over fifty enamels by Jean Petitot including, in 1807, two portraits identified as the Duchess of Orléans which may have included the present miniature.