Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth

Henri Gascardc 1670

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
Auckland, New Zealand

Louise Renée de Penancoët de Kéroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth and Aubigny (1649–1734), was born to an ancient, provincial (and impoverished) aristocratic family from Brittany. She first came to England in 1670 as Maid of Honour to Charles II’s sister, Henrietta Anne, Duchess of Orléans, who was a major supporter of the French, and therefore Catholic, cause. The fresh cheeks and pert young lips of the young maid of honour immediately attracted the King’s attention, and when his sister asked Charles which of her many priceless gems she should leave behind as a token of her visit, he indicated Louise de Kéroualle, saying she was the only jewel he coveted.

Henri Gascard portrays Louise resplendent in formal court attire, denoting the reputation of the French as arbiters of style. Her stiffened bodice and skirt are of silk brocade lamé, woven with metallic threads in the warp to create an iridescent effect. Louise cradles a King Charles spaniel, its paw threaded artfully between her fingers. Her gesture towards a rose draws attention to her motto, ‘En la rose je fleuris – As a rose I flower’. And indeed she did, for after giving birth to the King’s son, Charles, Duke of Richmond in 1673, Louise was granted the title Duchess of Portsmouth. Nicknamed Fubs because of her chubby cheeks, she was much loved by the King, who remained patient of the huge debts she constantly ran up.

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  • Title: Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth
  • Creator: Henri Gascard
  • Creator Lifespan: 1635 - 1701
  • Creator Nationality: France
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Birth Place: Paris, France
  • Date Created: c 1670
  • Physical Dimensions: w1240 x h1005 mm (Without frame)
  • Artist biography: Henri Gascard was born in Paris in 1634/5. In 1659, Gascard made his first journey to Rome. He had probably returned to Paris by 1667, although he may have been in the Netherlands that year when he executed his fine portrait of Nicolas Delafond, a journalist from Amsterdam. After 1670, he spent periods of time in England working at the court of Charles II. He died in 1701.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mrs Maxwell Richmond, 1952
  • External Link: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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