JEAN-LAURENT MOSNIER (Paris 1743-1808 St. Petersburg)
"Portrait of a Young Boy wearing a black Hat and red Coat"
Signed lower left: J.L.Mosnier/f.1789
Oil on canvas:21 ¼ x 17 ¾ inches / 54 x 45 cm
Mosnier was a versatile and prolific portrait painter, who modified his style in accordance with his changing geographical circumstances, and used his skill as a trained miniaturist in his highly polished and detailed full-size portraits.
He was a student at the Académie de St Luc, Paris, where he trained as a miniature painter. In 1776 he was appointed Peintre de la Reine to Marie-Antoinette, was approved (agréé) by the Académie Royale in 1786, and received (reçu) as a full member in 1788, presenting two portraits of Academicians, the sculptor Charles-Antoine Bridan (Paris, Ecole Normale Supérieur des Beaux-Arts) and the painter Louis Lagrenée I (Versailles, Château). He exhibited a Self-portrait (St. Petersburg, Hermitage) at the Salon of 1786, showing himself relaxed and confident at the center of his studio, flanked by two canvases, which are being admired by his two daughters.
After the outbreak of the French Revolution, Mosnier fled to London in 1790 and exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1791 to 1796. His English portraits make a concession to current English taste, successfully balancing romanticism and neo-classicism. He became a Royal Academician, and exhibited in England from 1790-1796, with his exhibited works including the portrait of Admiral Lord George Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney (1719-1792) (The National Maritime Museum).
He travelled and worked extensively throughout Europe, and after leaving England he moved to Hamburg, where he stayed four years. There Louis Ferdinand of Prussia (1772-1806) sat to him (the Louvre, Paris). In 1801 he travelled to St Petersburg, a favorite destination for French émigré artists. There he was warmly welcomed and had a successful career painting many members of high society and the aristocracy. A potential rival, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, left the city later that year, and Mosnier assumed an influential position. In 1802 he was accepted into the St Petersburg Academy, and he was made a professor there in 1806. He painted a number of portraits of the Stroganoff family, notably Count Alexander Stroganoff, the President of the Academy of Arts (1800-1811) in 1804 (The Museum of the Academy of Arts, St. Petersburg), and other sitters included members of the imperial family (e.g. The Empress Elizabeth, Wife of Alexander I, as a girl, private collection). This charming and delicate three-quarter-length portrait has the Empress wearing a white Empire dress, with her profile seen in a mirror on the left. Mosnier died in October 1808 in St Petersburg.
He was renowned for his sensitive portraiture, as the present portrait attests. Unfortunately, our sitter’s identity must remain tantalisingly unknown for the present.