Belle Époque Portraits in Pastel by James Tissot

To cite this article: Paquette, Lucy. “Belle Époque Portraits in Pastel by James Tissot.” The Hammock. <Date viewed.>

All prices listed are for general reader interest only, and are shown in this order:  $ (USD)/£ (GBP).  All prices listed are Hammer Price (the winning bid amount) unless noted as Premium, indicating that the figure quoted includes the Buyer’s Premium of an additional percentage charged by the auction house, as well as taxes.

Portrait of the Pilgrim (c. 1886-1896), by James Tissot. Brooklyn Museum, NY. (Photo:

James Tissot enjoyed eleven highly successful years in London from 1871 to 1882.After the death of his young mistress, Kathleen Newton, in November, 1882 and his attempted artistic comeback in Paris with La Femme à Paris (Women of Paris, 1883-85) Tissot supposedly dedicated himself solely to illustrating the Bible, even making repeated trips to the Holy Land in 1886-87, 1888 and 1889.

However, he continued to paint beautiful, well-dressed women in sumptuous settings; many of his subjects were aristocrats and other Society figures.  Along with the American John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925), the Italian Giovanni Boldini (1842 – 1931), and the French Paul César Helleu (1859 – 1927), James Tissot was sought after for his fashionable portraits.

Once in Paris, Tissot joined the Société d’Aquarellistes Français in 1883 and the Société de Pastellistes Français which was founded in 1885, and his work was included in both societies’ many exhibitions at the Galerie Georges Petit.  He executed about forty portraits from the mid-1880s to the early 1890s, most often using pastels.

Here is a look at several of them.

Portrait of Clotilde Briatte, Comtesse Pillet-Will (c. 1883 – 1885), by James Tissot. Pastel on linen, 35 3/4 by 63 1/8 in./91 by 160.5 cm). Private collection. (Photo:

On May 9, 2013, James Tissot’s Portrait of Clotilde Briatte, Comtesse Pillet-Will (c. 1883 – 1885) sold for $185,000 (Premium) at Sotheby’s New York.  The sitter only recently had been identified:  Clotilde was the wife of Count Alexis Frédéric Pillet-Will (1837-1911), director of the Bank of France, whose family owned the Château Margaux Vineyard.  In the early 1900s, Clotilde authored several books on the occult under the pseudonym Charles d’Orino.  Tissot’s large portrait of her descended through the Pillet-Will family, Saumur, France, until it was sold at Sotheby’s in 2013.

Portrait of Marie-Héloise Jeanne Ferré May (1856 – 1906), (c. 1885), by James Tissot. Pencil and pastel on paper, 58¾ by 40¼ in. (149.2 by 102.7 cm). Private collection.

Portrait of Marie-Héloise Jeanne Ferré May (1856 – 1906), (c. 1885) was purchased at Sotheby’s, New York, in 1999 for $ 40,000/£ 24,484 by a private collector in California who sold it at Christie’s, New York in 2008.  It was offered for sale again at Christie’s, New York in 2012 but failed to attract a buyer.  Madame May was the wife of the Parisian stockbroker and collector, Ernest May (1845 – 1925).  Her husband collected eighteenth-century and Old Master works before starting to buy contemporary art in the late 1870s.  His collection of over thirty works by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was considered the finest in its time, and he became one of the most important early patrons of Impressionist work.  By 1890, he owned five works by Claude Monet, six by Camille Pissarro, four by Alfred Sisley and three by Edgar Degas.  He commissioned Degas to paint his portrait:  Portraits à la Bourse (1878-79) is now in the collection of the Musee d’Orsay, Paris.  Degas also made pastel drawings of Madame May not long after the birth of her son, Ètienne, in 1881.

Portrait of Henriette de Bonnières (c. 1885, pastel on paper laid on linen, 64¼ by 37 in. (163.5 by 94 cm) is a graceful depiction of a young woman in a pale blue gown.  Henriette (née Henriette Arnand Jeanti, 1854 – 1906) was the wife of Robert de Bonnières, an influential journalist, novelist and poet.  Henriette hosted a famous literary salon, which included Alphonse Daudet, Anatole France, Henri de Régnier and José Maria de Heredia.  She was also friends with many painters and her portrait was painted by Auguste Renoir, Albert Besnard and Jacques-Emile Blanche.  Before he married, French composer Albéric Magnard (1865 – 1914) was said to be madly in love with Henriette, dedicating several pieces to her beginning in 1888.  Madame de Bonnières’ portrait by Tissot passed from the Château Grossoeuvre to Madame de la Chennecières, Château de Cierrey and then to a private collection in Switzerland.  It was sold at Christie’s, London in 2007.  To see it, click here.

Portrait of Vicomtesse de Montmorand (1889), by James Tissot. Pastel, 64 by 32 in. (162.56 by 81.28 cm.). Private collection. (Photo:

Portrait of Vicomtesse de Montmorand (1889) was sold at Christie’s, London in 1984 for $ 24,539/£ 18,000.  Do you recognize this glamorous woman as the little girl in Tissot’s gorgeous 1865 oil painting, The Marquis and the Marquise de Miramon and their children? 

The Marquis and the Marquise de Miramon and their children (1865), by James Tissot. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. (Photo:

The family portrait depicted René de Cassagne de Beaufort, Marquis de Miramon (1835-1882) and his wife, née Thérèse Feuillant (1836-1912), with their first two children, Geneviève and Léon on the terrace of the château de Paulhac in Auvergne, France.

In 1866, Tissot painted the stunning Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née, Thérèse Feuillant.

In 1882, Tissot painted a portrait, known from a photograph in Tissot’s album, of young Geneviève de Miramon, by then the Vicomtesse de Montmorand.  In 1889, Tissot made the above pastel portrait of Geneviève.


Comtesse d’Yanville and Her Four Children (c. 1895), by James Tissot. Minneapolis Institute of Arts. (Wiki)

Tissot’s pastel portrait, Comtesse d’Yanville and Her Four Children (c. 1895), was gifted to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts by Ruth and Bruce Dayton in 1997, but it is not currently on view.  Measuring 53 3/16 by 49 1/2 in. (135.1 by 125.73 cm), the picture shows the children (clockwise from left):  Isaure, Simone, Nicole, and Daniel.

The Princesse de Broglie (c. 1895), by James Tissot. Pastel on linen, 66.14 by 38.11 in. (168.00 by 96.80 cm). Private collection. (Photo:

The Princesse de Broglie (c. 1895, pastel on linen, 66.14 by 38.11 in./168.00 by 96.80 cm) passed from the de Broglie family to Toronto-based collectors Joey and Toby Tanenbaum, who sold it was sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 1989 for $ 1,000,000/£ 622,626.  The portrait did not find a buyer when offered for sale at Sotheby’s, New York in 2011 from the Collections of Lily & Edmond J. Safra.

Other Tissot pastel portraits include Portrait de Madame Baele (c. 1880), in the collection of the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille, France (click here and scroll down to see this picture, on the left), and Portrait of a Lady with a Fan.

Portrait de femme à l’éventail (Portrait of a Lady with a Fan), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 35 by 46 in. (88.90 by 116.84 cm). Private collection. (Photo:

Portrait de femme à l’éventail (Portrait of a Lady with a Fan), actually an oil on canvas but similar to Tissot’s pastels of this period, was sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 1991 for $ 290,000/£ 169,590.

On November 6, 2014, Portrait of a Young Woman in a Conservatory (1895, pastel on paper stretched over canvas, 64 by 36 1/2 in./162.5 by 92.7 cm), which had been in a private collection in France, was offered for sale at Sotheby’s.  Click here to see it.

Tissot 4 (2)Admiring a Portfolio (c. 1883, pastel on linen, 23½ by 29 in. (59.7 by 73.7 cm) features a woman who modelled for Tissot on other occasions, and this picture could have been a means of attracting new commissions.  It was sold in Sevres, France, around 1900, then at Sotheby’s, London in 1994 to a private collector in California.  In 2008, it was sold at Christies, New York for $104,500 to the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Yesterday, I visited the Bruce Museum to find it – and I didn’t have to look very hard!

Lucy by counter, open smile


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