Althorp House, Northampton, England
Clifford Ellison, Northampton, England, acquired directly from the above, 1986 (with image of invoice)
Clifford Ellison (1920-2015) was a prominent fine art restorer who was a founding member and President of the British Association of Picture Restorers (now the British Association of Paintings Conservator-Restorers). In 1970, he was appointed as the picture restorer to Queen Elizabeth II, a position he held until 1979. Throughout his career, Ellison carried out restoration work for the National Trust and the National Portrait Gallery, the private collection of Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, and renowned London dealers Thomas Agnew & Sons and Colnaghi, among others.
The present lot is attributed to Pierre Mignard, a prominent court painter during the reign of Louis XIV, in the fine art catalogues of the Althorp House collection published in 1851 and 1974, and is almost certainly the same painting described by Kenneth J. Garlick in his inventory, which describes the subject, Madame de Montespan, as follows:
"Dressed as a huntress, she proceeds towards the left, with her hounds, across a landscape. Cupids attend her, and others, at the right, are whetting arrows on anvil and grindstone, near which is an inscription: SEMPER ARDENTES ACVENS SAGITTAS CÔTE CRVENTA ('For ever whetting burning arrows on the cruel grindstone.') It is inscribed in a later hand: Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart, Marquise de Montespan, par Mignard. Canvas: 45 x 58 in. (enlarged from an oval)."
Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise de Montespan (1640-1707), better known as Madame de Montespan, was a renowned maîtresse-en-titre, or chief Royal mistress, of King Louis XIV of France, with whom she had numerous children. Throughout her tenure as maîtresse-en-titre, she was known for her audacious wit and robust patronage of the arts. de Rochechouart was born into one of the oldest noble families in France, the House of Rochechouart, which was established during the Carolingian Empire. Gabriel de Rochechouart de Mortemart (1600-1675), her father, was a childhood friend of King Louis XIII, and was later appointed as his First Gentleman of the Bedchamber; Louis XIV further promoted him to the title of Duke of Mortemart and governor of Paris in 1669. Her mother, Diane de Grandseigne (1610-1666), was a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Austria, Queen consort of Louis XIII and mother of Louis XIV.
The Althorp estate in Northampton, England is the official seat of the aristocratic Spencer family, which was purchased by Sir John Spencer in 1508. Over the course of the ensuing centuries, the Spencer family amassed a large collection of art, furniture and objets d'art. Althorp House was the childhood home of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her brother Charles Spencer, 9th Earl of Spencer, is the current owner.
Catalogue of Paintings at Althorp House, in the County of Northampton, with Occasional Notices, Biographical or Historical, London, 1851, p. 77, no. 309
Garlick, K. J. "A Catalogue of Pictures at Althorp." The Volume of the Walpole Society, vol. 45, 1974, pp. 58-59, no. 454 (309)