Portrait of John, Lord Mountstuart, later 4th Earl and 1st Marquess of Bute
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Jean-Étienne Liotard
Swiss, Geneva, 1763
Pastel on parchment
43 7/8 x 34 7/16 in.

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Lord Bute, who commissioned this portrait as a memento of his son's Grand Tour, was so pleased with it that he paid the artist twice the agreed-upon price. Exuding the self-possessed confidence of a young aristocrat, nineteen-year-old Lord Mountstuart leans against a mantel displaying the utmost in sumptuous French attire: a fur-lined winter suit of turquoise silk, lace collar and cuffs, white silk stockings, and diamond-buckle shoes.

Jean-Étienne Liotard depicted the charismatic English nobleman in an elegant setting--a recreation of a salon in Geneva appointed with Rococo furnishings such as firedogs ornamented with cherubs and a Chinese folding screen used to stop cold drafts. Above the mantel, Liotard depicted Mountstuart's handsome profile and dignified posture in a gilded mirror.

Lord Mountstuart, and to a lesser extent his reflection, are sharply depicted and project forward from the surrounding objects, which are blurred to create this optical illusion. This portrait is one of the largest pastels Liotard ever painted and the only one to show a full-length subject in a meticulously described interior. His skillful effects of scale, format, and illusion challenged the conventional medium of oil painting, and Liotard himself considered the work a masterpiece.

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