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Touring the Collection, Part 1

The Getty Museum's permanent collection reflects many of the themes in Oudry's Painted Menagerie. When you enter the exhibition, for example, you see François-Thomas Germain's Machine d'Argent (1754) from the Museum's collection. It is the first of many connections that the exhibition encourages you to make. This post is the first of three that will suggest self-guided tours of the permanent collection centered around selected artistic, cultural, and historic themes of Oudry's Painted Menagerie.

All three tours focus on works of art made during Jean-Baptiste Oudry's lifetime (1686–1755). They take you to the Getty Center's South Pavilion, which transports you back in time to the decadence of a palace or country estate. The galleries reflect the opulence that surrounded the French court at the palace of Versailles, where King Louis XIV commissioned Charles Le Vau to design a menagerie to house the collection of exotic animals—just as the first room in Oudry's Painted Menagerie, which contains a suite of life-size animal portraits, replicates the galleries of the Staatliches Museum in Schwerin, Germany.

Self-Guided Tour of 18th-Century Portraiture
One important theme in Oudry's Painted Menagerie is portraiture. When you enter the Exhibitions Pavilion, the first image you see is an enlarged reproduction of Jean-Baptiste Perronneau's portrait of Jean-Baptiste Oudry from 1753. (The actual painting can been seen today at the Louvre.)

In the South Pavilion, Gallery 104, you can see the Getty Museum's two portraits by Perronneau, depicting French nobles Monsieur and Madame Pinceloup de la Grange (1747). Perronneau and his contemporary Maurice-Quentin Delatour competed for portrait commissions in Paris, though Delatour was decidedly more established in the field. Look for Delatour's Gabriel Bernard de Rieux in Gallery 206.

While Oudry excelled at animal portraiture, his artistic training and early career were influenced by the great human portraitist Nicolas de Largillière, whose Portrait of a Boy in Fancy Dress hangs in Gallery 202. Oudry's Portrait of Crown Prince Friedrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1739), which is in the first gallery of Oudry's Painted Menagerie, is an interesting juxtaposition with his suite of animal portraits. Although Oudry had an established relationship with the court at Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Friedrich's father, Christian Ludwig II, desired that his son's portrait be undertaken not by Oudry, but by the famous royal portraitist Hyacinthe Rigaud. In the end, though, Friedrich wrote to his father that Oudry's portrait of him was successful.

The Getty Museum has two portraits by Rigaud, one of King Louis XIV in Gallery 101 and the other of Louis' relative, Charles de Saint-Albinthe, Archbishop of Cambrai in Gallery 202. (Note that the portrait of Louis XIV must go off view beginning Monday, August 6, for painting work in the South Pavilion; it will return to its kingly spot on Tuesday, September 4.)

Each of these portraitists—Perronneau, Delatour, Largillière, and Rigaud—served a unique clientele, and studying their works gives us insight into the various permutations of 18th-century portraiture. Here is an intriguing exercise: compare Jean-Marc Nattier's Portrait of Madame Bonier de la Mosson as Diana (1742), a typical Rococo portrait, with Oudry's animal portraits, such as Indian Blackbuck or Leopardess (below).

 Madame Bonier de la Mosson / Nattier Leopardess / Oudry
Left: Madame Bonier de la Mosson as Diana, Jean-Marc Nattier, 1742
Right: Leopardess, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, 1741
Image right: Staatliches Museum Schwerin

Part two of this post will suggest a self-guided tour of animal-themed objects in the decorative arts collection.

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