The striking beauty of Jean Etienne Liotard’s pastel portraits.

The striking beauty of Jean Etienne Liotard’s pastel portraits.

I remember visiting the Uffizi Gallery in Florence a few years ago and being suddenly drawn to the self-portrait of a bearded man with a costume à la Turque. That was pastel painter Jean-Etienne Liotard depicting himself as he often did. Not as famous as the other contemporary great pastelist Quentin de la Tour, Jean-Etienne Liotard, who was born in Geneva in 1702, was first trained as a miniaturist, and soon became very sought after in the courts and society houses of 18th-century Europe as a portraitist. His work stands out with an incredible realistic quality, his portraits are remarkably full of character, alive, with a crisp quality that impregnates the sitters with life, as if they were still breathing before us. Liotard’s skill lies in his ability to snare character and to produce an unusually wide array of textures and tones from his pastels. He draws hair that you could comb, transparent lace that begs to be felt between thumb and fingers, and gleaming, radiant silk. The eyes, the flesh are vivid and palpable. Liotard is a depictor of thruth, the sitters come at you live and direct as camera images, with their photographic veracity but also charged in emotions.



Self-portrait 1744


Mademoiselle Jacquet,  actress – 1748


The Chocolate Girl – 1744


Marie Anne Françoise Liotard and her doll


Maria Frederike van Reede-Athlone and her dog- 1738?


Marie Adelaide of France in a Turkish costume – 1753


Richard Pococke – 1738


Jean de la Rive – 1759


Louisa Anne and George, Princes of Wales




The first cup – 1754