This portrait of Isabelle Depestre, Countess of Seneffe, was acquired by the Heritage Fund at an auction in Dijon and has now been entrusted to the Château de Seneffe, where the Countess spent a large part of her life. This 18th century painting has thus been returned home. “At the château, we are immensely happy because this represents a gift of history, a gift from the 18th to the 21st century…” commented the curator.
The portrait was painted by the French artist Antoine Vestier (1740-1824), born in Avallon and received into the Paris Academy in 1786. Vestier specialised in intimate portraits that were realistic and sensitive, similar to those of Hyacinthe Rigaud and Nicolas de Largillière. In this painting, Isabelle Depestre is represented sitting at her dressing table, dressed in a chiffon negligee, just about to powder her face. Simple and with very few objects, the composition draws the observer’s eye to the Countess’s face, and particularly to her own gaze, which reflects her personality.
Antoine Vestier had already met his model because it is his signature that appears on the first portrait of Isabelle Depestre, born Isabelle-Claire Cogels, daughter of an Antwerp banker and Treasurer of the Compagnie des Indes. Isabelle married Julien Depestre, a financier from the Austrian Netherlands, who would later become Count of Seneffe, in the province of Hainaut. The couple had seven children, including Joseph who was also immortalised by Vestier in 1787.
The painting purchased in Dijon has thus been returned to the magnificent estate of the Château de Seneffe, which today houses the Musée de l'Orfèvrerie (Silver Museum) of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. Had it not been acquired by the King Baudouin Foundation, the portrait would have risked being taken far from where it originated, probably to England.