The Choiseul Box: a new jewel of miniature painting in the Musée du Louvre

Céline Cachaud examines the paintings and frames in the collection of the duc de Choiseul, as illustrated in scenes on his snuffbox. With many thanks to the Musée du Louvre for permission to use these detailed images of the box.

In November 2022, the Louvre launched its 13th public appeal: to fund the acquisition of a masterpiece of the 18th century goldsmith’s art and of miniature painting: the tabatière Choiseul. This little snuffbox, measuring 8 by 6 centimetres across and 2.4cm. high, is composed of nine miniatures painted in gouache on vellum, assembled in an architectural gold setting (à cage).

The tabatière Choiseul as currently exhibited in the Musée du Louvre (Sully wing, 1st floor, room 609). Photo: Céline Cachaud, February 2023

The documentation on it is abundant: Etienne-François, duc de Choiseul (1719-85), or someone close to him, commissioned it in early 1770, and the paintings were produced between July 1770 and July 1771. The previous year, the miniaturist Louis-Nicolas van Blarenberghe had received the royal patent as Painter of Battles from Louis XV (r. 1715-74), Choiseul being then the State Secretary of War.

The iconography of the snuffbox is as unique as it is valuable for our knowledge of the display of private collections in 18th century France. It depicts Choiseul showing his collections to visitors, working in his Paris and Versailles apartments, and in his official rôle in the Grande Galerie of the Louvre[1]. For The Frame Blog, this post will focus on the Choiseul collection and its frames through these miniatures: their representation, evolution and display as shown on the snuffbox.

The tabatière Choiseul by Louis-Nicolas van Blarenberghe (miniaturist; 1716-94) and Louis Roucel (goldsmith; fl. c.1756-d.1787): the Chambre Bleue is on the upper lid…

…and the Galerie on the underside of the lid; both are rooms in the Hôtel Crozat-Choiseul.

Beneath the opening of the box, clockwise: Choiseul’s office in the Versailles apartment…

…the White Room in the Hôtel Crozat-Choiseul…

… the Grande Galerie in the Louvre…

… and the Octagon cabinet, also in the Hôtel Crozat-Choiseul. Photos: ©Musée du Louvre/ Hervé Lewandowski

The Choiseul collection and its representation

The snuffbox can be thought of as a freeze-frame of the Choiseul collection. The duc worked for Louis XV from 1758 until his sudden disgrace on 24th December 1770; the box was commissioned whilst he was at the apex of his career and his collection was becoming famous within aristocratic circles.

Pierre-François Basan (1723-97), Recueil d’estampes gravées d’après les tableaux du Cabinet de Monseigneur le duc de Choiseul par les soins du Sr Basan, Paris, 1771, frontispiece, Bibliothèque nationale

In 1771, Pierre-François Basan published the Recueil d’estampes gravées d’après les tableaux du Cabinet de Monseigneur le duc de Choiseul [2]. This album of engravings of the individual paintings in the collection gives us a glimpse of the Choiseul collection a year before its dispersal [3]. In fact, having fallen out of favour, Choiseul was compelled to sell his Parisian residence – the famous Hôtel Crozat, now renamed Hôtel Choiseul, built for the banker and art collector Pierre Crozat[4] – as well as the paintings and furniture, in order to recoup a part of his considerable debts, which would continue to dog him until his death in 1785.

Pierre-François Basan, Recueil d’estampes portrait frontispiece of Choiseul, Bibliothèque nationale

In 1772, Baron von Grimm described the collector and his collection in these words:

‘… [il] était moins celui d’un connaisseur de l’art que d’un amateur qui a des tableaux dispersés dans les différentes pièces de son appartement pour son agrément personnel. Son choix excluait tous les sujets sérieux, tristes, tragiques, saints, d’un grand style et par conséquent tous les tableaux italiens: il se bornait à la naïveté et à la vérité de l’école flamande, et à la galanterie et à la mignardise de l’école française.’ [5]

‘… he was less an art connoisseur than an amateur who hung paintings in all the various rooms of his apartment for his own particular pleasure. His choice excluded all subjects of a serious, melancholy, tragic, or holy nature, as well as those in the grand style (and consequently all Italian paintings): he limited himself to the naïvety and truth of the Flemish school, and to the gallantry and sweetness of the French.’

This judgement is corroborated by Basan’s book of engravings, and by the paintings on the snuffbox (ninety-five of them are depicted there). If we compare the miniatures with the images in the Recueil and with the information on their provenance, forty of them are easily identified and thirty of them impossible to decipher, either because of their position on the snuffbox (reflected in a looking-glass or shown only in part) or their size (the little paintings in the Octagon cabinet for instance). Most of them are Flemish, except for those which hung in the Chambre bleue, the duc’s bedroom, and in particular those in his Versailles apartment, which were almost exclusively French.

Louis-Nicolas van Blarenberghe, the Chambre bleue, the duc’s bedroom, 1770-1771, and detail. Photo: ©Musée du Louvre/ Hervé Lewandowski

The hang in the Chambre Bleue includes, from left to right, on the upper tier of the wall with bed and door:

? Piat Joseph Sauvage? (1744-1818), Trompe l’oeil grisaille, Putti playing with a goat; cf. Christie’s New York, 14 April 2016, Lot 271

Jean Raoux (1677-1734), Sacrifice to Priapus, 1720, now in Musée Fabre, Montpellier

Joseph-Marie Vien, Woman in a bath, now unknown location

Lower tier:

Jan Steen, The sick man, now in Pushkin State Museum, Moscow , and Gerard Ter Borch, The family of the stone grinder, now in Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

On the chimney wall, on either side of the looking-glass:

Greuze (1725-1805), Le baiser envoyé (collection of Edmond de Rothschild, 1963; location otherwise unknown)

Greuze (1725-1805), Offrande à l’Amour, 1767, o/c, 145.5 x 113 cm., now in Wallace Collection

The collection was formed at a moment when the French aristocracy was eagerly collecting Flemish art. As mentioned by F.J.B. Watson in 1963, several publications on the subject were published contemporaneously, including La Vie des Peintres Flamands, Allemands et Hollandois by Descamps, in four volumes issued between 1753 and 1763 [6]. Watson’s admirable research in 1963 – also indebted to the previous work by Mlle Levallet in 1925 – identified a large part of Choiseul’s collection. By comparing both snuffbox and the Recueil, it is noticeable that most of his masterpieces are depicted on the former, including his latest acquisitions, which corroborates the creation date of the miniatures in c.1770. Choiseul bought the Offrande à l’Amour in the Salon in 1769, for example, and a marble sculpture representing Innocence by Jean-Jacques Caffieri a year earlier [7]. Both are seen in the Chambre Bleue, the painting to the right of the looking-glass, and the sculpture standing on the bookcase to the left, beneath Greuze, Le baiser envoyé.

A picture reflected in the looking-glass, at the top, might be Gerrit Berckheyde, Marketplace, (n° 116 in Basan’s Recueil).

The Versailles Apartment, where the Duke of Choiseul worked when Secretary of War. Photo: ©Musée du Louvre/Hervé Lewandowski

The pictures in the Versailles office include, on the chimney wall, from left to right:

Hubert Robert, Un Port orné d’architecture, 1760, now in Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dunkerque

Hubert Robert, Capriccio with the Pantheon before the Porto di Ripetta, 1761, now in Liechtenstein: The Princely Collections

On the wall with the door, from left to right:

Louis-Michel van Loo (or workshop; 1707-71), Louis XV, 1762, location now unknown

Lacroix de Marseille (c.1700-79/82), Marine overdoor, location now unknown

François Hubert Drouais (1727-75), Madame de Pompadour with a fur muff, now in Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orléans

Louis-Michel van Loo (after; 1707-71), Vestal, location now unknown

Alexandre Roslin (1718-93), Portrait de la duchesse de Gramont, 1766, pastel, 55 x 45 cm., now in collection Gramont, Bayonne

Moving pictures

The Galerie in the Hôtel Crozat-Choiseul

The Octagon cabinet. Photos: ©Musée du Louvre/ Hervé Lewandowski

Greuze (1725-1805), Young girl playing with a dog, now in the collection of the 5th Earl of Dudley; seen in both the Galerie and the Octagon cabinet. Details of miniature from photo: ©Musée du Louvre/Hervé Lewandowski

Analyzing the iconography of the snuffbox highlights a very interesting point: Louis-Nicolas van Blarenberghe must have worked in the Hôtel Crozat-Choiseul at various different times and over an extended period, thus showing some works more than once and in different settings as they were rehung. This can be seen with, for example, the Young girl playing with a dog, once called ‘L’Epagneul’, painted by Jean-Baptiste Greuze in 1769; it hangs on the left wall of the Galerie and on the right wall of the Octagon cabinet.

Paulus Potter (1625-54), Three cows in a vast meadow, 1652, now in Musée du Louvre; seen in both the Galerie and the Octagon cabinet. Details of miniature from photo:: ©Musée du Louvre/Hervé Lewandowski

Similarly, the Three cows… by Paulus Potter appears twice: the whole work can be seen in the centre of the upper tier of pictures in the Galerie, and the right-hand side of the frame and painting are recognizable at the upper-left corner of the Octagon cabinet.

Philips Wouwerman (1619-68), Manège, 1660-65, in Louis XV(or possibly Transitional) frame, above; now in Deutsche Barockgalerie, Augsburg, and A horse fair, in matching Louis XV/Transitional frame, below; in the collection of the Baring family until sold by Christie’s (no date); hanging in the Galerie and the Octagon Room. Details of miniatures from photo: ©Musée du Louvre/Hervé Lewandowski

The pair of paintings by Philips Wouwerman, Manège and its pendant A horse fair, appear both on the lower tier of the Galerie and in the Octagon cabinet in paired late Louis XV or Transitional frames.

Gerrit Dou (1613-75), Old woman and her physician, c. 1665, o/panel, 60 x 48 cm., in straight-sided ?Louis XV frame, above, now Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg; and A poulterer’s shop, c.1670, o/panel, 58 x 46 cm., in matching straight-sided ?Louis XV frame; now hanging in straight-sided Rococo frame to which it has been fitted with an inlay, in National Gallery, London; hanging in the Galerie and the Octagon Room. Details of miniatures from photo: ©Musée du Louvre/Hervé Lewandowski

Finally, Gerrit Dou’s Old woman and her physician and A poulterer’s shop by Gerrit Dou, are hung next to the paintings by Wouwerman in the Galerie, and also in the Octagon cabinet; they have gently-concave frames (what are now called ‘pastel frames’) with subtle carved corner and centre ornament.

The snuffbox thus testifies to important movements in the Choiseul collection between the Galerie and the Octagon cabinet: that is to say, between the public and private rooms. The question remains as to where the paintings first hung. By keeping them to begin with in his private cabinet, the duc could have enjoyed the new additions to his collection, probably with selected guests, before sharing them with his clients and visitors. Conversely, showing them in public as soon as they were purchased would act as a proclamation of Choiseul’s wealth and influence, after which he could enjoy them in his private rooms while the more public Galerie was updated with even newer acquisitions. Both hypothesis are enticing. This interior life of the Choiseul collection has not been documented at the moment, and further research – perhaps through the correspondence of his intimate friends and like-minded collectors – might help to reveal more about how this particular collection worked. Was such movement of paintings a typical trend among 18th century French collectors? This question must remain unanswered for the time being.

The Choiseul frames

According to Bruno Pons’s 1987 article on 18th century French frames – bordures as they were then known – they became increasingly important as part of the artwork itself [11]. They were analyzed and criticized in the Salons, just as the pictures were, coming to be seen as inseparable from the paintings they protected and highlighted. During the half-century from 1700 to 1750, they became the ‘pierre de touche du goût’, the touchstone of their patrons’ taste, which explains the evolution in their ornaments during the 18th century, from Rococo through the Transitional style to the Neoclassical. Indeed, the ornemanistes and carvers became gradually much closer to the carpenters, in order to produce lavish and ornamental frames both for new commissions, and also for the reframing of Old Masters paintings.

Unfortunately, Basan’s Recueil of engravings of the collection does not give any details of the frames, so it is necessary rely upon the minute details of Van Blarenberghe’s miniatures. On close examination of the snuffbox, it seems that many of the frames must have been ordered by Choiseul, given the number of contemporary NeoClassical patterns in each of the rooms depicted. Some frames, however, are still in the Rococo style, highly ornamental and curvaceous – for example, in the White Room, the Galerie and several of the bigger pictures in the Octagon Room (possibly a few of these may have been in his Parisian residence before he arrived, his uncle-in-law being the famous collector Pierre Crozat).

Paulus Potter (1625-54), Three cows in a vast meadow, 1652, o/c, 84 x 121cm., hanging in the Galerie in a Transitional frame similar to one with the stamp of the framemaker Pierre-François Milet in the collection of Arnold Wiggins & Sons; the Potter is now in the Musée du Louvre (inv. 1732) in a NeoClassical fluted scotia frame: presumably given to it in 1784, when it was acquired for Louis XVI

Gabriel Metsu (1629-67), Gentleman and a woman washing her hands, c. 1663-66, in the Octagon cabinet in a Rococo frame, and now in the Rothschild Collection, Waddesdon, NT, in a Louis XIV ogee frame with fanned lambrequin corners & centres

Some of the Rococo patterns are moveable collector’s frames on Netherlandish Old Masters, such as Ter Borch’s A glass of lemonade (reframed by the Walters Art Museum which owns it),  and Metsu’s Gentleman and a woman washing her hands (now at Waddesdon in a Louis XIV ogee frame).

Jean Raoux (1677-1734), Sacrifice to Priapus, 1720, o/c, 91.5 x 74 cm., in the Chambre Bleue of the Hôtel Crozat-Choiseul, in an ornate curly Rococo frame, and now in Musée Fabre, Montpellier, in a Louis XIV ogee frame fitted to it with an inlay

Others are reframings of earlier 18th century French works, like the flamboyant Rococo frame on Raoux’s 1720 Régence Sacrifice to Priapus (now in a slightly too early Louis XIV frame in the Musée Fabre).

Rococo overdoor in the White Room of the Hôtel Crozat-Choiseul

Rococo overdoor: Lacroix de Marseille, Marine (location unknown), in Choiseul’s office in the Versailles Apartment

Others again are framing elements of the interior boiseries, such as those on pictures in the Versailles apartment and in the White Room, which would probably have been part of an earlier decorative programme as ‘dessus-de-portes’ or overdoors.

Netherlandish genre painting in the lower tier ( Versailles apartment) hanging in what is probably a Transitional frame, similar to, but plainer than, the 1765-75 frame on the right (collection Paul Mitchell)

The Rococo style had become quite old-fashioned by the middle of the 18th century, and thus Choiseul chose to reframe many of the paintings he bought: a few of these new frames appear to be in the Transitional style, which bridges the gap between Rococo or Louis XV frames and the fully NeoClassical. They have moved firmly away from asymmetry, and begin to replace the organic motifs of the Rococo with classicizing architectural mouldings and ornaments. The pair of Wouwermans (above), Manège and A horse fair, may also be in the version of the Transitional style which still retains a scrolling contour.

? Piat-Joseph Sauvage (1744-1818), trompe l’oeil grisaille, Putti playing with a goat, location now unknown; hanging in the Chambre Bleue of the Hôtel Crozat-Choiseul in an early NeoClassical architrave frame in the goût grec, with outset cassettes at the corners and festoons in the style known as ‘cordes à puit’; the frame may have been chosen to emphasize the classicizing faux marbre of the technique

Greuze (1725-1805), Le baiser envoyé (collection of Edmond de Rothschild, 1963; location otherwise unknown)

Greuze (1725-1805), Offrande à l’Amour, now in Wallace Collection, in NeoClassical revival fluted scotia frame with inlay for glazed door; both hanging in the Chambre Bleue in NeoClassical fronton frames

Most of Choiseul frames, however, are in the avant-garde Louis XVI or NeoClassical style – not only in the Chambre Bleue and the Galerie, but in the Octagon cabinet, one of the first collector’s cabinets in Paris to be built with overhead lighting. These frames have evolved far beyond the scrolling contours and rocaille ornaments of the Rococo; they take strict rectilinear or oval forms, following the shape of the painted canvases, and the flourishes which remain – ribbons, garlands, festoons of flowers, bows and cartouches – have migrated to the crest or fronton and upper sides of the frame.

Louis-Michel van Loo (or workshop; 1707-71), Louis XV, 1762, location unknown, hanging in the Versailles apartment in a royal trophy fronton frame

Drouais (after; 1727-75), Le comte de Provence, Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Angers

As Pons points out, the frames for Royal portraits were the most accomplished, being commissioned by the king and intended to be hung in his palaces, to be given to favourites or to form part of the travelling equipment for ambassadors abroad. The frame on the reduced-scale portrait of Louis XV, depicted hanging in Choiseul’s Versailles apartment, looks similar to that on the portrait of the Comte de Provence, produced by the sculptor and woodcarver, François-Joseph Duret (1729-1816) [12]; this has unfortunately been cut down at some point to enable its installation in the museum.

Francois-Charles Butteux (attrib.; 1732-88), design for a frame, 1777, ink & wash, 22.4 x 37.2 cm., Courtauld Institute of Art, London

Both frames bear a strong stylistic resemblance to a drawing for a NeoClassical fronton frame, attributed to F-C Butteux; it has a giant cartouche (from which festoons and acanthus leaves spring) clasped over the top, and holding the royal arms; this cartouche is surmounted by a crown. All three frames are notable for their linear form (the Angers frame and Butteux design have outset corners), the festoons of flowers or cordes à puit bay leaves held at the corners by trompe l’oeil openings and nails, and the exaggerated frontons with cartouches. The frame on Choiseul’s portrait of the king has crossed palms at the base, and its own fronton seems to comprise the royal arms, an inscribed cartouche clasping the top rail of the frame, and a trophy of some sort, probably military, which rises up behind the coat of arms. This portrait of the king from Choiseul’s collection has not been found. It is probable that, upon his disgrace, the duc was not permitted to take this painting with him, and indeed it does not appear in Basan’s Recueil.

François-Hubert Drouais (1727-75), Madame de Pompadour with a fur muff, o/c, hanging in the Versailles apartment in a NeoClassical oval frame; now in Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orléans in a flamboyant Rococo frame, pierced rocaille corners and centres; Drouais (copy of), Mme de Pompadour, 1760s, o/c, 64.8 x 53.3 cm., Philip Mould

Separated by the door of the Versailles apartment, with its Rococo overdoor, the neighbouring picture to the portrait of Louis XV is an oval portrait of his mistress, Madame de Pompadour, whose influence – along with that of her brother, the marquis de Marigny – was important for the nurture of the NeoClassical style. The frame of this portrait is very plain (mirroring the oval of her face and head), with only the flourish of a clasp or bow at the crest, which trails sprigs of leaves. It seems to have been very close in style to the frame on a copy of Drouais’s portrait which passed through the hands of Philip Mould (lowest image).

The original portrait has lost its own oval frame and has now been changed to a rectilinear format (centre image); it has an earlier frame in high Rococo style, swept, scrolled and pierced, with a plain, gently concave frieze and exaggeratedly large cartouches at the corners and centres which consume much of each side. The cartouches hold rocailles, and are recut in cross-hatched patterns. It is ironic that such a champion of the NeoClassical should have lost her own frame in that style to an elaborate confection which would have seemed old-fashioned in her eyes.

Alexandre Roslin, Portrait de la duchesse de Gramont, 1766, pastel, 55 x 45 cm., 1766, pastel, 55 x 45 cm., hanging in the Versailles apartment in a parcel-gilt and silvered fronton frame with a dove at the crest and festoons; collection Gramont, Bayonne

The duchesse de Gramont was Choiseul’s sister, returning to live with him and his wife when her marriage failed after three months. She may have brought this portrait with her, since the spectacular and unusual frame, with its silvered dove nesting at the crest above a luxuriant bed of flowery festoons, was almost certainly made for her betrothal or marriage, a white dove being the attribute of Aphrodite or Venus.

Joseph Vernet (1714-89), Bathers or Rock arch, now in Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nîmes

Several paintings are also framed in late Louis XV or NeoClassical moulding frames where all four rails are the same, and the decorative additions of festoons, frontons and ornaments at the bottom centre have completely disappeared; for example, the painting which hangs over the arch and close to the ceiling in the Octagon cabinet – Joseph Vernet’s Bathers or Rock Arch, which had what seems to be a very plain Louis XVI scotia frame and is now set in an enriched Louis XV ogee frame with four orders of ornament. The schematic view in the miniature, however, does leave open the possibility that the present frame could be the original.

Hubert Robert, Un Port orné d’architecture, 1760, in a plain NeoClassical frame, now in Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dunkerque; and Capriccio with the Pantheon before the Porto di Ripetta, 1761, in a plain NeoClassical frame, now in the Liechtenstein Princely Collections

Similar frames can be seen in the Versailles apartment, on the two paintings by Hubert Robert.

All these frames – and the furniture – give the admirer of this snuffbox a very distinctive image of an elite interior from the 1760s and 1770s. The most striking part is the mélange des genres. Although it would have been considered ‘unauthentic by any modern purist’, as noted by Watson, this snuffbox bears witness to the evolution in style which the French aristocracy is undergoing in this period. The different kinds of frame, mostly Rococo and NeoClassical, are – as are the double representation of several of Choiseul’s paintings – a testimony to the life of the collection. Most of the paintings must have been reframed either just before they were sold to Choiseul, or shortly after he purchased them.

There is another frame, too, which highlights this evolution in style: the setting of the snuffbox itself, by the goldsmith Louis Roucel. Its polygonal shape recalls the form of the Octagon cabinet, but it also plays a great part in the mise en abyme of the Choiseul collections and residences. The snuffbox is an aedicule: it is composed of a basement, pillars which separate and frame the miniatures, capitals, and an entablature. This antique vocabulary is characteristic of the NeoClassical fashion, and, by using such a form to ‘house’ the miniatures, Roucel also highlights the iconography chosen by Choiseul.

Snuffbox with views of the château de Chanteloup, by Louis-Nicolas van Blarenberghe (miniaturist; 1716-94) and possibly Pierre-François Delafons (goldsmith; fl. 1732-d.1787): gold box, 1748/49, miniatures (watercolour on vellum ), 1767, 7.9 x 5.7 x 4.4 cm., Metropolitan Museum, New York, inv. 1976.155.22

This was not Choiseul’s first attempt at such a project. In 1767, he had commissioned Van Blarenberghe to paint miniatures of the gardens of his château in Chanteloup for another snuffbox, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. Here also the gold setting, ascribed to the goldsmith Pierre-François Delafons, converses with the theme of the miniatures through the engraving of flowers and leaves on the sides and lower edges. If the architectural setting of the snuffbox is strictly linear, with the miniatures held in rectangular frames, the decoration of that setting is much more organic and attributive, with a background of watery undulations underlining the flowery garlands. The difference in style is striking, compared with the Choiseul snuffbox. Only three to four years separate both commissions and yet the difference in taste in the two objects is appreciable. Whilst the Chanteloup snuffbox can be ascribed to the Transitional style, fashionable in the early 1760s, the Choiseul box is deeply rooted in NeoClassicism.

The Grande Galerie in the Palais de Louvre, by Louis-Nicolas van Blarenberghe, c. 1770-1771.Photos: ©Musée du Louvre/ Hervé Lewandowski

It is evident through van Blarenberghe’s depictions that it was not only his collection and his wealth that Choiseul wanted to exhibit, but also his taste and his care in displaying it. This is the representation of a living world: Choiseul is shown in activity in each room, the paintings are regularly moved, and possibly restored, as well as being reframed in line with the changes of fashion adopted by the French aristocracy and high bourgeoisie.

The later provenance of the tabatière Choiseul is one of the mysteries yet to be solved. It does not appear either in the sale of Choiseul’s house and contents in 1772 or in his posthumous inventory in 1785, but, at some unknown date, it entered the collections of the Rothschild family, where it remained until the present moment. It has not been exhibited since the 19th century, but now visitors to the Louvre can admire it. A team under the supervision of curator Michèle Bimbenet-Privat has been asked to research this particular work of art in depth; and in the meantime, it is still possible to help the Museum to acquire this masterpiece by answering the Louvre’s public appeal.


Céline Cachaud is currently working at the Musée du Louvre for the conservation and promotion of the library of the Société nationale des Antiquaires de France. She is also a PhD candidate at the University of Geneva under the supervision of Pr. Frédéric Elsig, researching portrait miniatures in Paris during the 16th century. She is a graduate from both the Ecole du Louvre (2015) and the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (2017). She has published various articles on portrait miniatures and the Parisian artistic environment, particularly in The Burlington Magazine in 2019 (with W. Aslet, L. Burgio, A. Derbyshire and E. Rutherford), the Hebdo du Quotidien de l’Art (June 2021) and recently in the peer-reviewed Brazilian journal Palindromo (n°33, 2022). She also co-directed an edition of the scientific peer-review online journal Etudes Epistémé with Anne-Valérie Dulac (n°36, 2019), and founded and runs the online resources, Hillyarde & Co, and Un Art Anglais ? for the promotion of the study of British art in France.

Bibliography :

Basan 1771: Pierre-François Basan, Recueil d’estampes d’après les tableaux du cabinet de Monseigneur le duc de Choiseul, 1771 [online], viewed 4 January 2023

Bimbenet-Privat 2023: Michèle Bimbenet-Privat,  ‘La tabatière du duc de Choiseul va rentrer au Louvre’, L’Objet d’Art, January 2023, pp. 34-39

Pons 1987 : Bruno Pons,  ‘Les cadres français du XVIIIe siècle et leurs ornements’, Revue de l’art, 1987, n° 76, pp. 41-50 (translated as ‘18th century French frames and their ornamentation’)

Watson 1963: Frank J.B. Watson, The Choiseul Box, Charlton Lectures on Art delivered at King’s College, University of Durham, OUP, 1963

For further information on Louis-Nicolas van Blarenberghe :

Nathalie Lemoine-Bouchard, Les peintres en miniature actifs en France 1650-1850, Paris, Editions de l’Armateur, 2008, pp. 505-09

Monique Maillet-Chassagne, Une dynastie de peintres lillois : les Van Blarenberghe, Paris, Bernard Giovanangeli (ed.), 2001

Many thanks to Lynn Roberts for her help with the identification of some of Choiseul’s pictures and for the photographs of the artworks with their current frames.


[1] For more information on the general iconography, please see Bimbenet-Privat, 2023

[2] The frontispiece is laden with frames

[3] Basan, 1771

[4] Now demolished, it was on rue Richelieu. It is now referred to as the Hôtel Crozat-Choiseul in order to differentiate it from the other Hôtel Crozat, also called Hôtel Schickler, built for Pierre Crozat’s brother Antoine, also a banker, on Place Vendôme. Both date from the early 18th century. See also Edouard Fournier & Théophile Gautier, Paris démoli, 1855, p. 291 ff

[5] Quoted in Levallet, ‘Notes inédites sur la collection de Choiseul’, Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire de l’Art Français,1925, p. 201, and Watson, 1963, p. 6, note 1 (see bibliography)

[6] Available on the digital library of the Institut national d’histoire de l’art, consulted on January 19th 2023

[7] Watson 1963. The painting is now in the Wallace Collection (P441), but in 1963, the sculpture was in the collection of the baron Maurice de Rothschild in the château de Pregny

[11] Pons 1987, p. 43.

[12] Pons 1987, p. 49 and fig. 24.