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Pompon or Poodle Pawford?

4 October 2023

Happy World Animal Day! This four-legged friend on canvas, painted by Jacques-Barthélémy Delamarre was recently photographed at Agnes as we continue to pack our collections. Looks familiar? That may be because the same little dog made headlines earlier this year when another version of this portrait skyrocketed at auction, selling for almost 100 times its estimate at almost $280,000 USD. The incredible price was likely the result of the supposed identity of this immortalized fur baby, sold at Sotheby’s as a possible portrait of “Pompon,” beloved dog of Marie Antoinette (1755–1793), the notorious Queen Consort of France. Has Agnes’s vault been home to a canine celebrity all this time without our knowing? Could this be the long-lost fluffy “before” to the much-discussed shaved “after” seen in the version at auction?

Jacques-Barthélémy Delamarre (active, Paris, 1777) Portrait of a Dog, unknown date, oil on canvas, 32.5 x 41.0 cm. Gift of Arthur Keppel-Jones 1993 (36-055). Photo: Bernard Clark

Jacques-Barthélémy Delamarre (active, Paris, 1777) Portrait of a small poodle, said to be “Pompon,” a beloved dog of Marie Antoinette, unknown date, oil on canvas. Property from a Connecticut Collection, Sold Without Reserve at Sotheby’s, 2023

While that may sound like an exciting Pompossibility, some caution should be exercised before jumping to any Pomponclusions. Various versions of the miniature pooch have been sold over the years, sometimes with, but more often without the Pompon name, and there does not seem to be a really solid base for this identification. When the work arrived at Agnes in 1994, as a gift from renowned Queen’s History Professor Arthur Mervyn Keppel-Jones (1909–1996), it was recorded as Portrait of General Crawford’s Dog. A note attached to its back stated the pooch depicted was gifted to the general, presumably William Harris Crawford (1772–1834, American minister to France) by none other than Empress Joséphine Bonaparte (1763–1816). As a former curator wrote in our file, however, this claim was “most likely a fabrication aimed at raising the painting’s sale price” during a previous sale. In any case, whether this pup is Pompon, poodle Pawford, or a nameless pet—we are a fan! Though perhaps it needs a little bit of TLC so we can show it in its full glory when we reopen. What do you think?

Image Credits

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