Abstract

Louis Carrogis called Carmontelle was a French amateur draftsman whose association with the royal Orléans court in the final decades of the ancien régime afforded him direct access to Enlightenment luminaries, celebrities, and elites. Carmontelle created a well-known triple-portrait drawing of Leopold, Maria Anna, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart during the family’s 1763–64 stay in France. Four museums—two in France and two in the United Kingdom—claim to count autograph versions of this triple portrait (in other words, in Carmontelle’s own hand) among their collections. Close examination of these triple portraits—in the collections of the Musée Carnavalet in Paris, the Musée Condé in Chantilly, the British Museum in London, and Castle Howard in Yorkshire—reveals, however, that three of these four works are not autograph drawings by Carmontelle. In fact, one of these three sheets is not a drawing at all. This essay examines the origins of these misattributions and some of the reasons for their perpetuation. More broadly, it cautions against accepting prestigious provenances at face value and demonstrates the value of close, prolonged looking and careful comparative analysis.

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