PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN IN A BLUE COAT (c. 1745)
Pastels on paper laid to canvas
61 x 52 cm
Neil Jeffares, 'Glain, Leon-Pascal', J.351.189,
Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800, London, 2006; online edition
The present work can be compared in particular, on the basis of the 'hand-in-waistcoat' posture and subject's almost identical apparel, to the artist's portrait of Noël-Thomas Duguey (1748), last offered at auction in 2001 (Nice, Hotel des Vente Nice Riviera, 28.11.2009, Lot 1).
Glain was born into a large merchant family in Bayonne, a medieval town to the East of Biarritz. We first read of Glain when he won the second prize at the École de l'Académie Royale in 1744 (he took first prize the following year). He was recu at the Académie de Saint-Luc in 1761 and had become Adjoint à Professeur (Assistant Professor) by 1774, by which time he was described as 'Ancien' (loosely translated as 'Emeritus' here).
Glain travelled for several years in the latter part of the 1760's: several autograph works in Dutch collections dated to 1767-1768 suggest a stay in the Netherlands during these years; and by 1769 he had set up a business as a portraitist in pastels in Naples, depicting English Grand Tourists during their stay there. Sir William Hamilton, Ambassador to the Court of Naples and the nexus for all British cultural activity in that city, recommended Viscount Grimston and his wife to the artist saying, "He really has merits in chalks and crayons very like and in good taste for a trifle" . The resulting portrait of Viscountees Grimston is particularly fine.
It is possible that Glain had moved on to Florence by 1771, as he became a member of the Accademia di Belle Arte di Firenze in that year (with the title of Professore Aggiunto all'Accademie di Parigi). After some time in Florence, Glain returned to Paris, where he exhibited until 1774.
Glain's sitters' faces are characteristically smiling, and quite similar to those of Jacques-Charles Allais and Pierre Bernard, two other Paris-based pastellists. Glain's eyes are particularly distinctive in their brightness, especially when blue, as in the present work. Jeffares suggests that Glain might have worked for a time in Louis Vigée's studio with Allais. The known corpus of Glain's works varies in quality, sometimes quite dramatically, though the best of his works can be very strong. The art historian and archivist Paul Ratouis de Limay wrote that he had earned "une place très honourable parmi les pastellistes de second plan".
We are indebted to Neil Jeffares for his work in establishing an extensive biography of Glain, and for his attribution.
 Jeffares, op. cit.