Portrait of Catherine-Marie Legendre

LL 3155


This disturbing portrait is designed to impress by showing the sitter's wealth and position in society. The young boy is an enslaved African person, who would have been brought from a plantation to work as an unpaid house servant. He is wearing a decorative metal slave collar around his neck. We do not know his name, but we know the sitter is Catherine-Marie Legendre (or Le Gendre, died 1749). She was the wife of a French nobleman, Claude Pecoil (1629 - 1722), Marquise de Septeme. Catherine-Marie's hand rests on the enslaved servant's head to signify her ownership. In paintings, Black people were often used to highlight the paleness of the sitter's skin, which was considered a sign of beauty. The boy is offering a bowl of rare, exotic fruit to Catherine-Marie to emphasise her life of wealth and abundance.