Arts & Culture: Age old mystery finally solved
Negresco painting mystery solved
Local newspaper Nice Matin has reported that the painting initially caught the interest of Espessat, a gynocologist and art connaiseur from Nice, when he saw it after a conference at the Negresco.
At first glance, he says, one might assume the man in the portrait is an aristrocat - the only people who could afford to have a portrait painted at the time. However, on further inspection, Espessat uncovered that there are some medicinal tools depicted in the portrait, indicating the man was a surgeon. But this sparked more questions than it answered. Who was this mysterious figure? Who painted the portrait? And how could a surgeon afford such a luxury?
Espessat's quest began by trying to research a name scribbled on the painting, a certain "Lascour Père". However, even after visiting The Louvre Museum and the National Library in Paris, the gynocologist could find no such person. It was only after further inspection of the painting that he discovered a small inscription of the name, "Descours Père" otherwise known as Michel Hubert-Descours, a prominent portraitist at the time. After further research, the art enthusiast uncovered the mystery: the man in question was surgeon André Levret, who specialised in pre-natal care. He worked for the step-daughter of Louis XV, Dauphine Marie-Josèphe de Saxe - the mother of the infamous French King Louis XVI - during her many pregnancies. It was this work that gave him the standing to commission a portrait.
After years of dedication and patience, Espessat says he was relieved to have finally solved the mystery of the portrait, but it was his passion for art that drove him to work so tirlessly.
It comes as a major coup for the art community and those invested in the portrait, as well as those studying that period of time in French history when the painting was created.
The discovery goes to show that with hard work and a keen eye, anyone can solve the mysteries of history, including a doctor from Nice.