Jean-Gabriel Domergue

Elégante venitienne à la cigarette, la Princesse Ruspoli


With label of the art supplies merchant Lefranc et Cie, Paris affixed to the reverse of the stretcher. With a photo expertise by Noé Willer, Paris, dated 8.7.2013. This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of works by the artist and is registered in Noé Willer’s archive under the number I 3849-1307-6-12-NW. Provenance:private collection, France;Sotheby‘s, London 20.6.2013, lot 467; private collection, Hessen.


• Coquettish portrait of Princess Ruspoli
• The work reflects Domergue’s passion for portraiture
• The artist later found a wealthy market for his portraits of women in Cannes Jean-Gabriel Domergue, who enjoyed drawing already as a child, went to school in Bordeaux and Paris before studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris.
In 1911 he was awarded the Prix de Rome and in his early years was influenced by the painter Giovanni Boldini, a sought-after portrait painter of his time. Domergue’s passion was portraiture, to which he dedicated himself especially in the 1920s. He claimed to be the “inventor of the pin-up”, and in this image the viewer can easily see why. Domergue was a painter of society ladies. The self-confident woman depicted here is the Princess Francesca Ruspoli (1920-1962), who was also portrayed by other artists such as Leonor Fini (Peggy Guggeheim Collection). In a dark, lush robe with a hat, veil and cigarette in her right hand, the princess sits turned towards the viewer with her upper body partially exposed. Domergue, who worked as a poster artist, also designed fashion for Paul Poiret, among others. In 1938 he designed a poster for Rigaud’s Parfum Féerie. From 1936 to 1938 he was a member of the jury for the Miss France pageant. One quickly recognises what his heart beat for throughout his life. His paintings of fine ladies were famed then – as now – primarily for their coquetry. He lived part of the time in Cannes together with his wife, the sculptor Odette Maugendre-Villers (1884-1973), and their villa can still be visited today. Many celebrities also frequented the town, including Gina Lollobrigida and Brigitte Bardot.

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