An artist of the ancien régime

Anne Vallayer-Coster, The Attributes of Hunting and Gardening, 1774. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Basildon Park, Berkshire. ©National Trust Images

It has just been officially announced that Basildon Park was recently allocated a group of objects accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax. The Acceptance in Lieu scheme enables the Government to receive pre-eminent heritage objects in lieu of tax and to hand them on to museum bodies.

Anne Vallayer-Coster, A Vase of Flowers, 1775. © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation. Bequeathed by Henry Rogers Broughton, 2nd Lord Fairhaven, 1973

Large numbers of works of art and other objects which had been on loan have been transferred to the National Trust’s ownership in this way over the years. The market value of ‘in lieu’ allocations to the National Trust during the last dozen years alone approaches £30 million. Apart from their very real financial value, these objects also play a crucial role in maintaining the spirit of place of the historic houses with which they are associated, and as such they can now be enjoyed by the public in perpetuity.

The allocation to Basildon includes a painting by French artist Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744-1818) which has been described as an outstanding example of her work. Vallayer-Coster was a prodigy who was elected as a member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture at the age of twenty-six, one of only three women to receive that honour in pre-Revolutionary France.

Anne Vallayer-Coster, Portrait of an Elderly Woman with Her Daughter, 1775. © The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

In some ways Vallayer-Coster was constrained by the conventions of her time, avoiding the ‘male’ genre of history painting and focusing mainly on still-lives, depictions of flowers and portraiture. Nevertheless she was professionally very successful, being widely collected in French aristocratic and royal circles.

It is interesting that the few works by her in British public collections seem to have been originally acquired in the late 19th and early-to-mid-20th century, perhaps indicating the renewal of interest in ancien régime art at that time. This interest was recently deepened through the major exhibition devoted to Vallayer-Coster which toured several American museums in 2002.

3 Responses to “An artist of the ancien régime”

  1. style court Says:

    It’s exciting to see a pre-revolutionary woman represented. In the States, at least, I don’t think Anne Vallayer-Coster is as known in the mainstream as say Vigée Le Brun. Glad you included the link to the NGA too!

  2. Hels Says:

    I am not surprised Vallayer-Coster stuck to the more gender acceptable genres of portraits and still lifes. Not only was she very talented at still lifes and portraits as you have shown, but she avoided the entire nonsense of male chaperones to go out and do cityscapes or landscapes.

    Go Anne!

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Courtney, Helen, thanks.

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