Portrait of an 18th century small dog believed to be Marie Antoinette’s toy poodle Pompom. sold at auction on Friday for $279,400., 56 times the presale estimate of $5,000. This was completely unexpected, since there are several versions of this portrait, and none of them has generated such a storm of interest that fuels a bidding war at auction. Fifteen people traded with each other for this item, inexplicably pushing the price into the stratosphere.
The artist was Jacques Barthelemy Delamare, who worked in Paris from the last quarter of the 18th century to the early 19th century. Very little is known about him. The only biographical information with a paper trail about him is that he was admitted to the Académie Saint-Luc, the Parisian guild of painters and sculptors, in 1777.
He made several versions of this dog portrait. There are differences in grooming style, backgrounds and accessories in the room. One seat on a red velvet bed sold for 11,875 euros, 10 times the lowest estimate. at Sotheby’s in 2020. The same version was sold just above the estimate. in Paris in 2021.
There is no evidence that Marie Antoinette commissioned the relatively unknown Delamarre to paint her dog. There is no evidence that the portrait was made during the lifetime of either the dog or the tragic queen. Even the breed of the dog is not defined. He was called differently: levhen, king charles cavalier spaniel and bichon frise/maltese.
If this is a portrait of one of Marie Antoinette’s many dogs, then it was probably painted after her death as a souvenir for people with nostalgic feelings for headless monarchs. This could explain why he created multiple versions of the puppy.
Thus, the hype surrounding a painting that has just been sold cannot be explained by the quality or background of the painting itself. My theory is that the dog looks so much like the meme with his fur on top and shaved on the bottom that the bidders went a little crazy.