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The Cover
November 18, 2009

The Comtesse d’Egmont Pignatelli in Spanish Costume

JAMA. 2009;302(19):2066. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1551

Sophie Jeanne Septimanie du Plessis probably never lifted a finger to dress herself, much less to dust a piece of furniture or to sweep a floor. As the daughter of the Duc de Richelieu—one of the most powerful men at the French royal court—Septimanie's job was to entertain suitors, charm socially influential women, be pretty and decorative, and uphold the honor of her family by marrying advantageously. All accounts of Septimanie's life agree that she performed her duties well: her portrait The Comtesse d’Egmont Pignatelli in Spanish Costume (cover) by Alexander Roslin (1718-1793), executed at the height of her social prowess, still glows with her lustrous beauty. La Comtesse acquired her title when she married the Comte d’Egmont, Prince Pignatelli, an older widower with one young daughter. The Comte sprang from Spanish and Dutch aristocracy, but his roots were actually in Naples, the Spanish-held city-state. His wealth and position meant that Septimanie retained material comforts and an enviable place at the court of Louis XV. The Comtesse became one of the prized salonnières; invitations to her salons were coveted among her social circle, which included intellectuals such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau. One of her closest friends was King Gustav III of Sweden; they became acquainted when he studied in Paris. Her letters to the king, preserved in the archives at the University of Uppsala, reveal a deep, respectful relationship and Septimanie's candid opinions, even about the French king. The link in their friendship was Le Suèdois (the Swede), Alexander Roslin.

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