Catalog Archive
Auction 181, Lot 713

"Madame Law", Anon.

Subject: Portrait, Mississippi Bubble

Period: 1720 (circa)

Publication: Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid…

Color: Black & White

6.9 x 10.8 inches
17.5 x 27.4 cm

This is a fine portrait of Madame Law, wife of the infamous Scottish financier John Law. Madame Law is finely dressed, wearing a tricorne hat and standing in front of the Doge's Palace in Venice with several jesters in St Mark's Square. Below the portrait is a Dutch verse with Madame Law complaining of her husband's loss of fortune. The oval portrait is surrounded by an elaborate border of scrolls, feathers, and flowers printed from a separate plate.

Exiled to Europe because of a duel, John Law managed to become a financial adviser to the Duke of Orleans. Law proposed the establishment of a state-chartered bank with the power to issue unbacked paper currency, the Banque Generale, which was established in 1716. He was then granted control of Louisiana and founded the Compagnie de la Louisiane d'Occident, in 1717. Law developed an elaborate plan to exploit the fabulous resources of the region, which quickly gained popularity and people rushed to invest, not just in France, but throughout Europe. This resulted in the development of several other overseas companies, such as the English South Sea Company and a number of smaller companies in the Dutch Republic. The share prices rose dramatically in a frenzy of speculation. In 1720 the bubble burst; speculators cashed in, caused a run on the shares, and the company went bankrupt. As a consequence of the failure, confidence in other similar companies failed, and thousands of individual investors across Europe were ruined. The financial meltdown became known as the Mississippi Bubble incident.


Condition: B+

A nice impression on a bright sheet with very minor soiling and trimmed margins.

Estimate: $75 - $95

Sold for: $30

Closed on 2/10/2021