Thursday, 14 September 2017

Robespierre by Ducreux

Portrait by Joseph Ducreux, Private Collection, Oil on canvas 48.3cm x 36.2cm

Here is another portrait of Robespierre which has lately appeared on the internet!  This picture, by Joseph Ducreux, went under the hammer at Sotheby's New York in January 2003 for $45,000 - 80% more than the estimate.   Despite Ducreux's close association with the Royal family, he returned to Paris from London in late 1791 and, under the protection of David, exhibited a number of portraits of prominent Revolutionary figures.  The Dictionary of Pastellists lists three Robespierres.  The earliest documentation for this one is in the collection of the banker and diplomat Paul Flury Hérard (1836-1913).  It was previously sold by Drouot in 1919.

Is this really Robespierre? The pinched mouth and receding chin seem unfamiliar; certainly there is no echo of the firm jawline of the lifemask.  Unsettling too is the haunted look. If it is a true image of Robespierre, it is a prematurely aged Robespierre in his final, increasingly paranoid phase;  I for one find it deeply disturbing.  


Sotheby's New York, Important Old Master Paintings 23rd January 2003, Lot 101

Entry for Ducreux in the Dictionary of Pastellists


  1. Nope, this is another Ducreux self-portrait.

    1. Hum - could well be....Glad I didn't pay $45000 for it!