Saturday 29 July 2017

Robespierre portraits - Some additions


Watercolour by Moreau le Jeune, musée Lambinet

A striking image, and one which is familiar from the internet, but there seems to be no available documentation.  The illustrator and engraver Jean-Michel Moreau (1741-1814) was sympathetic to the Revolution.  He produced a famous engraving of the opening of the States-General in 1789 and a portrait of Charlotte Corday, also in the musée Lambinet.  This is surely the archetypal "cat-like look" Robespierre.

Pastel attributed to Boze, Versailles, Musée national du château et des Trianons

45cm x 36,5 cm.  Sanguine, chalk and pastel on paper
The notice says only that the picture was the gift of M. de Knyff, in December 1952: date about 1794, "attributed to Boze"; but can all these disparate pictures really be by Boze?  I suppose the experts could tell if the picture were a fake, but it looks really modern to me!  M. de Knyff is probably the art historian Gilbert de Knyff.

Anonymous drawing of Robespierre from the Bibliothèque Nationale

Reproduced in David Jordan, Revolutionary career, plate VI. "A contemporary sketch of Robespierre at the tribune of the Convention.  The formality of his dress, including a wig, is apparent. The small, circumscribed gesture captured by the anonymous artist agress with the verbal descriptions of Robespierre's manner at the tribune.  His an authentic detail, since he always spoke from a text."

I can't find the drawing on Gallica.  

I am just slightly worried by how close the pose is to this 19th -century engraving after Eugène Joseph Viollat (d.1901).

Portrait by the miniaturist Michel Thoüesny (1754-1815) 

Thoüesny painted Robespierre's portrait in 1791 whilst he lodged in the rue Saintonge. The painting has never been identified with certainty but of  interest is the revelation that Robespierre posed for itIn 1796 a certain citoyenne Naudet was interrogated and admitted to having known Robespierre: she testified "that her first husband, called Thoüesny, was a painter of miniatures and had painted Robespierre's portrait at the house of the commander of the batallion Enfans Rouge, in the rue de St.Onge (sic); that the citizen Robespierre had posed several times so that he could be painted from nature; that she believed that her husband had dined several times with the citizen Robespierre; that her husband had charged her with transporting the portrait to the rue Saint-Honoré to a carpenter's house where Robespierre then lived."

See: Michel Eude, "Robespierre et le miniaturiste Thoüesny" Annales historiques de la Révolution française (1955) 27/140 (1955), p.193-201 [on JStor] 

Drawing by Vivant Denon, sold by Christie's, Paris on 23 June 2009

Vivant Denon, claimed spuriously that this Robespierre was "by David".   It seems unlikely that picture is drawn from life; but it is still worthy of note, since Vivant Denon had known Robespierre personally and was well acquainted with contemporary portraits.


These  images are in Buffenoir, but not catalogued by Thompson as they are derivative. 

Lithograph by Delpech

Buffenoir, vol.2(2), p. 55-6; Jordan, plate VIII, see p.254.  
Original lithograph by François Séraphin Delpech, one of a series of Revolutionary and Empire portraits produced in the 1820s. The print is best known in the version produced by Henri Grevedon.  Charlotte Robespierre thought it "one of the most lifelike" images of her brother.  It was probably the lithograph portrait mentioned in her death inventory in 1834.

Medallion modelled by Jacques-Auguste Collet in September 1791

Éléonore Duplay mentioned as a precious momento a plaster medallion modelled by Collet who was a designer for the Sèvres factory. Quite probably it once hung on the wall in the Duplay's salon. 

The medal was subject of a 19th-century print by Léopold Flameng.

Checklist of Robespierre portraits, set 3

31.  Anonymous pastel, in Buffenoir's collection, reproduced by him (2)

(Head and shoulders,  side-face right, queue, high stock, coat with dark collar, patterned waistcoat open at the throat.)
I can't find this one - Thompson's reference is to the drawing (No.11) which the label says is "in the manner of a pastel".

Friday 28 July 2017

Checklist of Robespierre portraits, set 2

17. Painting (?) by David,1792 (?), in dress and theatrical pose of a deputy; said to have been done, like No. 16, for the Duplays.

 I am not sure what Thompson's documentation is for the existence of this portrait, nor how it relates to the lithograph (No.32).  He writes says  that the picture, now lost, may perhaps be identified with one recorded in the journal of Alfred de Vigny as in the possession of the Prince de Ligne:
See: Annales révolutionnaires, vol.10(5), p.696: "Portrait of Robespierre by David" - described as the head of Robespierre in pastel, showing his dark, almond-shaped eyes, melancholy smile and regular teeth.

Thursday 27 July 2017

Checklist of Robespierre portraits, set 1

The following is  a transcription of the list of contemporary or near contemporary portraits given in the Appendix to J.M. Thompson's 1934 biography of Robespierre.  Thompson relies mainly on Buffenoir's classic work Portraits de Robespierre (1908/9) with a few additions and comments.  The list is broadly chronological.

It is frustrating to note just how few of these pictures have a reliable provenance.  Not many are in public collections -  a good few, indeed, seem to be known only from Buffenoir's plates.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

A lock of Robespierre's hair

This lock of Robespierre's hair, which once belonged to his sister Charlotte,was acquired by the Carnavalet in 1887.  It was formerly displayed alongside the portrait attributed to Boilly, now often identified as Augustin Robespierre.  In the photograph at least, it appears almost white. This seems a little odd, as Robespierre's hair was almost invariably described as light brown - the result of hair powder? bleaching over time? - who knows.


Article from the LONDON TELEGRAPH
A lock of Robespierre's hair has just come into the hands of the keepers of the Musee Carnavalet here, and will in future be exhibited in that place by the side of the portrait of the Terrorist painted in 1783 by Boilly.  Robespierre in that picture is represented as a young man with finely-chiseled features, blue eyes, carnation lips, and light chestnut hair, and looking totally unlike the "sea-green and aceto-virulent" person suggested by Carlyle's pen-portrait.  The lock of hair is of the same colour as that in Boilly's picture.  It was inclused in a locket or medallion, on which were engraved the word "egalite", the date of the "9th Termidor" and the martyr's palms.  The souvenir belonged to Robespierre's sister Charlotte, who, on the death of the Terrorist, was sheltered by one of his adherents, the Citizen Mathon.  Charlotte Robespierre in May  1834 died in a garret in the Rue de la Fontaine, and left the relic to Mathon's daughter, from whom it passed into the possession of a '48 man named Gabiot, whose son has handed it over to the Carnavalet.

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Arras, Robespierre and modern memory

A new Robespierre museum is promised in Arras.  Some might say, "At last".  To the outsider, unaware of the fraught legacy, it comes as a real surprise to learn that Arras does not already have a Robespierre museum.  The ARBR, set up in 1987,  has campaigned for 30 years.  In December 2016 the Mayor of Arras and his Council  finally agreed that the Arras Office of Tourism should take direct control of the Maison Robespierre and a committee of experts was set up to steer the museum project.....

Is this the end of a fraught conflict?

The SER and the plaque on the Maison Robespierre

"Arras has never felt comfortable with its most illustrious native son" (Kaplan, p.450). This is something of an understatement.   Rejected throughout the nineteenth century as a bloodthirsty monster, in the nineteenth century Robespierre was held responsible for local as well as national depradations.  Plans to erect a statue to his memory in Arras, formulated in 1848 and reiterated by Louis Blanc in 1870s, fell on deaf ears.

In the early years of 20th century Albert Mathiez and Charles Vellay founded the Société des Études Robespierristes, with the objective of rendering Robespierre "the justice that is due him", mainly through critical editions of his work and scholarly studies.  In October 1723, after sixteen years of lobbying,  the SER succeeded in having a plaque erected on the Maison Robespierre.  The ceremony was presided over by by Mathiez and the Left-wing mayor of Arras. Gustave Lemelle.  The favourable press reported that five hundred persons attended;  according to opponents,  there were fifty "drinkers of blood", "mostly foreigners".

For  a commemorative statue...

 Mathiez's further plan to erect a statue continued to meet with stiff opposition.  In 1925, just as he was on the brink of success, the plaque on the Maison Robespierre was vandalised and had to be removed removed. (It was later replaced but so high up that no-one could read it.).  Finally in 1932 the municipal council, which was controlled by the Radical Socialists, agreed to a monument to be furnished by the SER and annonced a solemn ceremony of dedication to be held on 15th October 1933.  The road in which the Maison stood was also renamed rue Maximilien Robespierre. Local politicians tried  to play down political significance of the move, casting Robespierre as a distinguished local lawyer, academician and member of the Rosati.

A bitter quarrel ensued. A committee of opposition was formed and the head of the order of lawyers and the president of the Academy both refused to participate in the dedication ceremony.  When members of the Rosati agreed to co-operated, their president, Émile Poiteau, resigned. The Arras newspaper Le Courrier published lists of local victims of the Terror - 1,675 names in all - and there were demandsfor the ceremony to be banned in deference to the dead.  Poiteau's call for a boycott was seconded by the bishop of Arras.

Clodel's Robespierre in the Hôtel de Ville -
sternly ignoring the flowery wallpaper

Sunday 23 July 2017

Robespierre's Arras cont.

It is hard to find many traces of Robespierre in Arras. The Association des Amis de Robespierre pour le Bicentenaire de la Révolution [ARBR] has produced a bilingual walking guide with various sites itemised which I have followed it diligently on Google maps but, apart from the imposing central squares, it is mostly a tour of shopping streets, road works and wheelie bins.  Nor is there much official recognition of the town's most famous son - a 19th-century statue stands in the the Hôtel de Ville but there are no municipal plaques and, to the surprise of many visitors, no real Robespierre museum.

Here, such as they are, are the highlights:

Saturday 22 July 2017

Robespierre's Arras

The Arras which Robespierre knew in the 1780s was a bustling provincial capital. Following annexation to the French crown in 1652 the Artois had flourished, with a thriving textile trade and one of the biggest grain markets in the country. In the years after 1730 the clergy and nobility of Arras, with their vast rural estates, benefitted from a boom in grain production and an accompanying rise in land prices. The town was still on a relatively small scale, with population of just over 20,000 and, within the confines of its medieval ramparts, could be traversed in fifteen minutes.  Nonetheless, it was already divided into distinct districts: well-to-do central parishes; the crowded streets of the poor along the River Scarpe and its tributary the Crinchon, the military "citadelle" and the "town" which housed a plethora of lawcourts and administrative buildings.

Thursday 13 July 2017

Who invented the tricolour cockade?

Greetings on Bastille Day!

To celebrate, here is one of the most enduring symbols of the Revolution, the tricolour cockade.

The following is taken from the website of the historian and illustrator, Bernard Coppens.

There are two popular theories for the origins of the cockade. The first dates it to Louis XVI's reception in the capital on 17th July 1789 three days after the fall of the Bastille. The King was presented by Mayor Bailly with a cockade in the red and blue of Paris, and fixed it onto his existing white one thereby creating the tricolour cockade.  In the second version the invention is credited to Lafayette who proposed the adoption of the tricolour as the official symbol of the Revolution to the Hôtel de Ville,  on 16th July or shortly after, in the context of  the creation of a uniformed National Guard.

Reception of Louis XVI by Bailly , Painting  of 1891 by Jean-Paul Laurens in the Hôtel de Ville, Paris. 
Bernard Coppens show that neither explanation is wholly satisfactory.  Red-white-and-blue cockades are clearly documented in accounts of the popular movement before the 17th July.  For instance, the journals of two deputies of the Third Estate, Adrien Duquesnoy and J.-A. Creuzé-Latouche,  both mention its existence on the 15th.  The design of the cockade presented to the King on the 17th is also uncertain.  According to Lafayette's Memoirs it was the plain red and blue of the citizen militia, but the Gazette de Leyde  quotes a letter written on the evening of the 17th which states clearly that  Bailly presented the King with "la cocarde royale et bourgeoise",  which was "blue, white and rose" in colour.  See also Histoire parlementaire de la révolution française, Volume 1, p.415, where it is stated that  the King accepted " a cockade like the one which the citizens had adopted". (At this time the personal colours of the King were already red, white and blue, hence perhaps his willingness to accept a tricolour cockade.)

What is the truth of the matter?

In reality though the idea of cockades spread rapidly, there was at first a great deal of confusion and variation in colours between the different districts.  However, the sources agree that there were three main designs adopted   -  a green cockade, a plain blue and red one and finally the tricolour, which combined the colours of Paris with the white of France.
As Bernard Coppens emphasises, the three did not follow in simple succession.  The green cockade was adopted spontaneously on 12th July by supporters of the Third Estate on the initiative of Desmoulin, who was said to have grabbed a leaf from a tree and placed it in his hat. (On 13th July a noble deputy from Marseille noted that it was necessary to have a green rosette in one's hat to remain untroubled by the new Revolutionary authorities.)

The blue and red cockade, on the other hand, was officially decreed by the electors of the Hôtel de Ville in an arrêté of 13 July, as the official  insignia of the citizen militia, which at this time had no other uniform.  Its use by unauthorised persons was strictly forbidden:
Since it is necessary for the Parisian militia to be distinctive, the General Assembly has adopted the colours of the town; as a result each member will wear a blue and red cockade.  Any man found with the cockade who has not been registered in one of the districts will be referred to the justice of the permanent committee.

At a certain point  green, which was the personal colour of the comte d'Artois, was abandoned for the popular cockade and red-white-and-blue adopted in its stead.

When and why did this happen?

Bernard Coppens has assembled various pieces of  evidence, which establish that the use of the tricolour cockade for ordinary citizens was ordered by Hôtel de Ville late on the 13th July and was the subject of a formal arrêté, probably issued on the 14th or 15th (the text of which is no longer extant):
  •  A letter written by a merchant called Failly, dated  23 July 1789, observes that on 13th July the authorities were arresting anyone found armed on the streets and imprisoning them if  they failed to name their district.  Cockades were given out as passports; at first these were green but by evening, after it was realised that green was the colour of Artois's livery, they were "rose, blue and white".
  • The bookseller Hardy wrote in his Journal on the 14th that, "They are beginning to change the colour of the cockades, substituting the rose, blue and white for the green colour."
  •  The printed chronicle La Quinzaine Mémorable  has an entry dated 14th July at 8am in the morning, in which the author observes that "the great and small, from all ranks of society, are sporting, by order of the town, the blue, red and white cockade."
  • A MS letter to Mayor Bailly from M. de Gouvion, Major-General of the National Guard, dated 28 March 1790, notes that the three colours had been fixed by an order of the Assembly of Electors dated either 14th or 15th July 1789. 
  • An arrêté of the Commune, dated 4th October 1789, confirms previous orders, and repeats the declaration that the red, blue and white cockade is the only one permitted to citizens to wear.
It is possible that the prévôt de marchands  Flesselles, killed on the 14th,  was instrumental in the initiative.  A letter in his hand was said to have been found on the body of the governor of the Bastille, Launay, instructing  him to stay put until evening and await reinforcements, while Flesselles "amused the Parisians with cockades and promises".

Jean-Baptiste Le Sueur, A Citizen is obliged to wear a cockade,  c.1790.  Musée Carnavalet

Why the tricolour?

This is not in fact absolutely explained, though it may be supposed that the Assembly anticipated Lafayette's idea of incorporating white as a symbol of the French nation as a whole, or else sought to assimilate the Revolutionary colours to those of the King.

It may be noted that Lafayette's proposal that the tricolour cockade form part of the National Guard uniform had the incidental consequence of abandoning the distinction between official and popular cockades;  in future there would be a single revolutionary emblem common to both the military, civilian officials and ordinary citizens.


Bernard Coppens, entries on
"Le Mystère de la Cocarde"[original article published in 1989]
"1789 : La cocarde tricolore"

Account from the Memoirs of Lafayette, vol. 2,  p.252-3
When the king had received at the Hotel de Ville, from the mayor, the cockade of the revolution, which was only, at that time, of two colours, he was conducted by the commander-in-chief to the picket of the gardes-du-corps, which had remained outside the gates of the city.

At the end of the deliberation of the assembly of electors of the 16th, a project of organisation was fixed upon by Lafayette, in concert with the military committee, the staff of the provisional guard and General Mathieu Dumas, reporter.  It was from his proposal that, after the new colours had been adopted by the king, the Hotel de Ville added to them the ancient white colour*

In this manner was formed the tricoloured cockade, which had become the national one.  Lafayette, when presenting to the Hotel de Ville the project of organising with that cockade a national uniform, pronounced these words:

I bring you a cockade that will traverse the whole world, and an institution, both civil and military, that must triumph over the ancient tactics of Europe...

Note  *The cockade was at first red and blue; these were not only the colours of the town but, by a singular accident, those of the livery of Orleans.  Lafayette, struck by this circumstance, and wishing to nationalize the ancient French colour by uniting it with the colours of the revolution, proposed to the Hotel de Ville the tricoloured cockade, which was adopted.  (Note of General Lafayette)

Robespierre, Letter to Buissart, 23rd July 1789
Robespierre describes with evident pleasure the popular enthusiasm which greeted the King's entry into  Paris on 17th July.  He noticed cockades on the cassocks of monks and even on the stoles of robed and surpliced clergy.  Sadly he does not specify the colour.

Monday 3 July 2017

Le Bivouac des sans-culottes

Taunay, Le bivouac des sans-culottes
48 × 49 cm, oil on canvas
Musée des beaux-arts d'Orléans 

This painting, by Nicolas-Antoine Taunay, is one of very few which depict French Revolutionary combattants sympathetically without any overt ideological message.  It is included in the Bridgeman Art Library, so it is reproduced many times on the internet but  there does not seem to be much information available about it.  The original is from the Musée des beaux-arts in Orléans, but it was acquired only in 1975. The title is usually given as Bivouac of the sans-culottes, but this may not be original -  the date of 1790 seems a little early for sans-culottes. On the other hand, to judge from their pikes and civilian clothing,  this is clearly a group of Revolutionaries.  The scene conveys a sense of their quiet comradeship and weary determination - I particularly like the man on the right puffing tranquilly on his clay pipe.

Taunay was a well-regarded landscape and genre artist, who studied initially with the history painter Nicolas-Guy Brenet and later with Francesco Casanova.   There is only one other Revolutionary scene by him known, a Fête de la Liberté, now in a private collection in  São Paulo.  It appears that during the Revolutionary years he continued to submit to the annual Salons mainly traditional historical and Biblical subjects, as well as landscapes of the Italian countryside.  In July 1792 he exhibited "The taking of a town" ("La prise d'une ville") which was bought "for the nation" and in 1798 "The exterior of a provisional military hospital", now in the Louvre. He is known to have taken refuge with his family in Montmorency during the Terror and perhaps showed his disillusionment in the large canvas "The Guillotine in Hell" in the Hermitage, which is ascribed to him on stylistic grounds.  Under Napoleon he enjoyed the patronage of the Empress Josephine and received numerous commissions for battle paintings, many of which are now in the collections at Versailles. In 1816, following the defeat of Napoleon, he journeyed to Brazil where he was invited to participate in the newly formed Academy of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro.  He returned to Paris in 1821 and died there in 1830.


Biographical notice in Jayne Wrightsman, The Wrightsman Pictures, Metropolitan Museum of Art 2005

There is a full scale study,  Nicolas-Antoine Taunay (1755-1830) by Claudine Lebrun (ARTHENA, 2003).  However, from what little I can make out from Google "snippet view", this does not have anything new on Le Bivouac des sans-culottes.

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