Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Jean-Baptiste Carrier: Portraits of a Terrorist?

[See also my earlier post:]
There are few portraits of Carrier. Those which exist, date mainly from the time of his trial or later, and inevitably they are highly coloured by the negative assessment of his character.

The only sympathetic images are the little painting attributed to David in the Musée Lambert - if it indeed represents Carrier - and this sketch from the Bibliothèque National, provenance unknown.  This drawing is the only one to depict Carrier in conventional late 18th-century dress with his hair in a pigtail, so we can guess that it dates from early in his Revolutionary career.

Most other portraits can to be found described in the biography by Alfred Lallié: 
J.-B. Carrier : représentant du Cantal à la convention 1756-1794 (1901), p.16-7:

Lallié lists:

1. An original watercolour which he himself had purchased, showing Carrier in a hat, with a distracted rather than hard expression.  The features were so different from those of other portraits that Lallié doubted it really was Carrier.

2.  A print in the public library in Nantes, annotated as "drawn from life" by Gabriel and engraved by Perrot.  This is clearly the picture in question (There is also a copy on Gallica).  Lallié remarks that the profile has the characteristic protruding lower lip;  interestingly enough here too Carrier is shown wearing a hat:

3. A portrait by Lamarie (Lamary), a well-regarded local sculptor and municipal official in Nantes during the time of Carrier's mission.  The picture shows Carrier dressed in a pelisse, with fur collar. Lallié remarks that this is the only portrait which represents Carrier at his true age, as a young man in his thirties.
The picture can be found reproduced in Verger ed., Archives curieuses de la ville de Nantes vol.2 (1838), p.176

The accompanying text specifies that the portrait has been faithfully copied for publication by a local illustrator M. de la Michellerie; "This portrait of Carrier, drawn from an original by the late M. LAMARY, whom we have only recently lost, reproduces the model with the greatest exactitude".

4. The engraving by François Bonneville produced for his series of revolutionary portraits,  which is annotated as "drawn from nature at the Tribunal" and dated 1796.  Most 19th-century prints are based loosely on this depiction.

5. Lallié  mentions  particularly the engraving by Duplessis-Bertaux, which is probably the most widespread and most copied.  It dates from the late 1840s. As Lallié justly remarks, this unsympathetic portrait ages Carrier by twenty years.

 Compare also the earlier engraving by Delpech, which was produced in about 1830. As I mentioned in my earlier post, this portrait is the one preferred by Carrier's descendants.

Jean-Baptiste Carrier, lithograph by F.-S. Delpech after a painting by J.-B. Belliard, c.1830

Here is a final print, recently used as the cover for the paperback version of Jean-Joël Brégeon's Carrier et la Terreur nantaise. 

The catalogue entry for the Bibliothèque National copy specifies only that it was published by Pierre Charles Coqueret, probably in the 1790s. 

The LEEMAGE online image collection has what looks to be a second copy, with a handwritten annotation; this supplies the information that it is a "drawing by Gouneville from the time of the interrogation of the members of the Revolutionary Tribunal."  

Another reproduction from  Gilbert Dupé, Plaidoyer pour les Maudits (1978)  states that the picture is in the Musée Dobrée and was painted by "Gonneville".
 I can find no further information as to who "Gouneville"/ "Gonneville was; perhaps this is an error for François Bonneville?

The pose and clothing look very much like those of the Lamary portrait; I wonder that is in fact the true original on which the print is based? 

The BN version is reproduced in the Stanford University Libraries French Revolution Digital Archive

Extract from Gilbert Dupé:(Illustration on p.253)

The visual record can be supplemented by a few (equally meagre) verbal descriptions, again mostly hostile.  Carrier's sworn enemy, Fréron offered the following portrait to posterity:

This monster is very tall.  He is almost all arms and legs.  He has a  curved back, his head, his face oblong and  marked by a strong personality.  His eyes, small, angular and deepset, are of a colour which mixes blood and bile.  His aquiline nose makes his appearance even more terrible. His complexion is copper-coloured. He is thin and nervy, and the prominence of his hips, together with his lack of belly, makes him appear cut in half like a wasp.  The sharpness of his voice is made even more noticeable because of his southern accent.  When he is at the tribune and slightly animated, he seems to tear his speeches from his entrails, pronouncing his 'R's like a growling tiger.  His physionomy is a faithful reflection of his character. (Lallié confirmed that Carrier was remembered in Nantes for the way in which he pronounced his 'R's)
L' Orateur du peuple, 29 brumaire, Year 3, p.245

The executioner Sanson handed down this description:
Carrier was a man of five feet seven, thin and boney, very stooped; his complexion was yellow and tanned like a Creole;  his hair, dull black in colour, fell in long straight locks onto his shoulders. His prominent cheekbones, his angular features, wide mouth and lidded eyes, gave him a appearance which was really much more ordinary than ferocious.
Sept générations d'exécuteurs, 1688-1847 : Mémoires des Sanson. T. 5 (1862)

The description of the historian Jean Delmas is also often quoted: 
According to contemporaries he was a tall man, but slightly stooped.  His face was that of a dreamer, with small eyes which seems always to be wandering in the void;  his skin was tanned like that of a mountain peasant, his voice harsh, his language quick.

With these unattractive features corresponded an unprepossessing external appearance; in the midst of the elegant powdered wigs of the period, his untamed black curly hair hung loose.
Jean Delmas "La jeunesse et les débuts de Carrier", La Révolution française, 1895 p.424-5

Oddly enough Madame Tussaud, who may or may not have met him in real life, strikes a discordant note:
It appears extraordinary, that so cruel a being as Carrier should have in his exterior aught of the “human form divine;” yet Madame Tussaud describes him as a good-looking man, tall, rather a fine figure, very gentlemanly in his appearance and manners, always dressed extremely well, and was agreeable in conversation, and appeared well constituted for the purposes of society.
Memoirs of Madame Tussaud (1838), p.407

No comments:

Post a Comment

Print Friendly and PDF