Saturday, 5 March 2022

A portrait of Helvétius?


It is always exciting to find a new image of a prominent Enlightenment figure!  This portrait of Helvétius has been on the website of Lapham's Quarterly from at least 2015 and is beginning to feature  more and more on the internet.....  

Sadly, the subject is not the philosophe at all, but rather his father, the eminent doctor Jean-Claude Adrien Helvétius (1685-1755). 

The anonymous painting belongs to the Musée de la Faculté de médecine in Nancy. where it is one of a set of seven portraits of teachers of the Royal College of Medicine, of which Helvétius was an associate member.

The Latin annotation, cropped off in the Lapham's version, reads: 

Joann – Claud. Adrian Helvetius. regis a Sanctoribus consiliis. Regina. archiater hujusce Collegii. Honor. Sociusobiit an 1755 AE71

"Jean-Claude Adrien Helvétius, member of the Royal Council, chief physician to the Queen, and honorary associate of this college. Died in 1755 at the age of 71 years."

 The paintings hang in a smart modern gallery in the museum, on the Brabois Santé Campus of the University of Lorraine,  Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy.  You can just see the Helvétius in the photo below, from L'Est-Républicain:

Photos. Musée de la santé à Vandœuvre : plongée dans la médecine d'antan (


Musée de la Faculté de Medicine de Nancy: Jean-Claude Adrien HELVETIUS (1685-1755)


  1. Hello, Rodama.

    Of course, you don’t know me, but I’m a hobbyist writer. My works pertain to historical fiction or take place in periods before the 20th century. I stumbled across your blog weeks ago and have found it extremely helpful for my blossoming interest in writing short stories pertaining to the French Revolution and the people within that movement.

    I was wondering if I could pick your brain concerning a few historical details. I'm a bit meticulous and like to get things accurate when possible lol. In this case, information about the childhoods and lives of Maximilien, Augustin, and Charlotte before the 1790s.

    I’m attempting a story that explores the conflicts Maxime and Augustin may have had growing up. Especially with the former funding the education of the latter.

    I don’t speak French. Translation tools I've used for Charlotte’s book, which I hoped would shine a light on what I’m researching, are in very broken English. But what I could gather is that both siblings (?) presumed Augustin lazy and spoilt. That Charlotte ( and some contemporaries? ) thought he lacked the work ethic and capacity for law that Maxime had.

    Are there any prominent relationships, individuals, or events I should know of and research during this period? And do you know of any resources that would be of easy access to an American that details this?

    Thank you in advance for any assistance you may provide!

    If contact through email would be preferable, I can provide that. Of course, any help you assist me with will be credited in my works if wished.

    1. This looks good for you:

      Other stuff I would look at:
      Peter McPhee on R's childhood (plus his biography of Robespierre):

      Marisa Linton - various books and articles on the biography and psychology of the Revolutionaries.

      Colin Jones's "Fall of Robespierre" - and on You Tube:

      You can find a translation of Charlotte Robespierre here:
      This blog is also good for English speakers:

      The old books have lots of chatty detail. Fleischmann's "Robespierre and the Women he loved" and Lenotre "Robespierre's rise and Fall" are both available for free on Internet Archive.

      I am sure you already know Hilary Mantel's "A Place of Greater Safety" - just the best ever evocation of the Revolutionary era I have ever read.


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