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Baron François-Pascal-Simon Gérard, called Baron Gérard (Rome 1770-1837 Paris)
Baron François-Pascal-Simon Gérard, called Baron Gérard (Rome 1770-1837 Paris)

Portrait of Baronesse Mathieu de Favier, Marquise de Jaucourt

Details
Baron François-Pascal-Simon Gérard, called Baron Gérard (Rome 1770-1837 Paris)
Portrait of Baronesse Mathieu de Favier, Marquise de Jaucourt
oil on canvas
25¾ x 21¼ in. (65.5 x 54 cm.)
Provenance
The sitter's daughter, Françoise Favier, Marquise de Jaucourt and then by descent to the present owners.
Literature
H.A. Gérard, Lettres addressées au baron Gérard peintre d'histoire par les artistes et les personnages célèbres de son temps, Paris, 1888, p. 412.
A. Latreille, François Gérard 1770-1837: catalogue raisonné des portraits peints par le baron Gérard, Thèse de l'Ecole de Louvre, Paris, 1973, no. 145.
Exhibited
Paris, Société Philanthropique, Exposition des portraits du siècle (1783-1883), 1883, no. 331.

Lot Essay

The son of the intendant of the Cardinal de Bernis, French ambassador to the Holy See, François Gérard was born in Rome in 1770. He arrived with his family in Paris in 1782 and was admitted to the Pension du Roi, a school for young artists that had been founded by Monsieur de Marigny. After initially studying with the sculptor Augustin Pajou and then the painter Nicolas-Guy Brenet, in 1786 he joined the studio of Jacques-Louis David, where he met Antoine Gros, François-Xavier Fabre and Anne-Louis Girodet. In 1789, he competed for the Prix de Rome, submitting a painting depicting Joseph revealing himself to his brothers, and came second (the prize was won by Girodet, who left for Rome in 1790). Gérard had intended to compete again in 1790 with the present picture, which was described by his biographer, Charles Lenormant, as 'témoigne de ses rapides progrès. Les attitudes sont vraies et expressives, les têtes principales remarquablement exécutées et déjà brille la qualité souveraine de Gérard, l'arrangement'; however the illness and death of Gérard's father forced him to delay his work for the Concours, which was won by Jacques Réattu.

Having become the head of his family, with two younger brothers to care for, Gérard left Paris for Rome, where his mother had acquaintances, probably hoping to earn his living as a portraitist and counting on his friend Girodet's help. However, in order to avoid being listed as an émigré, he had to return to Paris in April 1791; there, David obtained a studio and lodgings in the Louvre for him and also had him nominated as a juror in a revolutionary court, so that he would not be enrolled in the army. Gérard, who was horrified by the court's decisions, asked to be excused on the pretext of illness, which left him some time to finish this picture, which he exhibited in the Salon of 1793. The painting was admired and the critics were brief but positive: 'ce tableau bien compris, bien peint, d'une couleur vigoureuse, exprime parfaitement le sujet. Les têtes des deux vieillards sont pleines d'expression. La lumière disposée avec intelligence annonce au premier coup d'oeil que Daniel est la figure principale' (Explication par ordre des numéros et jugement motivés des ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, architecture et gravure exposés au Palais National des Arts, précédé d'une introduction, anonymous, Paris, 1793). This success did not, however, enable Gérard to live as a painter, and he had to earn his living by illustrating the works of Virgil and Racine published by Didot in 1795, although David, who fully appreciated Gérard's talent, also asked him to paint some details in his picture L'assassinat de Lepeletier de Saint Fargeau (present location unknown). It was only after the success of his Belisaire in the Salon of 1795 that Gérard's stature was universally acknowledged (present location unknown; an autograph variant was recorded in the collection of Prince Eugene in Munich).

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