Théodore Géricault (French, 1791-1824)
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Théodore Géricault (French, 1791-1824)

Le Général Letellier sur son lit de mort

Théodore Géricault (French, 1791-1824)
Le Général Letellier sur son lit de mort
oil on canvas
9½ x 12 5/8 in. (24.1 x 32 cm.)
Painted circa 1818-1820.
A gift from the artist to Colonel Louis Bro de Comères.
Thence by descent to the Baron Olivier Bro de Comères.
Thence by descent to his daughter, Madame Pic-Paris.
Thence by descent to her nephew Baron Olivier Bro de Comères.
His sale; Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 30 November 1954, lot 60.
Purchased at the above sale by Georges Renaud, Paris.
Anonymous sale; Drouot-Montaigne, Paris, 13 December 1988, lot 60.
Anonymous sale; Hôtel Georges V, Paris, 9 April 1990, lot 132.
C. Clément, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, September 1867, no. 122.
C. Clément, Géricault: Étude biographique et critique, Paris, 1879, no. 128.
H. Bro de Comères. Mémoires du général Bro, Paris, 1914, pp. 175-177.
Duc de Trévise, 'Géricault: peintre d'actualités', La revue de l'Art, May 1924, p. 302.
F.H. Lem, 'Géricault portraitiste', L'Arte, June-July 1963, pp. 82-83, no. 10.
P. Grunchec, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Géricault, Paris, 1978, no. 158 (illustrated).
L. Eitner, Géricault: his life and work, London, 1983, pp. 157-158, 342, no. 69.
Exhibition catalogue, Master Drawings by Géricault, Washington D.C., 1985, no. 62a, p. 129.
Exhibition catalogue, Géricault, Kamakura, Kyoto, and Fukuoka, 1987-1988, p. 41, fig. E.
Exhibition catalogue, Géricault, Grand-Palais, Paris, 1991, no. 130 (illustrated fig. 192, p. 118).
G. Bazin, Théodore Géricault: Étude critique, documents et catalogue raisonné, vol. V, Paris, 1992, no. 1749, (illustrated p. 250).
Paris, Hôtel Jean Charpentier, and Rouen, Musée des Beaux Arts, Exposition Géricault, April-May 1924, no. 236.
Winterthur, Kunstmuseum, Théodore Géricault, 1953, no. 89.
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Lot Essay

This poignant portrait of General Letellier, lying dead in his bed, was painted by Théodore Géricault after witnessing the scene. General Letellier, a veteran of the Napoleonic wars, was perhaps most famous for commanding the battery that killed General Moreau, Napoleon's opponent, while he was talking to Tsar Alexander I in Dresden on 27 August 1813.

Yet it was General Letellier's personal tragedy that formed the subject of Géricault's painting. The General shot himself in bed in July 1818, in a moment of despair after the accidental death of his wife Adile. Géricault happened to be with a friend of Letellier's, Colonel Bro, when the two men paid a visit to the General. They found his dead body, with a scarf belonging to his wife wrapped around his neck, and a pistol, still warm, lying on the bed.

Géricault instantly made a sketch of the melancholic scene, astonishing for its realism and lucid clarity, without any sign of pathos or melodrama (now in Rouen, Musée des Beaux Arts). It was from this sketch that he later executed the present picture, which the artist gave to Colonel Bro as a memento of his dead friend. The painting remained in the Bro family until 1954. Another version in oil exists, which both Bazin and Eitner regard as a copy (Bazin, op. cit., 1749A).

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