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Collot d'Herbois:

Portraits With Contested Attribution

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1. Collot d’Herbois / Baron de Damas / J.-B. Isabey / Tallien

This portrait was published in La civilisation et la Révolution Française by Albert Soboul (1970), vol. 2, and described as portrait of Collot d’Herbois by Jean-Baptiste Isabey.

But is this Collot d’Herbois? There is some suggestion that Isabey did paint a portrait of Collot (see a biography of Isabey by Marc Allégret, Revue du souvenir napoléonien, no. 321, 2000) around 1792-1795 when the young artist enjoyed the protection of Jacques-Louis David. However, Collot d’Herbois age at the time was 42-45, whereas the subject of the portrait looks some twenty years younger.

Portrait of an unknown man. Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767-1855). Miniature on ivory. Louvre.

The photograph published in A. Soboul's book is a fragment of this portrait. This miniature was bequethed to the Louvre museum in 1910. Bulletin des Musées de France for that year described it as "a miniature representing possibly Collot d’Herbois". Today however, the site of the Louvre Museum makes no mention of Collot d’Herboiss name in connection with this portrait. Instead, it states that the subject is most probably Ange Hyacinthe Maxence, baron de Damas.

General Maxim I. Damas by George Dawe. Circa 1827. Hermitage Museum, Saint-Petersburg.
Son of French émigrés, Ange Hyacinthe Maxence, baron de Damas was brought to Russia at the age of ten in 1795. He began his military career in the service of the tsar Alexander I, before returning to France in 1814. In Russia, he was known as Maxim Ivanovich Damas.

There is some resemblance between Damas and the young man painted by Isabey. However Damas was absent from France until the age of 29. The model in Isabey's portrait appears to be under 25. Moreover, Damas would almost certainly have chosen to pose in his military uniform.

Ange Hyacinthe Maxence, baron de Damas. Miniature on porcelain by Louis-François Aubry (1767-1851) after J.-B. Isabey. Mid XIXth century. Image source: www.bonhams.com.

Interestingly, this copy is inscribed on reverse "Isabey by Aubry". Aubry was a student of Isabey. An opinion has been expressed that the original might be a self-portrait of Jean-Baptiste Isabey. There is certainly a mutual resemblance between the model and the artist, as can be seen from the two portraits of Jean-Baptiste Isabey below.

Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Isabey (detail) by François Gérard. 1795.
Paris, Louvre.

There is some physical resemblance between Isabey and the young man in the miniature under discussion. But there is an important difference. Isabey's eyes are brown in this portrait; the eyes of the sitter in the miniature under discussion are blue; Aubry's copy also shows a young man with blue eyes. Baron de Damas, as he appears on G. Dawe's portrait, has blue eyes.

Jean-Baptiste Isabey (detail), self-portrait. 1795. Wallace Collection.

Again, Isabey's eyes are brown in this self-portrait.

There is also this portrait, which bears a close resemblance to Isabey's miniature:

Jean-Lambert Tallien. A miniature painted by Arbaud.

Published in 9th Thermidor by Emmanuel Berl (Hachette, L'histoire par image, Paris 1965).

In 1795, Tallien was aged 28, and this is approximately when Isabey and Arbaud's miniatures must have been painted. The age of twenty-eight would not be inconsistent with the image of the young man in Isabey's portrait. So could Arbaud's miniature be a copy of Isabey's portrait of Tallien (or even the other way round, for that matter)?

For comparison, we have included here a portrait of Tallien engraved by Péronard and published in Histoire des journaux et des journalistes de la révolution française by Léonard Gallois, 1846.

Tallien's cravat and hair style are similar to those in Isabey and Arbaud's portraits but beyond that, resemblance is lacking. Other known portraits of Tallien offer even less support to the theory that he might be the subject of Isabey's miniature.

In conclusion, while Isabey may have painted Collot dHerbois circa 1792-1795, the portrait under discussion (left) clearly represents a much younger person, dressed in accordance with the fashion of the post-thermidorian period. As we have noted above, the young man on the portrait is about 25 years old; if it were Collot, then the miniature would have to have been created in mid 1770s. Isabey was only 8 in 1775. Since the signature and authorship of Isabey are not contested, it can reasonably be asserted that the young man on the portrait is not Collot d’Herbois.


2. Collot d’Herbois / Fabre d’Eglantine

Under the portrait, by an unknown artist, the title reads:

"Collot d’Herbois (Jean-Marie). Deputy to the Convention, member of the Committee of Public Safety..."


Poster available on art.com and on allposters.co.uk

This version of the same portrait meant to represent Collot d’Herbois, was published in Les Contemporains, issue № 1003 of 31 December 1911. It accompanied an article by J. Furet, Jean Marie Collot d'Herbois, conventionnel (1750-1796).

Is this a portrait of Collot d’Herbois? Not likely. Once we consider the earlier sources on which our portrait appears to be based, very little doubt remains as to the correct attribution.

"Ph. Fr. Naz. Fabre d'Eglantine : député du dép. de Paris à la Convention nationale." Engraving by an unknown artist. Published in 1793 by Basset (Paris). Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

This portrait was drawn, presumably from life, and published while Fabre was still alive.

Source: gallica.bnf.fr

"Ph. Fr. Naz. Fabre d'Eglantine."

Engraving by Louis-François Mariage after a painting by François Bonneville. Published in 1796 by Bonneville. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

Bonneville's version is clearly based on the 1793 portrait (above), of which it is a mirror image. It is not an exact copy; Bonneville most likely saw Fabre at the Jacobins and at the Convention, and was able to rely on his own memory or his own contemporary sketches while creating this portrait.

Sources: www.culture.fr and gallica.bnf.fr.

Philippe François Nazaire Fabre d'Eglantine (1755-1794). Miniature by Jean-Baptiste Sambat. Gouache on ivory. Source : www.en.expertissim.com

The date of the portrait is not known to us, however the painter, Jean-Baptiste Sambat, personally knew and was close to Fabre. Even if the portrait was created posthumously, Sambat would have been able to draw on his memory of his friend's appearance.

Having considered the above series of the portraits of Fabre d’Eglantine, all unmistakably portraying Fabre, the conclusion seems inevitable that it is definitely Fabre, not Collot d’Herbois, who is the true subject of the portrait under discussion (left).


3. Collot d’Herbois / Jérôme Pétion

"Collot d’Herbois." Engraving by Giovanni Minatelli. Printed in Venice by Catterin Minatelli et Comp.

This portrait accompanies the article dedicated to Collot d'Herbois in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

However, a series of portraits below leads to the inevitable conclusion that the engraving by Minatelli is in fact based on a portrait of Jérôme Pétion.

"Jérôme Pétion. Mayor of Paris." 1791.

Portrait painted from life. Unknown artist.

Source: gallica.bnf.fr

"Jérôme Pétion. Deputy from Chartres to the National Assembly in 1789. Elected chairman on 4 October 1790." Engraving by Fiesinger after J. Guérin. Probably circa 1790-1791.

This portrait bears a remarkable resemblance to Minatelli's engraving, of which it is an almost perfect mirror image.

"Jérôme Pétion: deputy of the department of Eure et Loir to the National Convention."
Engraving by Jean-Baptiste Gautier after François Bonneville. 1796.

Source: gallica.bnf.fr

The drawing on which Gautier's 1796 engraving is based, must have been executed by Bonneville sometime prior to 1794 (Pétion having committed suicide alongside Buzot in June that year). In any case, the fact that the original had been drawn by Bonneville tends to prove that the subject is definitely Pétion and not Collot. The reason for this is that Bonneville had known both Pétion and Collot dHerbois (whose portraits he had drawn on at least two occasions), and it is therefore virtually impossible that he could have confused the two portraits.

Venetian engraver Giovanni Minatelli and publisher Catterin Minatelli, on the other hand, had probably never seen either Collot dHerbois or Pétion, and could easily have fallen foul of a mix up, which resulted in the portrait of Petion being wrongly attributed as that of Collot dHerbois.


View gallery Collot d’Herbois: XVIII & XIX Century Portraits

View gallery Collot d’Herbois: Images & Scenes With His Participation

View gallery Collot d’Herbois: Modern Portraits

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