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Lot 99: Gabriel Delessert in shooting attire

West ~ East - The Niall Hobhouse Collection

by Christie's

May 22, 2008

London, United Kingdom

Horace Vernet (1789-1863) Please Register/Login to access your Invaluable Alerts

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Description: Émile Jean-Horace Vernet (French, 1789-1863)
Gabriel Delessert in shooting attire
signed and dated 'H. Vernet 1821' (lower left)
oil on canvas
25¾ x 21½ in. (65.5 x 54.5 cm.)
Painted in 1821.

Notes: VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 17.5% on the buyer's premium.
The son of the equestrian painter Carle Vernet and the grandson of the great maritime painter of the eighteenth century Claude Vernet, Horace Vernet assimilated elements of both artists' style in his work, but also made a point of rejecting Classicism in favour of a raw naturalism. He extended this naturalism to portraiture and by the time Gabriel Delessert (1786-1858) commissioned Vernet to paint his portrait in 1822, the artist was established as one of France's leading artists in this field. In 1812 he had won a gold medal for the first work he ever exhibited at the Salon, a portrait of Jérôme Bonaparte, and he subsequently received commissions from the royalty, nobility and financial and political elites of France, including the present portrait.

Gabriel Delessert was the scion of a Calvinist banking family who were originally from Geneva, but who had established themselves in Paris and Lyon in the eighteenth century. Immediately after finishing his studies, Delessert was made an officer in the National Guard of Paris, participating in the defence of the city in 1814. By 1834 he was a general. As a result of his successful military career and the celebtrated salons held by his wife, whose guests included François-Réné de Chateaubriand and Eugène Delacroix, he became one of the most important and influential figures of July Monarchy society, and he was awarded a peerage in 1844.

The portrait of Delessert as a young adjudant-commandant in 1822 'attracted the attention of the public by its vitality, colour and perfect resemblance [to the sitter]...meriting every praise from connoisseurs' (A. Jay and É. de Jouy, Salon d'Horace Vernet, analyse historique et pittoresque des 45 tableaux exposés chez lui en 1822, Paris, 1822, p. 157). It was compared to the 'remarkable portrait of H.R.H. the duc d'Orléans' that Vernet had recently completed, remarkable for the naturalistic setting and manner in which the duke was depicted.

The element of early naturalism that is so evident in this work is a precursor to the Realism innovations of Gustave Courbet and Edouard Manet. Walking on the muddy path has dirtied Delessert's cream-coloured trousers, which contrast with his impeccably starched white collar. The composition is informal, and Vernet has not included any outward symbols to identify the sitter's identity, profession or status. He has placed his subject in a romantic setting far from the civil unrest of Paris, where Delessert was captain of the National Guard.

However, it remains a 'perfect resemblance' to the sitter and Vernet identifies his subject through more subtle and sophisticated means. Concentrating his gaze on some distant object Delessert is shown to be unperturbed by the sound of a rifle firing close behind him. His authoritative stance coupled with the confident way in which he holds his rifle lends forcefulness to the figure and suggests his familiarity with weapons and warfare.

Provenance: Commissioned by Gabriel Delessert, purchased 3 January 1822 (2,000 FF).
Collection Hottinguer, Paris.
Collection M. de Monbrison.

Artist or Maker: Émile Jean-Horace Vernet (French, 1789-1863)

Exhibited: Paris, Salon d'Horace Vernet, 1822.
Paris, Hôtel Charpentier, L'art et la vie sous Louis-Phillipe 1830-1848, 16 June - 10 July 1926, no. 30.
Paris, Musée Galliera, Auteuil et Passy d'autrefois, 18 March - 24 April 1935, no. 342.

Literature: A. Jay and É. de Jouy, Salon d'Horace Vernet, analyse historique et pittoresque des 45 tableaux exposés chez lui en 1822, Paris, 1822, p. 157, plate XLVII.
E. Bellier de la Chavignerie, Dictionnaire Général des Artistes de l'école française, Paris, 1881, vol. II, p. 658.
A. Dayot, Les Vernet, Paris, 1898, p. 202.

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