© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet
Publication date: March 2016
Man of letters, politician
Alphonse de Lamartine, from a family of the lower nobility of Mâconnais, had immediate fame with the publication of his Poetic meditations in 1820. He then began a diplomatic career, while continuing his literary work, confirming his reputation in 1830 with the Poetic and religious harmonies and his election to the Académie française. This is the moment when Gérard paints his portrait.
A classic portrait
Gérard's reputation as a portrait painter, "painter of kings and king of painters", was then over. But this pupil of David painted one of the masters of romanticism in classic, which the model did not disapprove of. Only the gaze, a little lost in an infinite distance, tempers the austerity of the costume and the pose, the nudity of the decor. "This morning I finished the posing sessions with Gérard," he wrote to his wife on September 26, 1830. The portrait is absolutely perfect, his finest work in the genre, without a doubt: beautiful, natural, poetic and resembling! He will let it dry, finish the costume, then varnish and exhibit at the next Salon. Lamartine, however, made some difficulties when it came to paying: "It must be a huge deal and one for which I am far from prepared. Never, as you may believe, would I have exposed myself to having six or eight thousand francs, or even a hundred louis or a hundred crowns, to give for a portrait; I am not rich enough, not crazy enough, and not deprived enough of more useful opportunities to use or my necessities, or my superfluous. It is true that soon after, without having settled the work, he sold one of his estates in order to be able, with his wife, to undertake a trip throughout the Mediterranean. Elected in his absence as deputy for Bergues, in 1833, he truly began his political life.
This portrait clearly expresses Lamartine's high intellectual position, as well as his political and social ambition. Lamartine was to play a leading role in these two areas throughout the July Monarchy and especially during the Second Republic. We can retrospectively find it here as an omen. But even if the painting was widely distributed by engraving (the poet subscribed a hundred copies for his personal use), Gérard painted the Lamartine of 1830, not that of 1848.
- Lamartine (Alphonse de)
- Louis Philippe
- Charles X
Paul BENICHOU The Coronation of the Writer, 1750-1830: an essay on the advent of a secular spiritual power in modern France Paris, Gallimard, reissued 1996. Elvire de BRISSAC O nineteenth! Paris, Grasset, 2001 Claire CONSTANS National Museum of the Palace of Versailles: Paintings 2 vol., Paris, RMN, 1995, Gérard UNGER Lamartine, poet and statesman Paris, Flammarion, 1998.Michel WINOCK The Voices of Freedom: writers involved in the 19th century Paris, Seuil, 2001.
To cite this article
Barthélemy JOBERT and Pascal TORRÈS, “Alphonse de Lamartine”