François-Xavier FABRE (Montpellier 1766-1837)

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François-Xavier FABRE (Montpellier 1766-1837)
Portrait of Pierre-Edouard Lefebvre de Béhaine (1769-1828), in front of the city of Florence Canvas Frame: Original wood and gilded stucco (on the back the label of Haro) Height : 96 cm / Width : 74 cm Provenance : remained in the family of the model until today. Signed and dated lower left: "F. X. Fabre, in Florence / 1802 Bibliography : Gabriel de Broglie, " Nephtalie de Cour¬mont ", in : Cahiers Edmond et Jules de Goncourt n°1, 1992. pp. 6-12 : " Nephtalie was born on June 27, 1802 in Florence where Pierre Edouard Lefebvre, her father, was first secretary at the French legation. This former secretary general of Foreign Affairs in 1794 became minister of France in Florence in 1803. F. X. Fabre made that year a beautiful portrait of him, with in the background the dome, the Seigniory and the bridges on the Arno." This remarkable half-body portrait of François-Xavier Fabre takes place at the height of the artist's career and at a particular moment in art history. It plunges us into Florence at the beginning of the 19th century, where there was relative peace for painters compared to the turmoil that shook the rest of Europe. Remembering the aristocratic portraits of the English on the Grand Tour, the diplomat and representative of the French state, Pierre-Edouard Lefebvre, overlooks the Arno valley, where the dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral stands out and the Palazzo Vecchio on the left. Fabre synthesizes the integration of the model into the Tuscan landscape that his close friend, Louis Gauffier, who had died a year earlier in 1801, had set up, but adopts the typical Davidian half-body. That year, 1802, he painted the portraits of Louis-François Bertin and his wife (Montpellier, Musée Fabre), the Portrait of the young Edgar Clarke (idem), whose father, Henri Clarke, Duke of Feltre, was the minister plenipotentiary to the court of Etruria, predecessor of Pierre-Edouard Lefebvre. Our painting can be compared to the 1808 half-body portrait of Lucien Bonaparte (Rome, Museo Napoleonico), in which Fabre shows the Emperor's brother in a similar costume and po¬sition, also holding a book in his hand (fig. 1). These two portraits anticipate those of his former rival, now friend, Girodet-Trioson (Portrait de Lamartine, Salon of 1810) and foreshadow Ingres's 1807 portrait of Granet, the disheveled appearance of the hair giving the serene image a touch of pre-Romanticism. Fabre was born in 1766 in Montpellier. A brilliant student of Jacques-Louis David, a pure product of Abraham Fontanel's School of Fine Arts and the Enlightenment, Fabre was awarded the Grand Prix de Rome in 1787. However, he left Rome in 1793 following the anti-French insurrections and settled in Florence until 1824. He lived his "first great Florentine period" between 1795 and 1798, a success due to his versatility between historical, mythological and religious painting (Roman Charity of 1798, Socrates drinking the hemlock of 1801). The uncertain period of 1799 - 1801, during which France and Tuscany were at war, forced him to reduce his artistic production. Following Napoleon's victory and the establishment of the Kingdom of Etruria (1801 - 1807), foreigners returned to Florence. Fabre enjoyed increasing success as a portraitist. Until his death, he took care of his personal collection and returned to Montpellier in 1825 to direct the museum, which bears his name, and the new School of Fine Arts. We warmly thank Mrs. Cléophée de Quénétain for allowing us to publish here in extenso the following biography, extracted from her thesis "Edition critique et annotée de la correspondance entre Edmond et Jules de Goncourt et Edouard Lefebvre de Béhaine (1858 ? 1896)", Paris Sorbonne, 2007 (under the direction of Professor André Guyaux). His research was based on Gabriel de Broglie, La vraie Madame de Gervais : Neph¬talie le Bas de Courmont : souvenirs inédits, 1991 and on René Brouillet, " Edouard Lefebvre de Béhaine, son père et son grand-père : une lignée de diplomates au service de la France au XIXe siècle " in Histoire de l'administration française. Les Affaires étrangères et le Corps diplomatique français, t. II, 1984: Born in Hirson in 1769 (Aisne). After having held, in 1793-1794, a position of deputy chief in the services of the Committee of Public Salvation, Lefebvre entered the Ministry of Foreign Relations as deputy chief of correspondence in the general secretariat. After resigning in June 1797, he distinguished himself by the publication of a brochure: Considéra¬tions politiques et morales sur la France constituée en République (Bertrand, 1798). Returning to the department, in August 1798, he was charged with a first mission to Malta. He was then, successively, first secretary of the French lega¬tion in Florence in 1801, in Naples in 1802 and in Rome in 1806. Appointed first secretary at the French legation in Cassel, then transferred to the
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