Henri J. FRANÇOIS (Luxembourg, 1759 - Paris, 1814)


23 x 20 cm. (9 116 x 7 78 in.)
1797.Oil on canvas. Monogram and dated: fr. 1797. Inscribed on verso in ink: Jac. Antoine Daniel né à allanche / décédé en 1827 Juin [18]/ conseiller à la cour de Riom / mon père / Ch. Dl (“Jac. Antoine Daniel born in Allanche / died in 1827 June [18] councilman at the court of Riom / my father / Ch. Dl”) Original sculpted gilt wood frame with palmette decoration, inscribed on verso in ink: françois, peintre.

• Collection of Jacques Antoine Daniel (1761-1827), Riom.
• Through inheritance, his son, son fils, Jean-Pierre Charles Daniel (1790-1871), Paris.
• Sale?, lot 62 (according to label on verso).
• France, Private Collection.

A Portraitist outside the Academy
Trained in Paris by the history painter Nicolas-Guy Brenet (1728-1792), Henri François was exclusively a portraitist. His oldest known work is a Portrait of a Painter dated 1779 (Sale, Paris, Drouot, July 1st, 1987, lot 26). Having neither been approved nor received into the Academy, the artist exhibited his works at the Salon de la Correspondance which was open to non-academicians. In 1783, he exhibited a Head of a Man “painted in pastel,” which was noticed by the organizer, Pahin de La Blancherie: “This piece is characterized by much simplicity and truth, and promises the nation a distinguished Artist.” François returned with two other pastels in 1785.

The Revolution and the Salon
The Revolution opened the doors of the Salon du Louvre to him. Already in his first participation in 1791, François presented no less than twelve small portraits, without any sitter being identified in the Livret. One of them depicted the miniaturiste Jacques Augustin: signed and dated 1791, this picture was recently acquired by the Antoine Lécuyer Museum in Saint-Quentin (inv. 2004.31.1, 61.5 x 50.5 cm., 21 ¼ x 19 7/8 in.). François took part in almost all of the Salons until 1806, with portraits of writers, artists, political figures, members of his own family, and even a Self-Portrait in 1799 (signed and dated, 102.5 x 83 cm., 3 ft. 4 3/8 in. x 2 ft. 8 11/16 in., private collection).

Painter, Writer, Poet
A member of the Free Society of Sciences and Arts in Paris, François was also a writer and poet. One of his first dated texts is an ode to the Federating Pact of the French, Oath taken on the Champ de Mars, July 14th, 1790. In 1793, he published an epistle to Joseph-Marie Vien, who had been appointed First Painter to the King on the eve of the Revolution. In it, François celebrated a “great painter, Virgil’s emulator,” who “vanquishes bad taste and envy,” and was able to save painting from “the snares of error.” In 1814, the year in which the portraitist died, a volume was published of one hundred and twenty-five pages of Poésies diverses par Feu François, peintre (“Diverse Poetry by the late François, painter,”) which brought together his texts, that is, thirty songs and thirty poems.

The Sitter
Thévenin Antoine Daniel almost certainly sat for François while passing through Paris. Daniel was born in 1761 into an important family of Magistrates from Allanche in the Cantal. A barrister in Parlement, councilman at the Royal Court of Riom, he became Public Prosecutor of Riom in 1793. He and his wife, Aimable Marie Bordas, had several children, including Jean-Pierre Charles Daniel, author of the inscription on the verso of our picture. Charles Daniel had a brilliant career in the administration who was appointed Director of the Treasury of Poissy, and the General Inspector of Revenue Collection for the City of Paris.

Our Portrait
Smaller than the Portrait of Augustin, our portrait is no less official. The artist chose the same frontal presentation which emphasizes Daniel’s open face and luminous forthright gaze. The young lawyer’s hair is powdered and he wears an elegant grey suit with a pale pink striped silk vest and a white cravat whose bow is adorned with a pin. François reproduces the variety of fabrics with virtuosity, without abandoning his free and loose brushstroke, one of the characteristics which can be found in his male portraits, as in Trophime-Gerard de Lally, Marquis of Tollendal, dated 1786 (private collection) and a curiously turbaned Unknown Man painted in 1802 (Louvre Museum, inv. RF 3957. 65 x 35 cm., 25 5/8 x 13 ¾ in.).

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