François-Joseph KINSON (Bruges, 1770 – 1839)

Portrait of Joseph Jerome, Count Simeon (1749-1842)

220 x 140 cm. (7 ft. 2 58 in. x 4 ft. 7 18 in.)

Oil on canvas.
Signed, dated, and situated, lower right: Kinson Cassel 1810

Provenance :
• Family of Joseph-Jérôme Siméon, by descent
• Siméon Collection , Francis Briest Sale, December 12, 1992
• Belgium, Private Collection.

Bibliography :
• Ch. Giraud, Notice biographique, sur M. le Comte Siméon, Bureau de la revue de législation et de jurisprudence, Paris, 1842, vol. XV
• Denis Coekelberghs and Pierre Loze, 1770 -1830 Autour du néo-classicisme en Belgique, [exh. cat.], Ixelles Community Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels, Nov. 14th, 1895 – Feb. 8th, 1986
• Bérénice Vanrenterghem, Kinsoen Kinson (Brugge, 1770 – Brugge 1839), unpublished university thesis, 2007.

(…) This art which impassions coquettes
And which consists of not rendering Nature too truthfully.

Known as a court and high society painter, François-Joseph Kinson was trained at the Academy of Bruges, then at Ghent and Brussels, before he went to Paris in 1794. He is mainly known through his elegant portraits, a genre in which he excelled. By exhibiting at the Parisian Salons, he developed his clientele and gained a reputation that brought him to the Imperial Court where he received the title of First Painter to Jerome Bonaparte who became King of Westphalia in 1807.

From his rigorous observation of Jacques-Louis David’s oeuvre (Paris, 1748 – Brussels, 1825), and of Baron Gerard’s (Rome, 1770 – Paris, 1837), Kinson retained the austerity, as well as the delicate and flattering handling of physiques. The influence of Gerard, a grand portraitist of the Emperor, left the deepest mark. Study of his work allowed Kinson to develop the suppleness of his brush, as well as the richness of his coloring, to the point that their works are often confused with each other. In his Essai historique et critique sur l’Ecole flamande considérée dans les arts du dessin (Bruxelles 1825 – 1839), Jean-Baptiste Picard evokes Kinson’s work as, “profoundly possessing this art which impassions coquettes and consists of never rendering Nature too truthfully.” Depicted in luxurious settings characteristic of the Neoclassicism which was flourishing, Kinson’s portraits nonetheless conserve a verity in gestures and costumes rendered through a subtle handling of fabrics and light. The figures with porcelain faces are staged: Kinson explores the theatrical dimension in which his patrons play their role. The portrait is an object of self-definition through which social recognition can be established and in which studied naturalness is mastered.

Painted in 1810, the year in which Kinson followed Jerome Bonaparte to Kassel, this standing portrait, with its slightly ¾ view of the figure, recalls pre-Revolution state portraits reserved for great men. The face so full of eloquence is that of Joseph-Jerome, Count Simeon, statesman and jurist who did his apprenticeship in Aix-en-Provence. Known as an active member of the Revolution, he supported and defended the insurrection against the Convention. He was arrested and took refuge in Italy until 1793, the year of Robespierre’s fall, after which he returned to France. Very appreciated by the young Napoleon Bonaparte, newly named First Consul, he was called to participate in the elaboration of the Napoleonic Code, (ancestor of the Civil Code,) on which he firmly lays his hand in our portrait. From this date, Joseph Jerome accumulated titles and appointments. He successively became State Counsellor in 1804, Minister of Justice, then Minister of the Interior, Minister of the government of Jerome Bonaparte in Westphalia, and finally member of the Regency Council and President of the State Counsel of Westphalia, until the dissolution of the kingdom in 1813.

In Paris, he regained honourable status upon the return of the Bourbons, and received the title of Count from Louis XVIII. He was again appointed a State Counsellor and stood out subsequently as Under Secretary, and then Minister, of the Interior. In 1830, Simeon backed Louis-Philippe who appointed him President of the Court of Auditors. A Peer of France, member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, member of the Order of Saint-Hubert of Bavaria, Joseph Jerome received all of the honors in his lifetime that a jurist and politician could hope for in the first half of the 19th century.

In the course of his career, François-Joseph Kinson frequented and portrayed the greatest names of his period. From the Empire to the Bourbons, not to mention commissions from the wealthy bourgeoisie, his talent, recognized in his lifetime, allowed him to honor many commissions, including that of Joseph Jerome Simeon in 1810, and many others until 1830, the year in which the Revolution terminated his French career.
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