Joseph CHINARD (Lyon, 1756 – 1813)

Portrait of Juliette Récamier

Terracotta bust with patina
On low pedestal
Height : 69 cm. (2 ft. 3 3/16 in.)

Signed and dated on the base of the pedestal: Chinard à Lyon l’An XI
(“Chinard in Lyon Year XI)

• Probably exhibited in Paris, Grand Palais, 1900;
• France, Private Collection.

• S. PACCOUD, Juliette Récamier, muse et mécène, exh. cat. Lyon, Museum of Fine Arts, Paris 2009.
• M. ROCHER-JAUNEAU, “Joseph Chinard et les bustes de Madame Récamier,” Bulletin des Musées et Monuments lyonnais, July 1966, pp. 25 – 37.
Catalogue des sculptures par Joseph Chinard de Lyon formant la collection de Penha-Longa, Paris: Georges Petit Gallery, Sale, Dec. 2, 1911, no. 34 (Cognaq-Jay) and no. 35 (plaster).
• Paul VITRY, Exposition d’oeuvres du sculpteur Chinard de Lyon (1756-1813), exh. cat. Paris, Pavillon de Marsan, Nov. 1909 – Jan. 1910, Paris : É. Lévy, 1909.

Joseph Chinard was educated in Lyon and Rome; a first prize at the Academy of St. Luke in 1786 helped establish his reputation. Active in his native city, he was welcomed with success at the Salon of Paris starting in 1798. Professor at the Lyon School of Fine Arts and Correspondent for the Institute, Chinard adapted with talent to the taste of his time. Excellent in the realization of busts, he executed many portraits for Napoleon’s family; for a while he occupied a workshop in Carrara, whose quarries were directed by Elisa Bonaparte. Chinard spent the end of his life in Lyon, while still exhibiting regularly in Paris.

The face of our young woman combines canons dear to the artist: similar oval chin, almond-shaped eyes, and high cheekbones can be seen, for example, in the Portrait of a Woman conserved in the Louvre Museum (1802). While the sculptor tended to idealize his sitters’ physiognomy – which does not facilitate identification – he nonetheless enjoyed giving close attention to the originality of their attire and adornment for which his family background certainly may be significant. Chinard was the son of a textile merchant and married an embroiderer.

In keeping with refined court fashions at the very beginning of the 19th century, our young woman wears a finely pleated dress tightened by a mascaron which emphasizes the bosom. Her hair is tied with a ribbon; strands curl over her forehead. A comb embellished with pearls holds her veil which descends on each side of the pedestal. The passementerie is used entirely for discreet elegance. Worked braid borders the veil, another emphasizes the low neckline and the ends of the tassel-fringed sleeves.

For the sale of the collection at the Georges Petit Gallery, Germain Bapst, wrote in the preface of the catalogue:

“In 1805, when Chinard came to Paris, he lived with the Recamiers, rue Basse-du-Rempart, and had his mail addressed there. During his stay, Chinard executed a new bust of his favorite sitter, of which M. De Penha-Longa owns a terracotta sketch and the original plaster.”

The identification of our work is attached to another version of the bust, now conserved in the Cognacq-Jay Museum, entitled “Bust assumed to be of Juliette Recamier,” even though a few details differ from our version. The starred veil becomes smooth, but the border braid is wider and enriched with pearls and palmettos. The one which covers the bosom is framed by two fine torsades.

As celebrated for her beauty as for her wit, Juliette Recamier held a famous Salon at the end of the Directory and the Consulate which raised her to the level of an icon. A close friend of Benjamin Constant, Chateaubriand, and Madame de Staël which caused her to go into exile, Madame Recamier was muse, sitter, patron, and collector, all in one. She proved to be quite attentive to her image, which fascinated the artists of her time, and only the most brilliant among them, such as David or Gérard, succeeded in communicating.

Although sources differ on dates, they agree in affirming the bonds that united the Recamier family and Chinard. The most famous sculpted effigy of Madame Recamier is by him (Lyon, Museum of Fine Arts; Museum of Art de Rhode Island). He also apparently worked in Paris during the years which followed the young girl’s marriage in 1793 when she was only 15 years old. Chinard presented her with her hair lifted by a long ribbon, nudity sketched by a cloth which she holds with crossed arms. There she is still almost a child, whereas our model shows a woman in full bloom, as Madame Recamier could have been at age twenty-five in the early 1800s.

M. B.
transl. chr

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