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Baron Paul Pérignon

Thomas Couture

Artwork Details

Baron Paul Pérignon
circa 1850
Thomas Couture
oil on canvas
25 11/16 in. x 21 5/16 in. ( 65.2 cm x 54.2 cm )
Museum Purchase
1965/2.66

On Display

Not currently on display

Description

March 28 2009
Couture had a remarkable gift of observation and an ability to capture the convincing likeness and character of his sitters. His technical ability is equally evident in the subtly nuanced and finely modeled rendering of Baron Pierre Paul Désiré François Pérignon (1800–1855), a successful Parisian lawyer and politician noted for his liberal views. Perignon’s somber features and averted gaze, along with the scarlet ribbon of the Legion of Honor, bright against his dark lapel, seem to signal the reticence and elegance of the Baron’s character and serve as markers of his social distinction. Couture’s use of thin layers of pigment, which allows the texture of the canvas to come through, contrasts with the rich impasto—a thick buildup of paint in which brush or palette knife marks often remain visible—used to convey flesh tones, and gives the painting an expressive quality that contributes to its immediacy. While not an official portrait—and thus not meant to hang in a public place—the Baron is presented quite formally, wearing the stoic and reserved expression of his “social mask” rather than the relaxed, jovial expression of a more personal portrait.

Subject Matter:

This is a portrait of Baron Pierre Paul Désiré François Pérignon (1800-1855), a political figure in France known for his liberal convictions. He was elected Député for a district in Champagne (1837-48), and following the revolution in 1848, was elected “Représentant du Peuple” serving as a member of the Conseil d’Etat where he helped draft a new constitution.
Couture’s concentration on the somber features and averted gaze, along with the scarlet ribbon of the Legion of Honor, bright against Pérignon’s dark lapel, seem to signal the reticence and elegance of the Baron’s character and serve as a marker of his social distinction.

Physical Description:

Bust-length, three-quarter view of a man with thick black beard facing slightly left, dressed in black with scarlet ribbon of the Legion of Honor on his lapel against a neutral background.

Usage Rights:

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