Elisabeth Bruyère, née Le Barbier (1776-1842)
Portrait de Monsieur Saget, Législateur. exhibited at the Salon in 1806, N° 76 of the catalogue
Oil on canvas, signed lower left, “E. Bruyère née L. Bier.”, 100,5 x 80,5 cm (relined)
In its giltwood frame, 122 x 102 cm
Portrait of Léopold Joseph Saget (1748-1811), member of the Corps Législatif (1802-1807), membrer of Légion d’honneur (1803), inspecteur divisionnaire des Ponts et Chaussées (1804)
Paris circa 1806
This beautiful portrait is remarkable for several reasons including its iconography.
This is one of the very few representations of a député (member of parliament) dressed in his official costume, painted during the Napoleonic Empire. If this blue coat of the members of the Corps Légilslatif, embroidered in gold, was well represented by the print during the French Empire, it is to the best of our knowledge, the only painted representation of high quality that have survived. For comparison, a more anecdotal bust portrait of William Louis d’Arthenay (1750-1814) deputy of Calvados, by the studio of Robert Lefevre, is housed in the Musée des Beaux Arts of Caen.
Upon the advent of the Empire Napoleon restored the etiquette and the court ceremonial. The men were to dress properly with the habit à la française, and civilian officers were granted with uniforms that rival military uniforms. Ceremonial clothes, drawn by Jean-Baptiste Isabey were attributed to all the dignitaries of the Empire : ministers, ambassadors, deputies, senators and senior officials ; each State bodies were the rival of elegance, as reflected in this brillant portrait of this French legislator.
The Painter :
Elisabeth Le Barbier known as Madame Bruyère, who signed this elegant portrait, was a portrait painter, as well as miniature portrait painter and a skill painter of flowers.
Born in Paris, in the district of Saint-Eustache on 5 July 1776, she was the daughter of the historical painter and academician Jean Jacques Le Barbier, dit Le Barbier L’aîné (1738-1826), from whom she received her first instruction. She then studied portrait and miniature portrait with the prominent Jacques Augustin (1759-1832). She also benefited from the advices of Jan van Dael (1764-1840), and was among his pupils, the one who get as close to her master’s art, and was awarded with a great success during the second quarter of 19th century with extremely delicate flower paintings, she exhibited at the Salon. Her paintings are housed in major Museums such as Musée du Louvre, the Harvard Art Museum or the Musée des Beaux Arts de Lyon.
She came from a family of artists. Not only her father Le Barbier L’aîné (1738-1826) but also her uncle Jean Louis Le Barbier (1743-1789), known as Le Barbier jeune, was a painter, and as his niece a talented portrait painter. Her mother, born Marie Charlotte Roland (1753-1800), was the sister of the sculptor Philippe Laurent Roland (1746-1816), whose self portrait bust is in the Metropolitan Museum collection; he was a pupil of Pajou and one of the teachers of David d’Angers.
The Portrait :
Portrait painting is essential in the work of Madame Bruyère and represents half of the paintings she sent to the Salon. Whether it be through the traditional painted portraits or miniature portraits her work is the mirror of the napoleonic nobility and the Parisian bourgeoisie that rule the French society after the Revolution.
Our portrait was exhibited at the Salon of 1806, under the number 76 : Portrait of Mr Saget legislator, with three other paintings by Mrs. Bruyère.
Léopold Saget, civil engineer from the school of the Ponts et Chaussées for the district of Metz and director of the Royal Salt-work of Dieuze was elected to the French parliament in 1802, and sat at the Palais Bourbon from 1802 to 1807. On this picture he poses ostentatiously in the attributes of the members of Parliament. He is wearing the grand costume of legislator, which consists of a dark blue habit à la française embroidered with gold, a gold embroidered silver cloth jacket, a black tricorn hat with white feathers, and à white silk belt with gold fringe. This grand costume was worn only in ceremonial meetings, public ceremonies, and in the presence of their Imperial Majesties." (from the 1811 Ceremonial of the French Empire).
The painter composed a sober and elegant image, in the tradition of the neoclassical portraits of Jacques Louis David. Leopold Joseph Saget stands before a starkly empty upper background, next to a table covered with a velvet carpet, on which he puts a hand. The position is the one of the men of power since the Renaissance, and the classical austerity and severity of this painting suits the depiction of this senior official, representative of the Nation.
The pose, as well as the court outfit, refer to the portraits of the ministers of Napoleon. In those early years of the nineteenth century the bourgeoisie proud of its responsibilities adopts the visual aesthetic of the official portraits.
This posed portrait is not less intimate. It is that of a patrician and the head of a household. The light is focused on the model's face, which is treated with much truth and observation. The lips outline a smile, the look is lively and gracious. The chairs are alive, animated by iridescent pink, painted with great delicacy, as Madame Bruyère could have painted the petals of a flower. With a precious and smooth touch that hints the miniature painter, this portrait is aestheticised with a most particular attention to the precise rendition of the textures of materials : the bright reflections of silk velvet tablecloth, the muted tones of the blue cloth coat, and he metallic luster of gold thread embroidery. In a subtle colour harmony, the gray of the backgound and blue of the coat are illuminated by the sparkle of the white, while the pink velvet of the table is echoed in the scarlet ribbon of the Legion of Honour pinned in the the model’s chest.
Saget was born in a ancien bourgeois family of Lorraine on October 13, 1748 in Metz. His father Leopold Saget (1778-1773) was surgeon in chief at the Royal Military Hospital, and his mother, born Jeanne Regnier d’ Arraincourt (1727-1776) was the descendant of a dynasty of master carpenters from Metz.
Leopold Joseph was the eldest of two brothers who counted like him among the dignitaries of this early 19th century. His brother Joseph Augustin Saget (1757-1824), following his maternal grandfather, was director of the city fortifications ; and the younger Jean André Saget de Maker (1759-1823) was director of the Hainaut mines and associated glassware. This former headmaster of the Royal glass factory of Sèvres founded after the Revolution in Paris, à major glass bottle factory.
Saget embraced a career in engineering, before devoting himself to politics. After graduate studies, during which he revealed his artistic and mathematic skills, he was admitted to the Royal School of Ponts-et-Chaussées. At the time of the Revolution he was chief engineer of the generality of Metz and free associate of the Society of Sciences and Arts.
Elected president of the Directoire of the Moselle department in 1790, his responsibilities at the top of the departmental executive earned him to be concerned in the case of the sale of Wadgassen Abbey in Saarlouis. Because he had suspended the sale of this abbey Saget was suspected to protect the interests of the Prince of Nassau Saarbrucken (Ludwig von Nassau-Saarbrucken (1745-1794) and was sentenced to death by the Comité de Salut Public in 1793. To save his life he had to flee the country.
Under the Consulat and the Empire, Leopold Saget rallied to Napoleon and was elected deputy of the Moselle by the Senate on 27 March 1802. He sat at the Palais Bourbon until 1 July 1807, and was awarded the Legion of Honor by the Emperor on 4 Frimaire XII (26 November 1803). He was appointed Inspector Divisionaire of Ponts-et-Chaussées, by a decree of 7 Fructidor 12 (25 August 1804), as well as Director of the canal des Salines de Dieuze.
Saget died in Metz December 8, 1811 at the age of 63 years. From his marriage with Jeanne Le Comte, were born four children:
Euphrasie Saget, born in 1790, who was the second wife of General Le Griel (1782-1868)
Célestine Elisabeth Dieudonné Saget (1796-1869) who was married in 1815 to Victor de Bry d'Arcy (1785-1869)
Honorine Saget (1798-1880) married in 1826 to Achille de Ponbriant (1799-1872)
Philippe Edouard Saget (1800-1869) who married Cornalie Espagne in 1825
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