French School of 1830
Boissy d'Anglas saluting the head of deputy FERAUD
Oil on canvas
60 x 92 cm
After the July Revolution, the decorations of the Palais-Bourbon are suspended.
The site is relaunched by the decree of 25 September 1830 which organizes a competition for the order of three paintings intended to decorate the Chamber of Sittings of the Chamber of Deputies.
Guizot, then minister of the interior, is at the origin of the iconographic program, extremely precise. The topics are selected with great care: they must at the same time be examples of virtue for MPs and legitimize the new regime.
In the center was to appear Louis-Philippe taking the oath to the constitutional charter on August 9, 1830, and, on each side, the meeting of the Constituent Assembly June 23, 1789 at the moment Mirabeau responds to the Master of Ceremonies who prays the Assembly of to separate: "go tell your master that we are here by the order of the people and we will come out only by the power of the bayonets" and Boissy d'Anglas, president of the National Convention, greeting the head of the deputy Féraud that the rebels of the 1st Prairial year III present him by threatening him.
The three subjects had to be judged separately by a jury of fifteen members. Some artists presented sketches for several subjects. There were twenty-six competitors for the first painting, thirty-eight for the second, and fifty-three for the third, which concerns us. After the closing of the competition on April 1st, 1831, out of the fifty-three competitors, thirteen were preselected: Vinchon, Court, Lami, Caminade, Thomas, Lettière, Shoppin, Durupt, Tassaert, Harle, Delacroix, Jollivet, Goyet.
To surround Louis-Philippe, Guizot chose the heroic action of two deputies: Mirabeau resisting the king and Boissy d'Anglas resisting the people. Boissy d'Anglas is a symbol of courage in the face of popular revolt. During the invasion of the Convention on the 1st Prairial year III (May 20, 1795) by the people who demanded "bread and the constitution of 1793", Feraud, deputy of the Hautes Pyrenees, opposed the riot. In the melee, he was shot with a pistol and his sliced head was presented at the end of a spear to the chairman of the meeting, Boissy d'Anglas, who remained imperturbable and avoided the dissolution of the assembly.
The destination of the works, the Chamber of Deputies, is far from being the only reason for the choice of subjects, two episodes of French legislative history. The purpose of these three indissociable paintings, this triptych is pedagogical. Representing Louis-Philippe between Mirabeau and Boissy d'Anglas had a very precise meaning. It was to make the King of the French not only the guarantor of the proper functioning of the National Assembly but, moreover, the heir of the Revolution, of a certain Revolution.
This program, so specific for its political purpose, was a handicap for many artists who did not understand what was expected of them. The results of the competition were dissatisfied. The choice of the jury was disputed: Coutan was nominated for the first painting, A. Hesse for the second (Mirabeau) and Vinchon for the third (Boissy d'Anglas). No artist from the new romantic school was chosen. If the sketches of Delacroix, and particularly Boissy d'Anglas Welcoming the head of the deputy Féraud unanimously appreciated during the exhibition, were not retained, it is not because of the republican opinions of Delacroix or because his art was innovative but because he had not scrupulously respected the iconographic program.
Both for Mirabeau and for Boissy d'Anglas, the sketches which gave a precise description of the Salle des Séances of the National Assembly (the Salle des Menus Plaisirs at Versailles, which became the Salle des Etats Généraux, the Salle des Sances de la Convention National Tuileries) and who privileged the gallery of portraits and the precise description of the attitude of the hero. The choice of Vinchon's composition for Boissy d'Anglas hailing the head of MP Féraud is revealing. Criticism preferred Court's work because he had been able to give faithful portraits of the protagonists and had emphasized the variety of expressions, the realism of the physiognomies. If Vinchon finally obtained the majority of the votes, it was because he had been able to render perfectly "the calm resistance of the hero" by inventing an additional anecdote which still highlights the stoicism of the president of the National Assembly: a rebel having Feraud ripped the head above the pike who wore to put near the face of the president.
On our painting, the head of the deputy is no longer present, the canvas having been amputated of this piece of painting become probably too bloody for the following generations.
Notice extracted from the Revue du Louvre - n ° 2-1987 - p 128 to 135, by Marie-Claude Chaudonneret