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Joseph Chinard  (1756 - 1813)
Portrait of Louis-Étienne Vincent-Marniola, 1809
Terracotta
25 3/16 x 25 3/16 x 14 15/16 in. (64 x 64 x 38 cm)
Purchased by The Frick Collection, 2004
Accession number: 2004.2.01
Currently on View
East Gallery (119)
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Commentary: With his head slightly tilted, Vincent-Marniola gazes off into the far distance, seemingly lost in thought. While his handsome features are somewhat idealized, details such as the curls that fall low across his forehead, his pursed lips, and the lines above his mouth all add a realistic note to Chinard’s depiction. The extraordinary verism of the costume is a tour de force: one marvels at the rope and tassels that keep the cloak from falling from the sitter’s shoulders, and at the exquisite pouncing of the lace jabot that hangs loosely on a richly ornamented coat. A sense of urgency is imparted by the cloak’s collar, which rises and falls like a wave. These details are in perfect equipoise with the ardent, yet classically presented physiognomy of this imperial official, whose eyes are modeled without irises, as would be appropriate for a subject from antiquity. Even Vincent-Marniola’s coiffure derives from a classical prototype (his hair is styled à la Titus), yet in the sculpting of the terracotta, the locks and curls assume a movement and energy that are almost Romantic. Although the bust is not dated and previously has never been published, it was exhibited at the Salon of 1810 and was likely to have been commissioned to commemorate Vincent-Marniola’s appointment to the office of Conseiller d’État, the empire’s supreme legislative body, in February 1809. When searching for a sculptor to commemorate his recent appointment, it is not unreasonable that the young man might select Chinard, a fellow native of Lyons, to execute his portrait. Vincent-Marniola was the scion of a wealthy parlementaire family. In January 1808, following several prestigious government appointments, was made prefect of Po, the region of Piedmont in northern Italy that had been annexed to France in1802. At only twenty-seven years of age, Vincent-Marniola was unusually young for that office, even in Napoleon’s famously youthful corps of prefects, but he succeeded in Turin well enough that, only a year later, in February 1809, he returned to Paris to accept the appointment as Conseiller d’État. As a member of the Conseil d’État -— the responsibilities of which included drafting and implementing the five Napoleonic codes —- he was destined for a ministerial or senatorial career, one that was cut short by his untimely death (the precise cause of which remains to be discovered) on October 13, 1809. Although nothing of the relationship between sculptor and patron is currently known, Chinard’s bust -— which, had the sitter not died, probably would have been followed by a final version in marble —- conveys with extraordinary force the qualities for which Vincent-Marniola had long been admired. Marshal Davout, Vincent-Marniola’s one-time superior, had informed Napoleon that “here was a young man with a good head, substantial learning, a fiery heart, and considerable dignity.” Colin B. Bailey, excerpted from  "The Frick Purchases Joseph Chinard's Portrait of Étienne Vincent-Marniola," The Frick Collection Members' Magazine, 5, no. 1 (Winter 2005): 8-11.