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Alexandre Jean Dubois-Drahonet "Pierre-Jean Lévy, comte d'Albignac", 1815, "RED SASH" STORY
Price: 11000 EUR
(please note additional 13% tax applies for transactions concluded within the European Union)
Clearly signed and dated - "AJDubois 1815 ("AJD" - ligated) - this painting is a typical work of well-known portraitist from Versailles, Alexandre Jean Dubois (who later named himself Dubois-Drahonet - see below).
Before we begin with our story (process of the sitter's identification) we would like to say that this story, published on our homepage in February 2019, unexpectedly found an objection in June of 2020 - it prompted a certain collector of Napoleonica to send a letter in which he affirmed that the sitter of this portrait is not "our" candidate (who, being an emigré, never served in Napoleonic France - see below) but instead the well-known general of the First Empire, Charles Joseph Randon de Malboissiere, comte de Pully (1751-1832; see our image nr.32). As "proof" for his identification the author of the letter amongst other things pointed out two (we even know of three) portraits of the latter (see our images nr.28-30) - which show a very great physiognomic resemblance with our sitter!. Moreover, the etched portrait of comte de Pully (image nr.29) was made in 1815 (sic! date on our portrait) after a certain painting of... our artist A. J. Dubois-Drahonet!!
However, this does not automatically mean that the original portrait (after which the etching was made) was painted in 1815 - most likely, Dubois-Drahonet executed it before March 1814, i. e. before the fall of the First Empire.
Our opponent's next counterargument was that the sitter of our portrait bears de Pully's badge of the Order of the Iron Crown (Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy) which our sitter-emigré could not have had.
In reality our image nr.6 clearly demonstrates the non-Napoleonic color of this order's ribbon - instead of the "Italian" yellow with green borders we see red with green borders (below, in our story, we will come back to this problem).
The next "counterargument" was our sitter's golden aiguilette on his right shoulder. Ostensibly he could not bear it because it was a prerogative of officers of Napoleonic Imperial Guards, and our sitter never served in that formation.
Apparently the opponent omitted the notice in our story (see below) saying the sitter was major of King's "maison militaire" since 1814 (some officers there had actually worn the GOLDEN AIGUILETTE ON THE RIGHT SHOULDER!). Moreover, he is listed in 1816 issue of "Almanach royal" (situation of 1815) as lieutenant general of "Etat-Major General de l'Armée" - ITS OFFICERS AND GENERALS HAVE ALSO WORN THE GOLDEN AUIGUILETTE ON THEIR RIGHT SHOULDERS.
Still, due to the striking similarity of our sitter with the two aforementioned portraits it would seem that our portrait actually shows the comte de Pully...
IF THERE WAS NOT ONE HUGE "BUT":
OF COURSE, we discovered both mentioned portraits during our research (preceding the February 2019 publication). Nevertheless, after a brief check-up of comte de Pully's awards (which apparently was not done by our opponent!) which he possessed in 1815 (date on our painting) one comes to conclusion, that despite the strong facial resemblance he cannot be our man.
Fact is, that the sitter bears a RED SASH over his right shoulder which can only belong to the following French awards:
a) either to the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor (with accompanying star on the left chest)
to the Commander Cross (with the usual cross hanging on its end) or even to the Grand Cross (also with accompanying star on the left chest) of the Royal Order of Saint Louis (see our image nr.33).
As for the first option we note that de Pully's last (!) awarding with the Order of the Legion of Honor took place on 23 August 1814 - on that day King Louis XVIII made him to Grand Officer of Legion. Comte de Pully was NEVER in possession of the Grand Cross of Legion (with the RED SASH obligatory for this class)!!
On the other hand comte de Pully was NEVER in possession of the RED SASH of the Royal Order of Saint-Louis (see the annual issues of "Almanach royal" for 1814-1830). HE WAS ONLY (awarded still in 1789) CHEVALIER OF THIS ORDER!
AND THE SASH ON OUR PORTRAIT WAS NOT ADDED AT A LATER POINT IN TIME (BY ANOTHER ARTIST) - IT IS ORIGINAL TO THE PAINTING!
This "resemblance"-mystification can only be explained this way - the alleged (!) portrait of comte de Pully in Parisian Musée d'Armée (image nr.28) was attributed by the museum's experts based only on comparison with de Pully's etched portrait (image nr.29). In reality the sitter of museums' portrait also bears RED SASH (over his right shoulder; partially covered by redingote) which means HE CANNOT BE (see above) GENERAL DE PULLY!
Moreover, the miniature badge of his Iron Crown already seems to contain a two-headed eagle (see our image nr.34) and (as said above) its ribbon is not the "Italian yellow-green" but instead the "Austrian yellow-blue"! The latter fact speaks for a date after 7th April 1815 (when the Iron Crown officially became an Austrian order).
(We believe the museum's portrait indeed shows our sitter (see the story below) and not comte de Pully. Also the doubled chin of our sitter and of the museum's general contradicts the "normal" chin of de Pully on the latter's reliable portrait (which is an early one (before awarding the Iron Crown); found online in the blog "Napoleon and Revolution" of Michail Odinzov (Russia); see images nr.30-31).
The depicted on our portrait elderly (as we've later established - 71-year-old) lieutenant general (note the three stars on his epaulettes) is decorated with insignia of four awards:
- the RED SASH and breast star (left chest) of the Grand Cross of French Order of Saint Louis
- the Officer Cross of the Royal Order of Legion of Honor
- the Knight Cross of the Italian (since 7th April 1815 - Austrian!) Order of the Iron Crown (CLICK HERE) Please note that the badge is still of "Napoleonic" (Italian) form, with the one-headed 1st Empire eagle, but its ribbon is somehow red with green borders (which is instead obligatory for Italian or Austrian models yellow-green or yellow-blue). We still cannot explain this difference. Was the badge with red-green ribbon a transitional model briefly existing between April 1814 and March 1815? It would be a question for an experienced phalerist...
- the Chevalier Cross of French Royal Order of SAINT LAZARUS (and not Chevalier Cross of Saint Louis, as our opponent believes!)
His visual age, rank and COLLECTION OF AWARDS (IN 1815 HE IS A SINGLE LIEUTENANT GENERAL POSSESSING THAT COMPLECT!) help to identify this man.
His name was Pierre-Jean-Lévy, comte d'Albignac de Montal. A resident (from 1814) of Versailles he chose to employ his town-fellow - young portraitist Alexandre Jean Dubois - to paint his portrait.
Pierre-Jean Lévy d'Albignac de Montal was born on February 19, 1744, at Chateau de Triadou by Millau, department Aveyron, region Midi-Pyrénées, France, to Louis d'Albignac, Chevalier, Seigneur du Montal et Nivolies (1729-1759) and Elisabeth de Gualy (d.1746; Pierre-Jean was thus orphaned already at the age of 15). On September 14, 1779, he married Madeleine Aimée Gabrielle de Bailleul (1755-1801) and settled in the latter's native town Bayeux, Normandy, where they later had six children.
Pierre-Jean joined the Royal Army at the age of 16 and began his military service in the rank of a cornet of "Regiment Royal Pologne Cavalerie". On October 1, 1763, he became a lieutenant in "Regiment de Toulouse". Sometime later, when he was a captain, he served in "Regiment d'Auch". He was transferred from this unit into the "Regiment Dophin Dragons (June 18, 1765). In 1778, in rank of a major in "Regiment Colonel-general", he transferred into his next unit - "Regiment Dragons de la Reine", in which he worked his way up to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
In the same (1778) year, he became Chevalier of the Royal Military Order of Saint Louis. In 1780, he was ennobled by the King to comte (count) d'Albignac de Montal, and, on July 1 of the same year, was transferred (in Guards rank of a "sous-lieutenant") into the "Garde du Corps de Roi" (simultaneously, he was promoted into the army rank of a colonel).
In 1783, he joined (as a "Chevalier" and not "Commander" as some sources say) the Royal Order of Saint Lazarus (Ordre de Saint-Lazare et de Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel; see our image nr.10).
On February 22, 1784, his army rank was raised to that of a "chef de brigade".
In 1791 (by then, he was already a "lieutenant" in "Compagnie Gramont" (Garde du Corps), he left France and joined Royalist Army of Condé comprised of émigrés.
He returned to France after "18 brumaire" after the First Napoleon's amnesty for émigrés, and spent the following thirteen years living at his Bayeux estate.
In June 1814, at the beginning of the First Restoration, King Louis XVIII made him into a major of the re-established "Garde du Corps du Roi" (some of the officers there have worn the GOLDEN AIGUILETTE ON THEIR RIGHT SHOULDER; he was also provided living quarters in Versailles (sic! residence town of author of this portrait). Apparently he was simultaneously awarded the Commander of the Order of St. Louis (in each case, in late 1814 and two first months of 1815 he is in possession of this order's class (see our image nr.13)).
On December 22, 1814, he was promoted by Louis XVIII to lieutenant general of the army (sic! his three stars on epaulettes) and simultaneously made Officer of the Royal Order of Legion of Honor.
In 1814 or 1815, he was awarded (by whom? by Louis XVIII of France? by Franz I of Austria?) the Commander Cross of Order of Iron Crown.
On February 28, 1815, he was awarded the Grand Cross of Saint Louis (RED SASH with breast star on left chest ; we see the countour of latter under crosses what means the portrait was executed after 28th February). "Almanach royal" for 1816 (reflects situation of preceding 1815) mentions him as a lieutenant-general of "Etat-Major de l'Armee" (General Staff), and (as said above) we know that officers and generals of latter borne the GOLDEN AIGUILETTE ON THEIR LEFT SHOULDER!
In late 1815 or early 1816 he became Commandant of "Ecole preparatoire de Saint-Cyr".
He died in the early 1830s, at his estate in Bayeux.
His son, Jean Philippe Aimar, baron d'Albignac (b. 1782), made a brilliant career in both Napoleonic and Royal armies. He died as a marechal-de-camp (a two-star general) on October 23, 1823, in Madrid, during the Spanish Campaign (for his biography, see our image nr.12).
On verso of this portrait (on the stretcher), one finds an old inscription informing of the following: "Rue de Lechelle (rue L'Echelle by Louvre in Paris - B.W.) /hotel Gaiard-Bois (correct name - "hotel du Gaillard-Bois" - B.W.) /M-r Leutner, adj.maj. (adjudant-major - B.W.).
Alexandre Jean Dubois (Dubois-Drahonet) was born on December 23, 1790, in Paris, and died on August 30, 1834, in Versailles. He was a pupil of Jean-Baptiste Regnault in Paris and concurrently served in the Lancier Regiment of Garde Imperiale (called "lanciers rouge") as a "vélite" (light chasseur). Sometime later, his regiment was stationed in Versailles. In that period (early 1810s), Dubois portrayed numerous officers of his regiment. In 1814, after retirement from the army, he settled in Versailles. From 1812 to 1817, he repeatedly showed his works at various Salon exhibitions under the name "Alexandre Jean Dubois". From 1817 (in this year, he married the daughter of Pierre Drahonet (a Versailles factory owner) he exhibited under the name "Drahonet-Dubois" or "Dubois-Drahonet"). After the death of his father-in-law, he took over the latter's enterprise. Through establishing connections with wealthy clientele, he made an acquaintance with many prominent persons of his time. He counted among his sitters (Dubois was mainly engaged as a portraitist) numerous royalties, aristocrats, generals, etc. Works of this artist can be seen in various museums of France and other countries.
Our images nr.16-27 show several works of Alexandre Jean Dubois that were offered at art auction market in the last years.
Provenance: private collection, France
Exclusive copyright of this portrait belongs to Boris Wilnitsky Fine Arts.
Its unauthorized publication without our logotype will be promptly subjected to legal claim.
Condition: good; unlined
Creation Year: early 1815
Measurements:UNFRAMED:55,5x47,0cm/21,9x18,5in FRAMED: 67,4x59,3cm/26,5x23,3in
Object Type:Framed oil painting
Style: 19th century paintings
Technique: oil on canvas
Inscription:signed and dated: "AJDubois 1815" ("AJD" - ligated)
Creator: Alexandre Jean Dubois
Creator Dates: 1790 Paris-1834 Versailles
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