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Elie Dignat-Attrib. "Military commissar Jacques Antoine Ravenel", large miniature on ivory, 1816/17
FINAL DISCOUNT PRICE= 2700 USD
( for EUR price see date rate )
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The old legend on verso of this portrait miniature (retold by the its last owner in (dated 1961) label on backing paper) informs us that it is a portrait of "General Savary of Napoleon's Army" (see our images nr.7-9), namely (the only known Napoleonic general with this name) - Anne-Jean-Marie-René Savary, Duke de Rovigo (1774-1833). However, after examining numerous portraits of General Savary (widely available throughout the Web), one can see that it is an absolutely different person.
One of our advisors in Napoleonica informed us that the sitter' name is Jacques Antoine Ravenel (b.1773), that he is depicted between 16th May 1816 and 20th July 1817, and that he is in rank of "commissaire des guerres de 1e classe (ordinnateur de division)" (promotion on 17th March 1814). He wears insignias of three Royal (period of Bourbon Restoration) awards (from left to right): Chevalier Cross of the Order of Saint Louis (awarded on 20th July 1814), badge of the "Decoration du Lys" (repeating the form of St-Louis cross; it was a special model for the members of Garde du Corps du Roi where the sitter served from 10th June 1814) and Chevalier Cross of the Order of Honour (awarded on 16th May 1816).
Our advisor's line of reasoning is very interesting. He was able to recognize
the uniform of "commissaire des guerres" of either the 1st or the 2nd class (the actual class could have only been distinguished by inspecting the rear of the uniform: whereas the rear coattail pockets of the 1st class uniform were embroidered, those of the 2nd class uniform were not. On the front both 1st and 2nd class uniforms of the "commissaire des guerres" shared identical appearance).
This type of uniform (introduced as early as 1803) existed up until the 20th of July 1817, i.e. until "commissaires des guerres" were renamed into "intendants militaires" and assigned to wear a new uniform as a result.
As mentioned above, the sitter wears three awards stemming from the period of Restoration. This fact provides the lower time margin of execution of this miniature portrait, namely April 1814. The latter drove our informant to consult the registries of military commissars of the 1st and 2nd in the period between 1814-1817 that are available at the National Archive of France. He did so in order to look for persons who were ( in the period between 1814-1817) in possession of at least two of aforementioned awards: Chevalier Cross of St. Louis Order and Chevalier Cross of the Order of Honour (the National Archive does not store the registries of the "Lys" recipients; these documents are stored in another archive).
Our advisor's search produced no results among the military commissars of the 2nd class, however returned as many as six names among the bearers of the 1st class. The sitter's 3rd award - the (similar to that of St. Louis) badge of the "Lys" - served a very helpful purpose: only one out of six discovered officers served in the Garde du Corps du Roi!
His name was Jacques Antoine Ravenel, "commissaire des guerres de 1e classe (ordinnateur de devision)". From the 10th of June 1814 until the 1st of November 1815 he was the treasurer of the 4th "French" Company of the Garde du Corps du Roi. His "Lys" he received probably just after begin of this sernice.
Jacques Antoine Ravenel was born in the commune Valencay, department Indre (France) on the 2nd of February 1773 as a son of officer of the Law Clement Ravenel and his wife Marie Madelaine Gillet. In 1792 he joined the "Garde á cheval du Roi". During the Revolution Wars he was imprisoned by the English (1795).
Realized, he was a secretary of several directors and - later - a head clerk of accounts at the office of "ordinnateur" of the 1st military district (city of Paris and its suburbs). In 1806 he was promoted to "commissaire des guerres" of the 2nd class. Approximately in the same period he was noticed by Napoleon's commander of the General Staff, Marshal Berthier, who then transferred him into his personal service.
Ravenel's responsibility then was enormous, for he was in charge of administration of Berthier's immense properties - Castles Grosbois, Moulineaux, Chambord, as well as numerous properties in Germany and Poland.
In 1811 he was not only promoted to "commissaire des guerres de 1e classe" but also received annual support of 8,000 francs from Marshal Berthier.
As said above, at the early stage of the Bourbon Restoration, Ravenel was transferred to serve as treasurer of the 4th "French" Company of the Garde du Corps du Roi (he was allowed to keep his previous rank received under Napoleon). His service record (see our image nr.14) lists November 1st 1815 as the last day of his duty in this function. Thereafter (according to our advisor) he served in the Corps of Military Commissars of the General Staff of French Army (until 1817; after July 1817 he was referred to as "sous-intendant militaire"). our informant found the last mention of this man in the Archive of the Legion of Honour: in 1827 "our" Jacques-Antoine Ravenel received the patent of an Officer of this order. Further developments of his life remain unknown to us.
One more important attribute of the sitter's occupation gathered from this portrait: the tomes in the background are not regular books but in fact custom-bound volumes of documents - fruits of his labor.
Our images nr.10-16 show documents pertaining to Ravenel from the National Archive of France that our advisor kindly made available for us to view.
Jacques Antoine Ravenel is depicted at the age of 43-44 years, and we believe that this miniature was commissioned by him immediately following important event in his career - conferral of the Order of Honor (16th Mays 1816) - he is shown holding his order patent (see inscription on the scroll of paper: "C(r)oix /.. ord(re)… des…".
This miniature demonstrates great resemblance with works of well-known French artist Elie Dignat (compare with his other works IN OUR POSSESSION)
Elie-Antoine Dignat was born in Limoges. He began his artistic career in the early period of the 1st Empire. At the beginning of Restoration he was commissioned by the family d'Orleans to produce a cycle of portraits. He was also responsible for execution of altar decorations during the consecration of King Charles X in Reims (29 May 1825). Nathalie Lemoine-Bouchard also mentions his activity as a restorer of manuscripts and book miniatures, especially in the years between 1836 and 1840. He worked in this function in libraries of Louis XVIII and Charles X. According to Nathalie Lemoine-Bouchard, Elie-Antoine Dignat died after 1840 in Paris.
Provenance: French private collection
Creation Year: 1816/17
Measurements: UNFRAMED:10,1x10,1cm/4,0x4,0in FRAMED: 17,7x17,0cm/7,0x6,7in
Object Type: Framed miniature
Style: Portrait Miniatures
Technique: watercolor on ivory
Inscription: verso: old (erroneous) legend
Creator: Elie (Elie-Antoine) Dignat
To see other works by this artist click on the name above!
Creator Dates: born in Limoges-after 1840 Paris
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