“Chateaubriand Meditating on the Ruins of Rome” Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson, 1808, oil on canvas

"Chateaubriand Meditating on the Ruins of Rome" 1808

“Chateaubriand Meditating on the Ruins of Rome” 1808

Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson was born in France in 1767 and sadly was orphaned as a child. He was adopted rather late in life by Benoît-François Trioson in 1806 and his name changed to Roussy-Trioson (he was born Anne-Louis Girodet Roussy).  Born during the middle to late 18th century, Trioson painted during the early phase of Romanticism and achieved great success early on in life. He started studying drawing very young at the age of six with the Neoclassical architect Étienne-Louis Boullée. This early exposure to neoclassicism had an influence on Trioson’s early work as many of his paintings reflect the neoclassic. In 1789, Trioson won the Prix de Rome competition for his piece “Joseph Recognized by his Brothers” (pictured below); the neoclassical can be seen in this work by the sculptural bodies and clean lines of the figures. Trioson also studied under Jacques-Louis David who criticized Trioson’s later work due to its abandonment of the traditional in favor of more romanticized themes.  However, Trioson is praised in the art community for his delicate transition from Neoclassicism to Romanticism. Trioson was also a fan of portraying literary themes in his painting. Perhaps because of his interest in literature, Trioson painted this portrait of François-René de Chateaubriand.

"Joseph Recognized by his Brothers" 1789

“Joseph Recognized by his Brothers” 1789

François-René de Chateaubriand was a French author and was a representative of the reactions against the French revolution and was also one of the most notable figures in French literature at the time.  During the French Revolution, he sided with the Royalist and even joined their army, possibly because he was born into an aristocratic family. In this portrait, we see Chateaubriand with his hand in his coat pocket with the ruins of Rome behind him. This portrait was created in 1808 well after the end of the French Revolution. Because the Royalist were defeated during the Revolution and King Louis executed, the ruins in the background are very telling of the emotions Chateaubraind probably felt. He probably felt like the France he once knew was forever gone and just as the Roman Empire fell, France too, had fallen. Napoleon stated that the portrait of Chateaubriand “looked like that of a conspirator who had come down a chimney”. Napoleon was probably remarking on the dark clothes Chateaubrain is wearing as well as his tousled looking hair.

Chateaubriand looks as though he is in deep introspection with his head turned away from the viewer’s gaze. The dark, moody colors also create a somber atmosphere which adds to the introspection of Chateaubriand. Trioson was also known for his unusual color effects and melodramatic colors which can be seen in this portrait. What is most notable is the softness of this painting in comparison to some of Trioson’s other works of art which go along with Romanticism; however the ruins in the background create a neoclassical characteristic. Viewers can see the genius in the transition from Neoclassical to Romanticism that Trioson displayed from the collaboration between these two differing art movements composed together in one painting. Unfortunately Trioson did not continue to paint much after he inherited a large portion of money in 1815 and sheltered himself from daylight and spent his days writing poetry.

Works Cited

“Anne-Louis Girodet”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 21 Jan. 2015

“Anne Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson”. Art Experts. 1 January, 2010 <http://www.artexpertswebsite.com/pages/artists/jackson.php&gt;.

“Girodet, Anne-Louis” The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists. Ed Ian Chilvers. Oxford University Press 2009 Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.


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