Portrait of Louis-Charles Balzac
Anne-Louis Girodet ( French, 1767 - 1824 )
Anne–Louis Girodet pitilessly but sensitively describes the florid complexion, fleshy lips, and deeply hooded eyes of his sitter, Louis–Charles Balzac. Balzac was an architect who had traveled to Egypt in 1798 alongside Napoleon Bonaparte's invading army. He went as a member of the official expedition tasked with documenting Egypt's monuments, an encyclopedic publication titled Description of Egypt.
Balzac and Girodet probably met in 1809 or 1810, when the artist was preparing his monumental painting The Revolt of Cairo, which showed a bloody October 1798 revolt against the Napoleonic occupation, an event to which Balzac was one of the few surviving eyewitnesses. This portrait dates to the year after Girodet completed the history painting and may have been made as a gesture of friendship to Balzac.
Heather MacDonald, DMA label copy, 2010.