Self-Portrait with Family in the Artist’s Studio


Paul Claude-Michel Carpentier ( French, 1787 - 1877 )

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General Description

Standing before his easel holding brushes and his palette, the artist Paul Carpentier confidently gazes outward. His wife, Adèle, and eleven-year-old daughter, Clémence, lovingly admire the very painting in which they are posing. The red fabric of Adèle’s gown is just visible on the right edge of the painting underway. Though a triple portrait, in many ways the painting’s true subject is Carpentier’s professional status. Set in his studio, the painting showcases the tools of the educated painter’s trade: easels, books, plaster casts of antique statuary from which to copy, and a wood chest containing art supplies.

Carpentier gave particular prominence to the painted plaster cast of Jean-Antoine Houdon’s Seated Voltaire, which he bought from the 18th-century French sculptor’s estate. Seated Voltaire appears twice in the composition: as a sculpture and as a preliminary sketch on the canvas in progress. The French Enlightenment philosopher held personal meaning for Carpentier; he later gave the cast to the municipal library in his hometown of Rouen, where Voltaire first published his Lettres philosophiques in 1733.

Excerpt from

Nicole Myers, DMA label copy, 2017.

Fun Facts

  • Within days of acquiring this painting, a preparatory drawing for this work was gifted to the Dallas Museum of Art. (2015.20.FA)

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