Jacques Necker

Jacques Necker

Jacques Necker (1732-1804).

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Necker, Geneva banker established in Paris, had served as Director of the Treasury and then Director General of Finance from 1777 to 1781. While the American War increased the costs, he successfully carried out some tax reforms, but made enemies by publishing, in 1781, in his famous Report to the King, the amount of pensions paid to courtiers, the "hornets", and by experimenting with a project of provincial assemblies of the three orders in order to involve the French in the management of their interests and to reduce the power of the intendants. He is the father of Mme de Staël.

Image Analysis

Presented at mid-length, three quarters to the left, the Minister's face is smiling, his hair raised and powdered, his head slightly thrown back and tilted to the right. Necker wears here a wine color coat open on a lace frill. In the original full-length portrait, Duplessis presented his model sitting at his worktable, quill resting in the inkwell, interrupting his study and turning to look in the back of the room at a possible visitor. In the portrait reduced to a bust of the Palace of Versailles, this naturally natural gesture, having lost all narrative support, takes on a new meaning: affability and self-confidence compete with a feeling of natural authority.

Interpretation

Received at the Royal Academy in 1774, Duplessis is one of the best portrait painters of the reign of Louis XVI. This portrait of Necker is a reduced replica of a large portrait of the minister made in 1781, exhibited at the Salon of 1783, currently kept at the castle of Coppet (Switzerland), which was engraved - proof of his fame - by Augustin de Saint-Aubin in 1784. This plate will be the object of a reissue engraved by Sergent under the direction of Saint-Aubin in 1789. During the first year of the Revolution, and precisely after the storming of the Bastille, the popularity of Necker is at its height. While Saint-Aubin, in his 1784 engraving respected the very hieratic sobriety of the king's minister, he asked Sergent to complete the cartouche of the engraved portrait of 1789 with allegories of abundance, the names of Sully and Colbert, and the representation of works published by the statesman: the staging of this allegory is very telling since a winged putto hangs on the temple of glory, next to the two medallions bearing the names of the ministers of Henry IV. and Louis XIV, a third medallion bearing the name of Louis XVI's reforming minister.

  • Old regime
  • States General
  • Necker (Jacques)
  • portrait
  • Staël (Germaine de)

Bibliography

Louis-Marie CLENETCathelineau the saint of Anjou: first generalissimo of the Vendée armyParis, Perrin, 1991.Roger DUPUYLes ChouansHachette literature, 1997.Emile GABORYThe Guerres de VendéeParis, Robert Laffont, coll. “Bouquin”, 1989. Jean-Clément MARTIN “La Vendée, region-memory” in Pierre Nora (under the direction of) Memorial place Gallimard, 1984, reed. "Quarto" collection, 1996. The French Revolution and Europe 1789-1799 , exhibition catalog Paris, RMN, 1989.

To cite this article

Robert FOHR and Pascal TORRÈS, "Jacques Necker"


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