Title: Leon Gambetta.
Author : LEGROS Alphonse (1837 - 1911)
Creation date : 1875
Date shown: 1875
Dimensions: Height 65 - Width 55
Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas
Storage location: Orsay Museum website
Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J. P. Lagiewski
Picture reference: 86DE109 / RE 2770
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J. Lagiewski
Publication date: March 2016
Léon Gambetta (Cahors 1838-Paris 1882), lawyer, opposed to the imperial regime, played a major political role in the aftermath of the defeat of Sedan, in the government of National Defense. From this tribune with the immense reputation, nicknamed the "commercial traveler of the Republic" dying young and in dramatic circumstances, History was going to seize on itself to build a myth.
The Louvre Archives, in the documents concerning the reports of the Museum's Acquisitions Committee, preserve this eloquent testimony, dated March 29, 1930: “M. Léonce Bénédite, Curator of the Musée du Luxembourg, reminds his colleagues that he had already informed them of the intention expressed by Sir Charles Dilke to bequeath to the Luxembourg Museum after his death and the death of Lady Dilke, Legros' portrait of Gambetta. M. Bénédite gave an account of the visit he had recently had the opportunity to pay to Sir Charles Dilke in London: he saw the portrait, which is very remarkable and which is the only portrait of Gambetta painted from life [ when Gambetta visited Sir Charles Dilke to establish a Franco-English alliance through the English radicals]. Bénédite believes that if Sir Charles Dilke were offered a copy of this portrait, he would not wait until his death to offer it to the Luxembourg Museum. He therefore asks that a letter be addressed to Sir Charles Dilke, 76 Hoane Street in London, thanking him for his generous intention, however late it may be. The painting will join the collections of the Musée du Luxembourg in 1911, on the death of its donor.
If the caricature press had been abundantly inspired by Gambetta's impressive body of tribune, his vast and elusive forehead, his particularly prominent nose, he had in fact hardly inspired artists, Legros' work being the figure of 'exception. However, after his death, painters and sculptors paid homage to him for building a myth. It begins at the artist's bedside with the photographic montages by Marres and the photographs by Carjat, the sketches by Jules Bastien-Lepage and the death masks, including that of Marcel Debut, all of which are to be reproduced and distributed. The following year, a competition was launched for a commemorative monument to be erected in Paris. The model of the project selected, and since partly destroyed, by Louis-Charles Boileau and Jean-Paul Aubé is in the Orsay Museum. Dalou in Ville-d´Avray, Bartholdi in Bordeaux, Charpentier in Cavaillon or Maubert in Nice created other monumental ensembles to the glory of Gambetta. In a smaller format and for a wide distribution, Ringel d´Illzach, Riu or Vasselot, who created several medals, or Carrier-Belleuse, Dalou and Falguière, who produced busts, worked. The painters are not to be outdone, with the splendid portrait painted by Bonnat in 1888, kept at the Versailles museum. But popular objects, images of Epinal, earthenware plates, ashtrays, pipes, etc., are also called upon to convey the sublimated image of the great deceased, usually favoring the left profile, to conceal the model's glass eye.
- Gambetta (Leon)
- political opponents
- Third Republic
- Grevy (Jules)
- Mac Mahon (Patrice de)
Homage to Léon Gambetta catalog of the exhibition of the Musée du Luxembourg, November 18, 1982– January 9, 1983, Paris, Delegation to national celebrations, 1982.
Jacques CHASTENET Gambetta Fayard, 1968.
To cite this article
Dominique LOBSTEIN, "Léon Gambetta"