The Search for Potential Subjects

The research team conducted an extensive search for potential sitters for the 1785 Delapierre portrait, based on the assumption that prominent display of the book De la Caisse d'Escompte in the foreground of the painting was an important clue to the identity of the subject.

Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau

Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours

Étienne Clavière

Initial emphasis centered on the principal author, Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau (9 March 1749 – 2 April 1791). But several of the chapters were written by others.

In his memoirs, Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville (15 January 1754 – 31 October 1793) wrote that he gave Mirabeau chapters 7 and 8, that another chapter had been composed by Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (14 December 1739 – 7 August 1817), and that the rest was from Étienne Clavière (27 January 1735 – 8 December 1793).1

Based on contemporary portraits of these four individuals (see images at right) and their ages in 1785, none appears to the research team to resemble the sitter in the 1785 Delapierre portrait.

Mirabeau in 1785 was an obese man whose face was scarred due to a serious case of smallpox at age 4. He does not at all resemble the sitter.

Clavière was 50 years old when the canvas was done and likewise does not resemble the sitter. Brissot and du Pont were 31 and 45 years old, respectively, ages not inconsistent with the sitter. But known images of them show features—hair and hairlines, for example—that are different from those of the sitter in the 1785 Delapierre portrait.

No portrait could be located for Vaudois Isaac Panchaud (1736 – 1789). He founded the Discount Bank (Caisse d'Escompte) on 24 March 1776, but in 1785 was a critic who joined Clavière in helping to encourage Mirabeau to publish De la Caisse d'Escompte.

However, Panchaud would have been about 49 years old when the 1785 Delapierre portrait was painted—considerably older than the sitter appears. 

Based on age, appearance, or date of death, other important contemporaries with interests in banking and the Discount Bank—or who were related to the principal author of the book—do not appear to be the sitter. They include:

Jacques Necker (30 September 1732 – 9 April 1804): A proponent of the Discount Bank. He was a French statesman born in Switzerland, and director-general of finances for Louis XVI from 1776 until 1781.

Charles Alexandre de Calonne (20 January 1734 – 30 October 1802): A proponent of the Discount Bank. He was Controller-General of Finances from 3 November 1783 until his dismissal by Louis XVI on 8 April 1787. (Image supplied by Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II.)

Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, Baron de Laune (10 May 1727 – 18 March 1781): A leading economist in 18th-century France who encouraged the creation of the Discount Bank. [Image courtesy of Bibliothèque Publique et Universitaire, Neuchâtel (OR BPU Neuchâtel).]

Étienne Delessert (30 April 1735 – 18 June 1816): A prominent French banker associated with the Discount Bank. (Image courtesy of the New York Public Library, www.nypl.org.)

Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (26 August 1743 – 8 May 1794): A prominent French chemist and administrator who, in 1788, was attached to the Discount Bank and subsequently wrote several papers on its operations.2

André Boniface Louis Riqueti de Mirabeau (30 November 1754 – 17 September 1792): Comte de Mirabeau's brother.

Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau (5 October 1715 – 13 July 1789): Comte de Mirabeau's father.

Delapierre had a brother, but the research team has been unable to determine his full name, his date of birth and death, or whether he had any association with the Discount Bank.3



References and notes

[1] Richard Whatmore & James Livesey, "Étienne Clavière, Jacques-Pierre Brissot and the intellectual origins of Girondin politics," Annales historique de la Révolution française, #321, July-September 2000.

[2] See 1902 Encyclopedia, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier.

[3] A Delapierre portrait titled "Le frère de l'auteur" [The Brother of the Artist] was exhibited in August 1786 in Lyon, France (ref: Pérez, Marie-Félicie, 1975; "Exposition du « Salon des Arts » de Lyon en 1786"; Gazette des Beaux-arts; Sixth series, Vol. 86, p. 199; December 1975). The current location of this painting is unknown.