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HISTORICAL AND CRITICAL
Among David's numerous pupils, three painters had been the more remarked, as all three had a different manner, and that it was difficult to determine to which the preference ought to be given. Gros, Gérard, and Girodet seemed to form a triumvirate, and as soon as the public eagerly offered the palm to one of them, the two others were seen offering new motives equally deserving of it. But, death separated this group of three artists who might still for a long while have contributed to adorn the public Exhibitions. The fame of him', who had disappeared from this mortal scene, appeared to increase suddenly, without, however, in any way diminishing that of his two competitors.
Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy was born at Montargis, January 6, 1767. From tender youth, he showed great aptitude for study, and a decided taste for drawing. His parents had first intended he should learn Architecture: they subsequently had the project of letting him follow the military career; but David, seeing one of Girodet's designs, said to his mother. •You may do what you please, Madam, but still your son will be a painter. The opinion of this master was unquestionably of a nature to shake the determination of Girodet's parents, and thus they determined to place him in David's School.
It was in 1789, that Girodet gained the Grand Prize, the subject of which was Joseph recognised by his Brothers: he had, the year before, won the second Prize. Our young artist soon set off for Rome: it was there that he executed two of his pictures, Endymion Sleeping, and Hippocrates refusing the presents of Artaxerxes. The first of these pictures, so remarkable for the pleasing thought, the grandeur of the style, the elegance and correctness of the design, had a wonderful success, and it has ever since preserved a very distinguished rank among this artist's works.
Girodet was in Rome when Basseville, the French Consul, was murdered by the mob; because, obeying the orders of the French Government, he had endeavoured to substitute, for the shield with the Fleurs de Lis, an Allegory relative to the Republic. Girodet, who had remained in the Academy with Pequignot and Lafitte had yet his pencil iu his hand when the people attacked the building and destroyed every thing in it. Pursued, it was not without difficulty that he escaped from the knives of the assassins: he however succeeded in reaching Naples, where he set about studying Landscape.
The political events no longer allowing the French to remain in this part of Italy, Girodet went to Venice, where the Euganean Hills offered him fresh subjects for study. He was occupied in drawing a site when the sbirri came to arrest him. «After stripping, handcuffing, and treating him in the most insulting manner, one of the wretches asked him, if, festivals were still celebrated in France? More than ever, replied Girodet; the festival of Victory returns every month. » This was in 1794; the French were constantly annoyed, yet, on the demand of the Minister Noël, the Venetian Government could not refuse lending himself to the punishment of those who committed the outrage on the young French Artist. Girodet then returned to Paris, where, on arriving, he painted his
OF ANNE-LOUIS GIRODET.
picture of Danae, given no 143. This picture brought him in only 600 fr. (L. 24): its owner now asks for it 25,000 fr. (L. 1000). Many similar examples are found in the biographies of the old artists, but it is extraordinary to see within thirty years, such an increase in price.
Girodet did afterwards, for the King of Spain, four pictures of the Seasons. His talent, appreciated by the public, was equally so by the Government, and in 1801, he received orders to execute a picture for Malmaison. Girodet was then to enter into a competition with M. Gérard, but whether by chance, or intentionally, it became complete, since he also treated an Ossianic subject. The beauties of these two pictures are still remembered with astonishment: that of Girodet represented Fingal and his descendants receiving in their aerial palaces the Manes of the French heros. Girodet immediately afterwards occupied himself with his great and magnificent picture representing a Scene from the Deluge, which appeared in the Exhibition of 1806. The Burial of Atala appeared in 1808: this new masterpiece was generally admired. The picture of Napoleon receiving the keys of Vienna, exhibited the same year, and that of the Insurrection in Cairo, which appeared in 1810, completed the series of Girodet's works, whose fame is chiefly grounded on what he did during those ten years. Although the Decennial Prizes, founded in 1804 were not, as in due course, given till the year 1810, yet Girodet had the glory of seeing his picture of the Deluge named by the Jury as meriting the Grand Prize, which distinction was the more flattering to him, as amongst the other works presented to the Committee, was the picture of the Sabines by David, his master.
Girodet's health was declining rapidly, and he felt the more grief at it, as he saw that working assiduously was hurtful to him, and he saw himself obliged to throw aside large works:
but his imagination continued not the less actively employed, and it was then he did that immense quantity of designs, the ideas of which he had gathered in the works of Anacreon, Virgil, Sappho, Ossian, and other poets, that he delighted in reading.
Some of Girodet's productions, however, appeared once more in the Exhibition of 1824, where were seen the full length portraits of Cathelineau, and of General Bonchamps : but ere the Exhibition closed, Girodet was no more. No doubt, aware of his approaching end, he felt deep regret at not being able to execute all, that, at his time of life, he might have been induced to hope. Mastering, for a moment, the disorder that overwhelmed him, he left his bed, and, supported by his servant only, went into his study: he cast his languid looks at those works he knew he should never finish: in sullen silence, he considered, for the last time, the spot, witness of his many watchings, and studies; but, unable to bear so painful a situation, he withdrew slowly, then turning on the threshold of the door : « Farewell, said he, in a dying voice; farewell, I shall see you no more. »
The pupils of all the schools joined his, to pay him the last homage: his mortal remains were accompanied by all the most distinguished and respectable persons in Paris.
A monument was raised to his memory in the Eastern Cemetery, fafter his friend's designs, M. Periez; and the bust adorning it was executed by M. Desprez. M. P. A. Coupin has published Girodel't Literary Works, in 2 vols. 8° : he bas thas enabled the public to judge of the talents of our painter for poetry, and particularly of the advice he gives relative to the Art of Painting. This collection is preceded by a highly interesting Notice of the Life and Works of Girodet, written by M. Coupin..