Jean Racine. Eighteenth-century engraving by Jean Daullé, based on Racine's official court portrait. It appeared as the frontispiece to Oeuvres de Racine (Paris: 1760) [courtesy of the Library of Congress, Division of Special Collections. PQ 1885 1760 (Pre-1801)].
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin de Molière. Eighteenth-century engraving by the royal engraver Jacques-Firmin Beauvarlet based on a seventeenth-century portrait painted by Sébastien Bourdon. It was published by Jean-Baptiste Mailly in 1774 Bibliothèque Nationale, Département des Estampes, N3, vol. 62. The depiction of Molière as a writer is a visual motif that appears only in post-humous portraits, yet had become standard by the mid-eighteenth century.
Pierre Corneille. This engraving is based on a Charles Le Brun portrait, engraved in 1734 by Etienne Ficquet, reproduced here from Portraits engravés par Etienne Ficquet, 1738 a 1794 [Paris: 1738 - 1794]) [courtesy of the Library of Congress, Division of Special Collections, Rosenwald Collection (#1649)].
Pierre Corneille. This is an even more academic representation of Corneille, from the mid-eighteenth-century, drawn and engraved by Augustin St. Aubin, based on the mid eighteenth-century bust of the author by Jean-Jacques Caffieri. It is reproduced here from Oeuvres de P Corneille (Paris: Renouard, 1817) t. I [Library of Congress, Division of Special Collections, Rosenwald Collection (#1889)].
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin de Molière. This engraving, drawn and executed in the early 1680s, depicts Molière beneath a clock, showing two twenty-five, supposedly the hour of his death; it is loosely based on a Pierre Mignard portrait from 1655 of Molière at age 35. [Bibliothèque Nationale, Département des Estampes, N2, vol 1267].
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin de Molière. François-Bernard Lepicié in 1734 engraved this portrait as a frontispiece for the four-volume luxury edition of Oeuvres complètes de Molière, loosely based on a portrait by Charles Coypel, in turn based on a Nicolas Mignard portrait painted in Avignon in 1658. It is reproduced here from the BN, Département des Éstampes, AA3 Mignard.
Frontispiece of an early nineteenth-century edition, Oeuvres de M. Molière (Paris: Allaut, 1821), derived from the Coypel portrait. It appears courtesy of Butler Library, Columbia University [843 M73 I122, v. 1].
Voltaire. This image is a 1762 engraving by Étienne Ficquet based on Maurice Quentin de la Tour's portrait of 1736, "Voltaire à 41 ans;" it appears courtesy of the Library of Congress, Division of Special Collections, Rosenwald Collection [#1649].
Voltaire. This engraving commemorates the sixth performance by the Comédie Française of Voltaire's "Irène" on March 30, 1778, after which the troupe crowned a bust of the author on stage. This apotheosis of Voltaire at the royal theater culminated the writer's triumphal return to Paris just before his death. Such engravings as this one and the more frequently reproduced "Homage to Voltaire" by Moreau le jeune helped establish in the collective imagination that by the late 1770s, the Enlightenment had triumphed. Yet no other playwright of the century could imagine enjoying such acclaim from both the troupe and the audience, and most playwrights resented Voltaire for his success. This engraving is reproduced from the BN Éstampes, Collection Hennin 9644.
Voltaire. His image as an autonomous writer, nearly unique in the eighteenth century, is evident in a 1765 portrait drawing of him at work at his desk, at his estate of Ferney. It was reproduced in numerous engravings at the end and after his life as in this engraving by G. W. Weise, from 1779, which appears from the BN-Éstampes (Collection Henin, 9655).
Alexis Piron. This engraving by Nicolas Le Mir appeared as the frontispiece to Piron, Oeuvres choisies (Paris: Duchesne, 1773); it based on a painting by Nicolas Bernard Michel Lépicié, to which the engraver added a verse praising Piron's "brain" as the source of his "glory." It is reproduced here from the Library of Congress, Division of Special Collections [PQ2019.P6 A17].
Voltaire. This image, "Voltaire à 24 ans," appears courtesy of the Musée Carnavalet (P 208). This painting may be a studio copy of a similar portrait in the Musée nationale de Versailles from the same year, which has been attributed to a different court painter, Catherine Luscurier. This portrait was reproduced in multiple engravings, all of which attribute the original to Largillière.
Molière lisant le Tartuffe chez Ninon de l'Enclos. Nicolas-André Monsiau, "Molière lisant le Tartuffe chez Ninon de l'Enclos." The figures depicted are Pierre Corneille, Jean Racine, Jean de la Lafontaine, the Maréchal de Vivone, Nicolas Boileau, Chapelle, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Thomas Corneille, Jules Mansard, Philippe Quinault, Baron, le grand Condé, Saint Evremont, Jean de la Bruyére, Pierre Mignard, François Girardon, and the duke de la Rochefoucault. (Bibliothèque de la Comédie Française).
Michel Sedaine. Sedaine's prominence was sufficient already in 1772 to have Jacques-Louis David paint his portrait as Perpetual Secretary of the royal Academy of Architecture, of which an engraving by Pierre-Charles Levesque is reproduced here from BN-Éstampes, N2, vol. 1761.
Poster from Comédie Française. The poster shown here is one of a small collection of twelve eighteenth-century posters is held at the BCF.
Invitation from Comédie Française. This engraved invitation is reproduced from the BCF.
Busts in "Hall of Honor" at the Comédie Française. This photograph shows the Gallerie d'honneur of the Comédie Française, as it appears today; it still includes Caffieri's and Pigalle's eighteenth-century busts. Reproduction courtesy of the BCF. Photograph by Patricia LeGras.
Glory and Despair. This engraving, by Isidore-Stanislas Helman from a drawing by Charles Monnet, appeared as the frontispiece to Andebez de Montgaubet's edition of his unperformed play, Abimélech (Paris: Duchesne, 1776) [Bibliothéque Nationale 8 Yth 77].
Comédie Française at Odéon. The theater at the Place de l'Odéon, built to house the Comédie Française, opened in 1783. The new hall held about 200 more spectators than the Thuileries theater, where the royal actors had preformed for most of the century; more importantly, considerably more of the seats were in loges. This hand-colored engraving, by Jean-François Janninet from a drawing by Jean-Nicolas Louis Durand from the 1780s, is reproduced here from the BCF.
Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon. This engraving, of Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon, by Étienne Ficquet based on a 1746 portrait by Jacques-André Joseph Aved, exemplifies the genre of engraved portraits of playwrights, featuring conventions of an academic portrait, with the author's bust, in profile or quarter turn, in an oval; the base on which the oval rests frequently includes such classical iconic symbols of the theater as masks, a torch, a staff and asps. An identical engraving by Bachelou appeared as the frontispiece in Oeuvres de M. de Crébillon (Paris: Imp. royale, 1750) vol I [BN Yf 424]. Ficquet executed a series of such engravings of notable writers, which are in Portraits engravés par Étienne Ficquet, 1738 à 1794 [Paris: 1738 - 1794; Library of Congress, Department of Special Collections, Rosenwald Collection (#1649), from which this image is reproduced.
Charles Palissot de Monteony. This engraving appeared as the frontispiece to the first edition of Palissot's Ouevres. It is based on a portrait by Charles Monnet, who held an honorary title as "Peintre du Roi;" the engraving is by Chessard, who held a similarly honorific position as "Royal Engraver" at the Spanish court. The edition itself was printed by the state publisher of Liège. It is reproduced here from the Library of Congress, Division of Special Collections, pre-1801 collection [PQ 2019 P25 1777 t. I ].
Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. Jean-Marc Nattier portrait of Beaumarchais, 1755. Reproduced from the BCF.
Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. This image of Beaumarchais in the style of an academic portrait was engraved by Michon in 1784, as a potential frontispiece for the anticipated, luxury first edition of Beaumarchais's Mariage de Figaro. It is based on an engraving cut in 1773 by Augustin de St. Aubin, from a portrait drawn by Nicholas Cochin, as a frontispiece for his Mémoires contre Goezmann. This image is reproduced from the BN Éstampes, N2, vol 125.
Louis-Sébastien Mercier. Ane comme il y en a peu," BN Estampes, N2, vol. 1235. The BN catalogue dates this image to "1798 [?]" though all the references are to early Mercier writings, suggesting it was at least drawn if not engraved in the early 1770s. In addition to the references to Du Théâtre and his early plays, the title refers to Mercier's Contes moraux, ou les hommes comme il'y en a peu (Paris: 1768). In the background, a windmill alludes to Holland where many of Mercier's early tracts and plays had been printed by Harrevelt. The legend reads "Masterpieces mean little to me, so long as I can trample and raise up, and that I have enough thistle [Peu m'importent les chef-d'oeuvres de tous les arts, pourvu que j'écrase, que je m'élève et que le chardon ne me manque pas]." Beneath that, it reads: "Oh, men of taste, recognize the beast! [Ô! Gens de goût, reconnaissez la bête!]
Louis-Sébastien Mercier. This engraving by Lorieux depicts Mercier in 1781. The attribution of the portrait to "Preudhomme" may be to Pierre-Paul Prud'hon who had recently arrived in Paris in 1781 and painted a series of portraits. It is reproduced here from the BN Éstampes, N2, vol. 1237.
Luigi Sebatiano Mercier. This engraving, by Torchiana from a drawing by Antoine-François Marceau, is reproduced courtesy of the Musée de la Révolution Française (Vizille), MRFV 1991-109.
Jean-François de Cailhava. This engraving from 1780, by Charles-Étienne Gaucher, noted for his portraits of court figures, is based on a drawing by André Pujos. It presents Cailhava in a standard academic pose; the verse compares him to Molière for his ability to combine "tone" and "mores" with commercial appeal. (Reproduced from the Bibliothèque Nationale, Département des Estampes, N2, vol. 248).
Jean-François Marmontel. This engraving of Marmontel's official Académie portrait appeared as the frontispiece to the first volume of his Oeuvres complettes ([Liège:] 1777); it is reproduced here courtesy of the Library of Congress, Division of Special Collections, Pre-1801 Collection [PQ 2005 A1 1777].
Pierre Laurent Buirette de Belloy. This frontispiece appeared in the first volume of the Oeuvres completes de M. de Belloy, citoyen de Calais (Paris: Moutard, 1779); it is reproduced here courtesy of Columbia University, Butler Library [843 B 415 I, v. 1].
Charles Georges Fenouillot de Falbaire de Quingey. This engraved portrait, by Augustin de St. Albin from a drawing by Nicolas Cochin, appeared as the frontispiece to Oeuvres de M. de Falbaire de Quingey (Paris: Duchesne, 1787); it is reproduced here courtesy of Columbia University, Butler Library [843 F363 I, v. 1].
Engraving of Comédie Française at Odéon. The theater at the Place de l'Odéon, built to house the Comédie Française, opened in 1783. The new hall held about 200 more spectators than the Thuileries theater, where the royal actors had preformed for most of the century; more importantly, considerably more of the seats were in loges. This hand-colored engraving, by Jean-François Janninet from a drawing by Jean-Nicolas Louis Durand from the 1780s, is reproduced here from the BCF.
"Voilà où nous réduit l'aristocratie." BNÉstampes, Collection de Vinck 896. (1785)
"Ah! Je l'avais bien dit: Tans va la cruche a l'eau qu'enfin elle s'emplit." The figure escorting Beaumarchais carries a paper that reads "A Messieurs de Saint-Lazare, 7 mars 1785," and the figure representing Bazile exclaims, "Ah! Je l'avais bien dit, tant va la cruche á l'eau qu'á la fin elle se casse." In the play, Figaro queries Bazile if he know the end of the proverb, and Bazile answers correctly "elle s'emplit" (V.xi). [BN-Éstampes, Collection Hennin 10,039.]
Beaumarchais flogged at Saint-Lazare. This hand-colored engraving from 1785 is attributed to Vincent Vangelisti. It is reproduced here from the BN-Éstampes, Collection Hennin 10,040; another copy is in the Collection de Vinck 898. A variant is in the Arsenal Cabinet d'Estampes (882).
Castigat Flagrando Mores. Beaumarchais, holding a copy of Folle journée, is being flogged, surrounded by the entire cast of characters from "Mariage" who seem to celebrate his fate. The heading to this engraving reads "Castigat Flagrando Mores" [Correct morals by whipping], a variant on the classical device, "Castigat Ridendo Mores" [Correct morals by laughter], much quoted in the eighteenth century. At one point held by the BCF, this engraving now appears lost. It is reproduced in Agusutin Cabanès "Beaumarchais à Saint-Lazare," Les Indiscretions de l'histoire (Paris: Albin Michel, ), 206222; and Georges Monval, "Beaumarchais fouetté," LaRevue d'art ancien et moderne (1898), 360363, from which it is reproduced here. Courtesy of Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University in the City of New York.
Maison des Ambassadeurs d'Hollande, Paris. Photograph by the author, 2001.
Busts in "Hall of Honor" at the Comédie Française. This photograph shows the Gallerie d'honneur of the Comédie Française, as it appears today; it still includes Caffieri's and Pigalle's eighteenth-century busts. Reproduction courtesy of the BCF.
Marie-Joseph Chénier. Engravings based on this portrait appeared as the frontispieces to multiple editions of Chénier's collected works, beginning in 1801. The engraving attributes the work to Horace Vernet, though a similar portrait of Chénier at age 30, now in the Carnavalet (# P.68), is considered anonymous. The image reproduced here is engraved by Jerome Lefevre for the Oeuvres de M. J. Chenier (Paris: Guillaume, 1826); it appears courtesy of the Library of Congress [PQ 1966 A1 1824, v. 1].
A Field of Honor: Writers, Court Culture and Public Theater
in French Literary Life from Racine to the Revolution