The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography



A carte-de-visite portrat of French painter Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891).

Meissonier was a leading French Classicist painter and sculptor, famous for his depictions of Napoleon I and his armies, and other military themes, including the documentation of sieges and manoeuvres. He also painted many genre scenes and some portraits, including one of Alexandre Dumas, fils, exhibited at the Salon of 1877.

Meissonier worked with elaborate care and a scrupulous observation of nature. Some of his works took as long as ten years to complete. His output was, nevertheless, prodigious. He contributed 16 paintings to the Exhibition of 1878, and on 24 May 1884, an exhibition of 146 of Meissonier’s worked opened at the Petit Gallery.

He was one of the best paid painters of the century. His Cuirassiers, now at Chantilly, was bought from the artist for £10,000, sold at Brussels for £11,000, and finally resold for £16,000.

During his career he received several medals at various exhibitions. In 1846 he was appointed a knight of the Légion d’Honneur, subsequently rising through its grades until he finally received the Grand Cross in 1889. He nevertheless cherished certain ambitions which remained unfulfilled. He hoped to become a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts, but never received the appointment he desired. He also aspired to be chosen deputy or made a senator, but he was not elected. In 1861 he became a member of the Academy of Fine Arts, filling the chair vacated by the death of Abel de Pujol. In 1875, on the occasion of the festival held to honour the four-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Michelangelo, Meissonier was the delegate of the Institute of France to Florence, and spoke as its representative.

Meissonier died in Paris on 21 January 1891.

Photographed by Adolphe Braun of Paris and Dornach.


Code: 124141
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