An exotic visitor to Paris: context and possible identities for Claude-Marie Dubufe’s portrait
Just as the physical appearance cannot be used
to determine whether the sitter is Greek, Arab or
otherwise, the same goes for the costume. As the
photographic plates in Les costumes populaires de la
Turquie en 1873 (fig. 6), published thirty-six years
after the execution of the portrait, demonstrate, in
broad terms at least, the costumes worn by the male
subjects of the Ottoman Empire, whether Christian,
Muslim, or Jew, were quite often interchangeable.
A few further examples will illustrate this point.
An 1841 portrait by Auguste Couder (see fig. 4) of
Hassan’s master, Mehmet Ali, shows the Egyptian
ruler wearing a large white turban, red band across
the forehead, and sleeveless jacket all very comparable
to those worn by the sitter in Dubufe’s portrait.
Anne-Louis Girodet’s 1819 portrait of the mysterious
Mustapha Sussen (fig. 7) a Muslim from Tunis, depicts
a man with upturned moustache, sporting a turban,
with red over-jacket and a series of under-jackets and
shirts; even more comparable than the portrait of
Mehmet Ali. And yet, perhaps the closest comparison
can be made with a lithograph of 1826 portraying
the Greek Souliote resistance hero, Notis Botsaris:
he wears a similar turban and sleeveless jacket,
with under-jacket and shirt, and again possesses an
upturned moustache (fig. 8).13
Fig. 6 / Pascal Sébah, Inhabitant
of Elmali, Christian from Konya
and Muslim cavalryman from
Konya, plate VII from Les
Costumes Populaires de la Turquie
en 1873, albumen print, Paris,
Bibliotèque Nationale de France.
Whilst neither the physiognomy nor the costume
are incompatible with the sitter being either Hassan
or a young Greek, an analysis of the dates counts
against the giraffe-keeper, though not definitively so.
Although we know that Hassan arrived in France in
October 1826, he did not set out from Marseille to
Paris until 20 May 1827, two months after the date
of the lithograph’s publication, which was announced
on 24 March 1827 in the Bibliographie de la France. This
makes it improbable that he was painted by Dubufe,
based in Paris at this time, unless of course the artist
had travelled to Marseille, an unlikely though not
impossible scenario. It could also be posited that
Dubufe was working from a sketch or portrait sent to
An exotic visitor to Paris: context and possible identities for Claude-Marie Dubufe’s portrait
Paris before Hassan’s arrival, although the vivacity
and finish of Dubufe’s work is strongly suggestive
that it was executed with the model in person. In
terms of the sitter being an otherwise anonymous
“Jeune Grec”, a dating of the portrait to late 1826 or
early 1827 has no bearing, beyond the fact that this
was, as previously mentioned, a critical moment in
the Greek independence movement.
Fig. 7 / Anne-Louis GirodetTrionson, Portrait of Mustapha,
1819, oil on canvas, 59 x 46 cm,
Montargis, Musée Girodet.
Fig. 8 / Joseph Bouvier, Portrait of
Notis Botsaris, 1826, lithograph, 48
x 34.5 cm, London, British Museum.
Fig. 9 / Eugène Delacroix, Two
Studies of a Turbaned Man, ca. 1827,
pencil on paper, 23.5 x 23 cm, Paris,
Musée du Louvre.
Fig. 10 / Louis Dupré, Ioannis
Logothetis Smoking a Hookah, plate
XV from Voyage à Athènes et à
Constantinople, 1825, lithograph,
35.5 x 26 cm.
Fig. 11 / Léon Riesener, Portrait of
a Man with Turban, ca. 1827, ink
and wash with white highlights on
paper, Musées de Lisieux.
What is clear is that the sitter, whoever he was, was
someone of significance or, at the least, someone of
great interest to French public. He was painted by
Dubufe during the very years the artist attained the
height of his success, sought out by the great and the
good of Parisian society. Indeed, Dubufe exhibited
thirteen paintings at the Salon of 1827, achieving
critical acclaim with his pendants Les Souvenirs and
Les Regrets, and so in the months leading up to this
triumph it can be reasonably speculated that the
artist would have had the time only for the most
important of portrait commissions. The importance
and appeal of the sitter is further reinforced by the
fact that – in this author’s opinion – at least seven
other contemporary artworks depict the same sitter
as the Dubufe portrait.
The Louvre possesses four studies on paper, three
by Delacroix and one by Léon Cogniet, which
depict a turbaned man with sleeveless jacket, fine
eyebrows, prominent cheekbones, strong chin and
moustache, though in these cases with the points
turned down.14 In one of the Delacroix drawings
the man inhales a hookah (fig. 9), an instrument
usually associated with the Muslim world but also
in fact popular in Greece, as attested by Louis
Dupré’s 1825 image of the Greek politician Ioannis
Logothetis (fig. 10). The Musée d’art et d’histoire
de Lisieux holds a fifth work on paper, by Léon
Riesener (fig. 11), which depicts the same sitter as
the Louvre drawings. The three artists were close
friends in the 1820s.


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