An exotic visitor to Paris: context and possible identities for Claude-Marie Dubufe’s portrait
An exotic visitor to Paris: context and possible identities for Claude-Marie Dubufe’s portrait
Dubufe’s portrait elicited a surprisingly large number of
generally good quality, contemporary copies. Other than
the Sotheby’s version already discussed, I am aware of a
further six copies, all in private collections: two appeared
at auction in 2017, in Paris and Monaco respectively,
with the former signed “AS. Dujardin” (fig. 14)16; another
came up for sale at auction in Paris in 201817; a further
one is in a French private collection, signed and dated
“Laslandes / 1833”; finally there is one in a Parisian
private collection (fig. 15) and another in a London
private collection.18 The latter two are of particularly
high quality. Four of these examples have appeared
at auction in only the last three years, so we can be
optimistic that other copies will resurface in the future.
Fig. 14 / A. S. Dujardin,
Portrait of a Man with
Turban, ca. 1827, oil on
canvas, 50 x 42 cm, Private
Fig. 15 / French School,
Portrait of a Man with
Turban, ca. 1827, oil
on canvas, dimensions
unknown, Private
The most likely explanation for all these copies, as
suggested to me by Côme Fabre, is that they were
used as a teaching tool by Dubufe in his studio. With
Dubufe’s success at the Salon of 1827, there would
likely have been an uptick in would-be artists wanting
to learn from him and benefit from an association with
his name. Indeed, Dubufe moved studio to place de
l’Oratoire in that year, before moving again in 1831 to
rue Montmartre, presumably seeking larger and more
appropriate workspaces as his reputation grew. Dubufe
appears not to have had any students who went on
to have significant careers, and in fact Dujardin and
Laslandes are otherwise unknown.
As unsatisfactory as it is, taking the above altogether,
it still remains impossible to assign a definitive identity
to Dubufe’s sitter: despite the inscription on the
lithograph, the notion that this is an anonymous “Jeune
Grec” can be soundly rejected, given the number of
representations that this particular individual inspired.
On the other hand, given the lack of confluence
in dates, whether that be with the lithograph or
Monanteuil’s portrait, the belief that the image depicts
Hassan El Berberi is impossible to verify without
further evidence and now appears unlikely. Indeed,
we cannot even be confident of knowing which part
of the Ottoman empire this distinctive man comes
from. Nevertheless, the multitude of representations
demonstrate that the sitter was a notable visitor to
France, who clearly intrigued, if not fascinated, the
French public and several of the country’s leading
artists. We must therefore hope that some further piece
of evidence might come to light in the future, helping
to unravel this compelling enigma.


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