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Work Ferdinand Guillemardet (1765-1809)

Department of Paintings: Spanish painting

Ferdinand Guillemardet (1765-1809)

© 2009 RMN / Stéphane Maréchalle

Spanish painting

De Vergnette François

Goya's portrait of Ferdinand Guillemardet, France's ambassador to Spain from 1798 to 1800, mirrors the self-confidence of the young republic the sitter represented. The colors of France, which feature on the ambassador's scarf and cocked hat, allowed the artist to use a bright palette. In this painting, Goya the portraitist shows himself worthy of being Velázquez's sucessor.

The ambassador of a mighty republic

France's ambassador to Spain, Ferdinand Guillemardet (1765-1809), is sitting in a relaxed pose, his body in profile and legs crossed. Turning his face towards the viewer, he looks at us with lively, intelligent eyes. The colors of France conspicuously stand out on the scarf tied around his waist as well as the cockade and plume on his cocked hat, lying on the table behind him. The figure embodies a powerful, self-confident republic. Talleyrand, the former bishop of Autun turned foreign minister, had appointed Ferdinand Guillemardet France's ambassador to Spain in 1798. Guillemardet also came from Autun, where he was a physician and mayor, and then elected to represent the town in the Convention. In 1800, he was recalled to France and became a prefect. But a tragic fate befell the ambassador: he went insane and died in 1809.

Goya's favorite work

The circumstances surrounding the commissioning of this portrait of a Frenchman by Goya can only be surmised. The ambassador was close to a minister, Urquijo, and a politician, Jovellanos, who were both enlightened Francophiles and the painter's patrons. They must have persuaded Ferdinand Guillemardet to have his portrait done by Goya, the court painter since 1788. This work was exhibited in July 1799 at the Academy of San Fernando before Guillemardet brought it back with him to France. His son, who, incidentally, was a close friend of Delacroix's, bequeathed it to the Louvre. Goya is said to have remarked that this portrait was the finest work he had ever done. Yet he painted many portraits between 1794 and 1808, including several masterpieces that revived the tradition founded by Velázquez, particularly The Family of Charles IV (Madrid, Prado). Goya was a religious and historical painter, as well as a decorator and a brilliant illustrator, especially in these years, when he made the etchings in the Caprices series.

Liveliness and technical brilliance

This portrait is outstanding because of the sense of life it radiates. The sitter's pose seems natural but is actually very calculated. It contrasts sharply with the simpler, stiffer poses Goya's models usually take (The Countess del Carpio, Louvre). The painter also demonstrates psychological depth in this work. He used a bright palette set off by transparent black tones. That, and the brilliant technique, make him the worthy heir of Velázquez.


Augé Jean-Louis, Goya. Un regard libre, catalogue d'exposition, Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Philadelphie, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Philadelphie, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1998, pp. 185-186.Baticle Jeanine, in Écoles espagnole et portugaise, catalogue du département des peintures du musée du Louvre, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2002, pp. 289-290.

Technical description

  • Francisco de GOYA (Y LUCIENTES) (Fuendetodos (Aragon), 1746 - Bordeaux, 1828)

    Ferdinand Guillemardet (1765-1809)

  • H. 1.86 m; W. 1.24 m

  • Bequest of Louis Guillemardet, son of the model, 1865 , 1865

    M.I. 697

  • Paintings

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Room 718

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