Black chalk with stumping, heightened with white gouache on beige wove paper
Support: Cream(3) wove paper, partially discolored to yellow-brown
Sheet: 26.2 x 20.7 cm (10 5/16 x 8 1/8 in.)
Gift of Harry D. Kendrick 1950.496
The French Revolution (1789–99) disrupted all traditional hierarchies, including that of art, which habitually placed history painting in the highest regard. When Isabey exhibited this portrait of his friend and fellow artist in the 1796 salon, drawings had taken on significance as a more personal and egalitarian form of art. Isabey depicts Barbier as a solid citizen of the new Republic. The tasseled cap and embroidered jacket recall Barbier’s service as a hussar, a type of soldier; the vest, cravat, and “dog-ear” hairstyle were popular among young men in Paris at the time. Traditionally, however, a fashionable man would not be shown smoking, an activity usually associated with lower classes. Isabey’s focus on the long pipe and steady stream of smoke made the drawing especially populist for the time.
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