Item #8258 Toussaint L’Ouverture. Nicolas Eustache Maurin, after.

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Maurin, Nicolas Eustache, after.

Toussaint L’Ouverture.

[Paris], François Séraphin Delpech, lithographer, 1833. Lithograph, 12” x 8.25”, plus margins. The artist’s facsimile signature at lower-right. CONDITION: Very good, light toning.

A three-quarter length profile portrait of Toussaint L’Ouverture known for having “the best claim to veracity” of the various extant portraits of the hero of the Haitian Revolution.

While no portraits of Toussaint (1743–1803) taken from life are known to survive, and there is no single authoritative likeness, the present image is probably the best known of many portrayals. This print was published in the 1838 edition of François Séraphin Delpech’s Iconographie des contemporains depuis 1789 jusqu'à 1829, vol. 2, published in Paris by Nicolas Maurin. Delpech’s Iconographie is a compendium of portraits of notable figures from the French Revolution and the Napoleonic period. The portrait is based on a drawing supposedly done before Toussaint was arrested by Napoleon and taken to France to spend his last days in the prison of Joux.  

Some critics have asserted that multiple decades of public condemnation of Toussaint may have informed what they perceive as the subject’s ape-like appearance in Maurin’s portrait. However, the note on this lithograph in the John Carter Brown Library online exhibition The Changing Faces of Toussaint L’Ouverture offers a different perspective: 

Many, especially modern, commentators have considered it a racist caricature. Yet, despite its late date, the portrait is among those with the best claim to veracity, because it was supposedly based on a picture (since lost) that Toussaint himself had presented to the colonial official Roume Saint-Laurent in 1801. Although it is quite possible that Maurin's version might have exaggerated features of the original, it corresponds closely to the description General Caffarelli penned of Louverture in his jail cell some six months before his death and sent to Bonaparte: ‘Toussaint Louverture has…big eyes, very prominent cheek bones, a flat but fairly long nose, a large mouth with no upper teeth, a very prominent lower jaw.’ Those who dismiss the Maurin picture as hostile propaganda tend to be unaware that Toussaint had lost his upper set of front teeth in the mid-1790s, when he was hit by a cannonball.

Born in Perpignan, Pyrénées-Orientales, Nicolas Eustache Maurin (1799–1850) was a French painter, lithographer and engraver. His father Pierre and brother Antoine were painters as well. Maurin received art lessons in his father’s studio and studied in Paris under Henri Regnault. He exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1833, 1834 and 1835. In 1830, he established himself as a lithographer and became known for his erotic and humorous images of women. He died in Paris in 1850, aged fifty-one. 

OCLC records only two copies, at Yale and the University of Michigan. Another example is held by the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts.

REFERENCES: Geggus. David. “The Changing Faces of Toussaint Louverture: Literary and Pictorial Depicts,” The John Carter Brown Library online; Oliver, Valerie Cassel, ed. “Maurin, Nicolas Eustache” In Benezit, Dictionary of Artists (Oxford University Press, 2011); “Toussaint Louverture” at the British Museum online.

Item #8258

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