Rendered in a confined space, Family Portrait shows the head and shoulders of four persons who remain anonymous today, fanned out as if in relief. Whereas the young woman and the girl have been portrayed in strict profile facing left, the young man and the boy have both been painted in virtually head-on views. The gazes of the figures portrayed do not meet as a result, so that the impression of the group belonging together is solely conveyed by the tight arrangement of the composition. Above the four people, several heads of putti rendered in grisaille technique can also be seen. These may either be guardian angels or they indicate deceased siblings of the children. Merry Joseph Blondel painted this work in the Neoclassical style shortly after returning from Rome, where he stayed from 1809 to 1812 as the bearer of the Prize of Rome. With its fine details, the work recalls the artist’s training as a porcelain painter. The composition reminds us of the heads in profile found on Antique engraved gems and coins, and the studies of heads by famous Renaissance painters of the kind he will have seen in Italy. For as much as this work quotes the past, it stands at the same time for a new type of portrait.


  • Title: Family Portrait
  • Creator: Merry-Joseph Blondel
  • Date Created: 1813
  • Physical Dimensions: 39.0 x 60.0 cm
  • Type: painting
  • Rights: Kunsthalle Bremen - Der Kunstverein in Bremen
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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