By the time the French Revolution broke out in 1789, Joseph Ducreux already had a thriving portrait practice in Paris. In 1774 he had been appointed official court portraitist to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. In the wake of the Revolution, he was forced to find new patrons and reinvent himself as a relevant figure in a vastly different political and cultural milieu. In this self-portrait, Le Discret (or The Silence), exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1791, the artist raises his finger to his pursed lips, urging the viewer to be silent. Apparently influenced by contemporary theories of physiognomy, he depicted himself in a range of exaggerated gestures and displaying various emotions and facial expressions. By showing himself yawning, laughing, crying, and pointing a mocking finger at the viewer, Ducreux engaged directly with his audience in a manner that was unusual for the time.


  • Title: Le Discret
  • Creator: Joseph Ducreux
  • Date Created: circa 1791
  • Physical Dimensions: Canvas/Support Dimensions: oval 91.6 x 79.9 cm, Canvas/Support Dimensions: 36 x 29 1/8 in, Frame Dimensions: Oval 41 x 34 in
  • Type: paintings
  • Medium: oil on aluminum panel (transfered from canvas)

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