A new genre of portraiture emerged in the French Revolution, that of the elderly bon patriot (good patriot). In the years of national crisis between 1789–1794 large numbers of young Frenchmen were required for military service, leaving older generations of French citizens to serve in the home guard and perform other civic duties.
This unidealized portrait of an old man contains numerous signs of his revolutionary credentials: the red, white and blue combination of his waistcoat, undershirt and cravat, a round box, possibly containing a badge of office or a cockade and a tricolore sash to the side. This last detail, positioned below the artist’s dated signature, underscores Sablet’s own commitment in 1794 to the republican cause. Admitted as a member of the Commune des Arts and the Société populaire et républicaine des Arts in 1793, Sablet entered patriotic works of this kind to the art competitions established by the Jacobin régime.
Text by Sophie Matthiesson
© National Gallery of Victoria, Australia