The Family of General Philippe Guillaume Duhesme

about 1801 - 1805

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

With a melancholy air, an elegant woman and her young son contemplate the medallion portrait of an absent husband and father. While the affectionate child nuzzles his mother's arm, she props up the medallion on her elegant Empire style daybed. Sculptor Joseph Chinard paid great attention to stylish details such as elegant furniture and the woman's hairstyle and dress. Although he included such popular artistic conventions as a revealed breast, he also expressed her deep longing through her gentle manner and intense look. To make this love theme explicit, the artist used symbolic props such as the putti on the sides of the bed. The putto on the right represents earthly/sensual love, while the one on the left, with his eyes bound shut, represents heavenly/spiritual love. Together they hold the rope that symbolically binds the family together. Chinard created this keepsake for the French Duhesme family, using a format traditionally reserved for tombs, where the medallion identifies the deceased. Since the figure represented in the medallion, General Philippe Guillaume Duhesme, was still living when this sculpture was made, the medallion signifies absence rather than death.


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