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About This Artwork
Jean-Baptiste Belley, c. 1797
Black chalk, with stumping, graphite, and traces of pen and black ink, heightened with touches of white gouache, on ivory wove paper
369 x 303 mm
Restricted gift of the Joseph and Helen Regenstein Foundation, 1973.156
Sold into slavery as a boy, Jean-Baptiste Belley (1746–1805) bought his freedom in 1764. Belley fought in the American War of Independence and served as a captain in the French army during the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) fighting to abolish slavery on the island of Saint-Domingue (now Hispaniola). In 1793 he was elected to the National Convention in Paris, becoming its first black deputy.
Belley wears the uniform of a representative to the Convention. As we know from the painting for which this is a highly finished study or copy drawing, his hat feathers and sash are the colors of the French Republic: blue, white, and red. He leans against a marble plinth supporting a bust of the French philosopher and enemy of slavery Guillaume Raynal (1713–1796).
The Art Institute of Chicago, "The Helen Regenstein Collection of European Drawings," 1974, pp. 126-27, cat. 62 (ill.), cat. by Harold Joachim.
The Art Institute of Chicago, "Selected Works of 18th Century French Art in the Collections of The Art Institute of Chicago," January 24-March 28, 1976, p. 75, cat. 69 (ill.).
Paris, Musée du Louvre, "Dessins français de l’Art Institute de Chicago de Watteau à Picasso," October 15, 1976-January 17, 1977, n.p., cat. 30 (ill.).
Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, "Französische Zeichnungen aus dem Art Institute of Chicago," February 10-April 10, 1977, pp. 64-65, cat. 28 (ill.).
The Art Institute of Chicago, "European Portraits 1600-1900 in The Art Institute of Chicago," July 8-September 11, 1978, cat. 28.
New York, Wildenstein and Company, "Consulat, Empire, Restoration," April-May 1982.
The Art Institute of Chicago, "Canova and France," January 15-January 20, 1985.
The Art Institute of Chicago, "Great Drawings from The Art Institute of Chicago: The Harold Joachim Years 1958-1983," July 24-September 30, 1985, pp. 110-11, cat. 47 (ill.), cat. by Martha Tedeschi.
New York, Museo del Barrio, "Caribbean: Crossroads of the World", June 12 - October 21, 2012.
The Art Institute of Chicago, "Gods and (Super)heroes: Drawing in an Age of Revolution", November 16, 2017 - April 1, 2018.
"Recent Accessions of American and Canadian Museums," The Art Quarterly, 36 (1973), pp. 430 and 440 (ill.).
Harold Joachim, "Two French Portraits from the End of the Eighteenth Century," Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago, 67 (November/December 1973), pp. 3-5 (ill.).
Harold Joachim, “Trois siècles de portraits dessinés à l’Art Institute de Chicago,” L’Oeil, 255 (October 1976), p. 2, no. 1 (ill.).
Harold Joachim, French Drawings and Sketchbooks of the Eighteenth Century (Chicago, 1977), p. 28, no. 1E5.
Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, Extremities in Paint: Embodying Empire in Post-Revolutionary France (New Haven, 2001).
Susan H. Libby, A Man of Nature, Rescued by the Wisdom and Principles of the French Nation: Science and Politics in Girodet's Portrait of Belley, in Performing the Everday: The Culture of Genre in the Eighteenth Century, Rollins College.
Sold by Georges Bernier, Paris, to the Art Institute, 1973.