Portrait of Maximilien-Sébastien Foy

Accession Number

Portrait of Maximilien-Sébastien Foy

Baron François Gérard

Artist Nationality
French (culture or style)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
oil on canvas

101 1/4 in x 66 1/2 in (257.18 cm x 168.91 cm);101 1/4 in x 66 1/2 in (257.18 cm x 168.91 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the W. Hawkins Ferry Fund

Label copy
March 28, 2009
François Gérard was one of the leading painters of the Napoleonic era in France. Throughout the 1790s he regularly exhibited at the official Salons and won a reputation as an outstanding portrait painter; he received many important commissions for paintings from Napoleon, his family, and his circle. This posthumous portrait of Maximilien-Sébastien Foy, a distinguished general and statesman, shows Gérard at the height of his powers. Foy is depicted standing, in full military dress—the very embodiment of an heroic leader—on a precipice in front of a dark and brooding landscape. The light in the painting emphasizes Foy’s face, capturing his features as well as the exquisite gold braid of his uniform. The general, who led Napoleon’s campaign in Spain, looks to the right, with an assurance that suggests he is in complete possession of the surrounding territory. His bold stance is matched by the freedom of the brushwork, particularly that of the landscape. The cloak that both envelops and animates his figure is reminiscent of the one used by Jacques-Louis David—one of the premier artists in France and Gérard’s former teacher—in his famous portrait of Napoleon crossing the Alps at the St. Bernard Pass. Though the portrait was commissioned by Foy’s widow, Gérard, who had been friends with Foy, refused payment from her.

Subject matter
Gérard painted this portrait of General Maximilien Foy after the death of the sitter, who was the painter's friend, in 1825. Maximilien Foy was a distinguished French general and statesman during the early 19th century. He served in several campaigns, including the Pennisular War and Waterloo, and was named a Baron by Napoleon in 1810. After the fall of the Empire, Foy retired to civilian life to write a history of the Pennisular War. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1819 where he became a popular orator. Gérard presented this painting to Foy's widow and refused payment for it.

Physical Description
This portrait painting shows a full-length, life-size figure of a man. He is standing on the top of a mountain against the background of a sky with dark clouds and a rocky mountain range. He is facing the viewer but his gaze is directed to the right. He is dressed in a French military uniform of the Napoleonic time period, including black leather riding boots, a sabre and a large black cloak that billows in the wind. He holds his hat in his hands. His uniform decorations and medals are shown in great detail.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

capes (outerwear)
men (male humans)

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted