JEAN-FANÇOIS COLSON (1733 - 1803)
Oil on Canvas
Frame : Old golden wood frame.
Presumed portrait of Charles François Panard (Courville-sur-Eure 1689 – Paris 1765)
-Collection of Madame Georges Duruy, Paris, 1905
- Georges Wildenstein, Chardin, Paris, 1921, n°459, not reproduced (Portrait du chansonnier Panard, par Chardin).
- Les Arts, 1905, n°45, p.1-2, reproduced (Portrait du chansonnier Panard, par Chardin)
-- Jean Guiffrey et Armand Dayot, J.-B. Siméon Chardin, Paris, 1907, reproduced (Portrait de Panard, par Chardin), cat. 121, reproduced p. 45.
Chardin-Fragonard, Galerie Georges Petit, 1907 (according to the serial of the Press, Paris, 16 July 1836)
It starts in 1907 with Jean Guiffrey, that the old attribution of our painting of Chardin is contested. The authorship of its composition has been discussed for a long time, notably changing from Chardin to Duplessis. Our analysis allows us today to propose our painting as one of the masterpieces of the famous portraitist Jean-François Colson
Jean-François COLSON was a son of a painter and he was surrounded by painting from the earliest age. Until his adulthood, he was the student of many masters, despite moving with his parents, to Dijon, Lyon, Grenoble, Avignon, Toulouse and even Paris. The paintings of his youth remind the simplicity of the works of Chardin, which is no doubt the reason to why our painting was a long time attributed to. In his first years of his career, the clientele of Colson was more varied. We know portraits of the court, bourgeois, clergymen, military officials, scholars, academics, musicians and actors. In 1771 he committed to the service of Godefroy Charles Henri de la Tour d’Auvergne, Duke of Bouillon (1728-1792), for whom he works almost exclusively for as director and authorizing officer of his buildings. At his death, he participates as well in the Salon of 1793, 1795 and 1797 to where he exhibits old and recent works.
Very critical of his contemporaries, he maintains rocky relationships with the members of Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, and it wasn’t until the last few months of his life, the 2nd December 1802, that he was elected into the Académie des Sciences, des Arts et des Belles-Lettres de Dijon. We find in our portrait an ensemble of the characteristics specific to the works of Jean-François Colson. In a rectangular format, a man at three quarters strikes a pose in half obscurity rendered by a dark and neutral background, which does not stop the viewer to see facial features of the model perfectly. The beautiful harmony of the dark colours, created by the background and of the clothing of the model, emphasizes the delicacy of the lace of the garment frill and his sleeves. The naturalness of the pose and the sincerity of the expression of the character taken from life shows us the talent of the artist who preferred realism to the embellishment of its model.
The model of our painting is a mature man, probably around sixty years of age, wearing the trendy 1750s short hairstyle. He is sat behind a desk, leafing through a sheet music book surrounded by leaflets on which we can read the inscription Chanson… Panard as well as a book on the back of which is engraved the name of Chaulieu.
Considering these indications, we can think it is the famous songwriter Charles-François Panard (Courville-sur-Eure 1689-1765 Paris).
We know that Colson was introduced into the world of theatre and academia by his brother Jean-Claude, who was an actor in Paris. He was famous under pseudonym of Bellecour, and was dean of the Comédie Française in 1778, where Panard probably played during his lifetime. It is not impossible that Jean-François Colson, who himself wrote texts among which we cite the collection of Poésies Légègeres, having formed a friendly relationship with the songwriter through his brother.
Charles François Panard is one of the great men of the literary scene of the XVIII century. Poet, operetta and dramaturge author, he is especially recognized as one of the best song lyricists that France has ever had. He wrote verses “impromptu, full of ease, finesse and grace” (Louis Loir, Anecdotes de la vie littéraire, Paris 1876, p.95), and many compare the qualite of his verses to those of Jean de la Fontaine. Armand Gouffé (1775-1845), also a songwriter, wrote about Charles François Panard, the following verses that say about his success.
« Panard de la chanson naissante,
Fut, chez Nous, le plus sûr appui ;
Grâce à lui tout le monde chante,
Mais nul ne chante comme lui.»
Despite extensive production, Panard had to count of the financial support of his friends in the last years of his life.
We can compare our painting to the portrait by Jean-Baptiste Gilles Colson, father of the artist, conserved at the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Dijon (oil on canvas, 92 x73 cm ; inv CA253). This painting was done by Colson nineteen years old, and probably was exposed many years later at the Salon of 1793, under the title Citoyen Colson Père.