Portrait of a Young Man
Jean Sébastien Rouillard (1789-1852)
1816, Oil on canvas
This Portrait of a Young Man is signed and dated 1816. As such, it constitutes early evidence of the talent of an excellent French portrait painter, who was a pupil of David and exhibited regularly at the Louvre Salon from 1817 onwards. Rouillard is best known for the many portraits of high-ranking men of the French army that he was commissioned to paint for the Musée de l'Histoire de France in Versailles. His well-known full-length painting of Napoleon Bonaparte is also kept at the Château de Versailles. The intellectual vocation of the mysterious reader in this painting is communicated by the presence of books on the shelf to his left, and is also evident in the romantic emphasis of the facial expression and the artificiality of the pose. On the wallpaper behind the sitter, we can make out an 'M', a suggestive clue that may lead us to speculate, with great caution, that this could be a youthful portrait of Alphonse Milbert, a well-known Parisian lawyer whose resemblance to this figure has been noted.