23. apr, 2013

Raynal, Girodet and Belley

The statue of what appears to be a Greek philosopher to the left of the portrait of Jean-Baptiste Belley shown below. represents the French writer Guillaume Thomas Raynal (April 12, 1713 – March 6, 1796,) a man of letters during the Age of Enlightenment, convicted bythe ancien regime, he was banned and his books were actually burnt. 

The painter is Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Triosson, (January 5, 1767 – December 9, 1824.) This pupil of Jacques-Louis David heralded the Romantic movement and is remembered for his precise and clear style and for his paintings of members of the Napoleonic family, according to Wikipedia. See also his self-portrait to the side.

Jean-Baptiste Belley went from rags to riches in his own way: from an actual slave who managed to buy his freedom with his savings, to member of the national French parliament after the Revolution. He advocated the rights of black people and succeeded for a time in maintaining the Republican principle of equality between people in France and in its colonies, whatever their colour.

In a 'declaration of fortune' dated at Paris on 10 Vendémiaire, Year 4 of the Republic (viz., 1 October 1795), Belley declares that from the Republic he has only his 'emoluments', that he has bought no property, and that he owns only the contents of his room.

Belley remained as a Convention member until 1797, when he lost his seat. He returned to Saint-Domingue with Charles Leclerc's expedition of 1802 as an officer of gendarmes, but he was arrested, sent back to France and imprisoned in the fortress of Belle Île. He died there in 1805.