Henry Rochefort, Journaliste
Printed on thick wove paper. Ref: Clement Janin 214iii/iii. Third state of three. Edition unknown, but probably small. Artist's proof, signed and annotated "portrait d'Henri Rochefort - d'ap nature (Geneve 1879)" in pencil. Prov: Paul Geneux (Lugt 3441), president de la Societe des Amis du musee d'Art et d'Histoire de Geneve. This portrait of Rochefort is one of Marcellin Desboutin's strongest intaglios. It has to be noted that the two men were cousins and good friends. The date of 1880 for this portrait is also pertinent. Rochefort, had been in exile for seven years and had just returned to Paris after the amnesty of July 11, 1880. However, according to Desboutin's own annotation, this portrait was not drawn in Paris in 1880, but rather in 1879, in Geneva, Switzerland, while Rochefort was still living in exile. He had been sent to New Caledonia for his political role in the tumult of the early 1870's (see also the comment for the print by Buhot in this catalogue). In 1874, he and two other prisoners had been the only men ever to escape from one of these islands. While Rochefort became an increasingly divisive figure later in life, in 1880, upon returning to France, his homecoming was heroic. So much so that Edouard Manet painted this famous escape in an oil titled "L'Evasion de Rochefort", which now hangs at the Musee d'Orsay. As a letter from Marcellin Desboutin from the summer of 1880 clearly shows, Desboutin had met with his cousin and convinced him to help Manet with his painting of this subject. This arresting bust is one of very few close-up intaglio portraits by Desboutin of such a size. Many other portraits either show full figures in which the pose is equally important to facial expression, or they are quite a bit smaller.