The oil on canvas Alexandre and Henri Gérard, brothers of the painter by François Gérard (1770-1837) officially entered the MAHB collections by bequest in March 2022 thanks to the generosity of Jean d’Harcourt (1930-2015) , descendant of Henri-Alexandre Gérard (1818-1903), historical benefactor of the Bayeux Museum of Art and History. With a view to its presentation to the public, the canvas and its frame have been restored, entirely financed by the association of donors and friends of the MAHB. The hanging on the walls of the museum took place at the beginning of April 2023.
To date, this work, one of the artist’s most private, has only been shown to the public three times in temporary exhibitions (1913, 1927 and 1936). Preciously kept in the family since its creation, its legacy attests to the confidence and loyalty of the descendants of Henri-Alexandre Gérard, who are strongly attached to the territory of Bayeux and Bessin. This double portrait is a very intimate composition, representing the two young brothers of the painter François Gérard in 1792. The artist very quickly took charge of it following the death of their father in 1790 and their mother in 1793.
The quality of the work already testifies to François Gérard’s talent as a portraitist. He was only twenty-two when he was executed. The treatment of the faces and looks of the two children expresses with strength and sensitivity the liveliness and freshness of youth. A great tenderness and affection emerges from this double portrait where the two brothers pose tight against each other.
As a pupil of David, François Gérard is recognized as one of the main French painters of the Empire and the Restoration, both for his historical frescoes (about forty listed) and for his portraits (nearly three hundred listed). First painter to Empress Josephine in 1806 and first painter to King Louis XVIII in 1817, he was nicknamed by his contemporaries “painter of kings and king of painters”.