Portrait of Jacques Bizet as a Child

Jacques Bizet as a Child


This charming child portrait was painted well after Delaunay's return from Italy, at Blanche Couronne near Nantes, where his painter friend Auguste Toulmouche welcomed the artistic elite of the time. Jacques Bizet was the son of Geneviève Halévy – herself the daughter of composer Fromental Halévy – and Georges Bizet, the brilliant composer who had studied under Halévy.

Born in 1871, Jacques hardly knew his father, who died young in 1875.Madame Bizet, who had a much respected salon on Rue Douai in Paris, posed as a widow for Delaunay in 1876 (Paris, Musée d’Orsay).

In 1886 she married the rich Jewish lawyer Emile Straus, who worked for the Rothschilds. The couple lived in a townhouse on Rue de Miromesnil and for over twenty years Geneviève Straus's salon was a privileged meeting point for Paris society. Jacques Bizet, who had known Marcel Proust at secondary school, introduced his mother to the Proust family and a lasting friendship marked by a voluminous correspondence sprang up between her and the teenager who was to become a celebrated novelist.

The Italian masters

Delaunay had not forgotten his copies of the Italian masters: the stone parapet on which the boy's hand is resting conjures up memories of Bellini (Doge Leonardo Loredan, 1501-04, London, National Gallery) and even of the pre-Raphaelites (Edward Burne-Jones, Portrait of Lady Frances Balfour, 1880, Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts). Whether a sign of kinship or an unconscious reference, this detail places Delaunay among the late nineteenth century's most subtle interpreters of Italian art.

Portrait of Jacques Bizet as a Child
Oil on canvas
24 x 19 cm
Dedicated T.L: A mon ami Jacquot; Signed T.R: Blanche Couronne/Elie Delaunay 1878
Robert Dreyfus Bequest, 1940
Inv. 2266