Portrait of André-François Miot, Envoy of the French Republic to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, 1797
(Louis Gauffier)


Portrait of André-François Miot, Envoy of the French Republic
to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, 1797

Alternatively titled La Famille Miot.

Oil on canvas; 68 x 88 cm (26 ¾ x 34 ¾ in)

Signed and dated lower left : L. GAUFFIER FLOR.CE , L’AN IVEME DE LA REP.E

Comte Miot de Melito (1762-1841), until 1841.
Comtesse Rosalie d’Fleischmann , (1792-1866), née Miot de Melito, until 1866.
Colonel Comte Charles Astorg, cousin and heir of Rosalie d’Fleischmann, until 1879.
(Probably) Geneviève Astorg (née de l’Estrade), wife of the preceeding, at the Château des Moulins Neufs, Lavau in the Yonne, and;
Thence by descent.

P. Marmottan, ‘Le peintre Louis Gauffier’, in Gazette de Beaux-Arts, no. 4, xiii, 1926, pp. 281-300.
M. R. Crozet, ‘Louis Gauffier, 1762-1801’, in Bull. Soc. Hist. A.Fr., 1941-1944, p. 100-113.

L’ambassadeur Miot et sa famille, oil sketch, Musée du Château de Versailles, inv. no. M V 4852.
Portrait de Miot, undated, cited as conserved in the collection of the Miot family by Crozet, who probably confused this work with the present picture.

The son of a workman employed at the Arsenal at Rochefort , it was probably the sponsorship of a member of the powerful Vaudreuil family who was a Commissioner for naval affairs that enabled the young Gauffier to enter the Paris studio of Hugues Taraval (1729-1785). In 1784, he was awarded the Prix de Rome, an honour he shared with Jean-Germain Drouais (1763-1788) David’s favourite pupil. In late November of that year Gauffier arrived at the Palazzo Mancini, the seat of the French Academy in Rome. He soon gained the confidence of the director, Louis-Jean-Francois Lagrenée, who preferred his quietly studious character to that of David’s mercurial protégée, and named Gauffier the ‘nouveau Lesueur’. Having arrived in Rome at the same time as David, Gauffier inevitably met him at the Academy and, consequently was immediately absorbed into the master’s circle. Together with David and Drouais, Gauffier explored the surrounding Campagna and made a series of studies which were to play a decisive role in his development as a landscape painter. Outside of the Academy, where his fellow students included the architects Percier and Fontaine as well as the sculptor Chaudet, Gauffier was also friends with Hackert. The new director, Ménageot, noted that ‘[Gauffier] has much promise [but] had little experience in painting large compositions [and that finally] he is very thin and his poor health should be taken into consideration, because when he worked for three or four days he is obliged to rest and is often sick’. His frailty aside, Gauffier made rapid progress and his command of landscape and composition were noted by Goethe. Equally, in 1787, Drouais, somewhat condescendingly remarked to David of Gauffier’s Jacob and Rachel (Paris, Musée du Louvre): “the landscape is from the brush of an angel. It is a charming picture, I must say.” That same year, Gauffier painted The meeting of Augustus and Cleopatra after the Battle of Actium (Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland) as a pendent to a reduced version of the Belisarius by David belonging to d’Angiviller.

In 1788 Gauffier visited Naples. While there he secured from the administration a six month extension to his residency in Rome. On his return to Paris in 1789 he was accepted into the Academy as a history painter, but the outbreak of the Revolution wiped out any viable market for paintings commissions and he soon returned to Italy where he still retained connections. Shortly after his return to Rome in December 1790, he married the miniaturist Pauline Chatillon, who had been his student. They had two children who can be seen playing at their mother’s feet in the self-portrait Gauffier painted in the gardens of the Villa Borghese (Florence, Uffizi). It was probably through the Sablet brothers, Jacques and François and their circle that Gauffier met Thomas Hope (1769-1831), a wealthy English banker and art collector, for whom Gauffier painted several pictures including an extraordinary Rest on the Flight into Egypt (Poitiers, Musée des Beaux-Arts) and the Achilles recognised by Odysseus, which is reproduced in the plate illustrating the celebrated Egyptian Room Hope created for his London home on Duchess Street off Portland Square.

After the assassination of Hugues de Basseville Gauffier, fled to Florence in December 1793. According to a report from François Caucault: ‘…Gauffier is a painter of the erstwhile Académie; his wife, born in Rome of French parents, is also a painter. They are very talented and work here [Florence]. These are weak souls terrorised by Revolutionary thunder and grovelling to the aristocracy for work. But they are [otherwise] respectable and of good character’. Nevertheless, while continuing to wear his monarchist sentiments like a badge of honour, Gauffier would be the only former pensionnaire du roi, apart from his friend François-Xavier Fabre (¬¬1766-1837), to refuse allegiance to the République. In Paris, during a meeting of the Société populaire républicaine, Gauffier’s former colleague, Wicar, denounced him as ‘the painter entailed to the infamous Lord Hervey, the English ambassador’. In fact, it was from very select circles of Italian society, particularly those that gravitating around the poet Alfieri and his spokeswoman the Countess d’Albany, the estranged wife of Charles Edward Stuart, that Gauffier now recruited his clientele. To the small cosmopolitan coterie at the Palazzo Gianfigliazzi the course of history, even though it had accelerated somewhat alarmingly, remained a play being projected before their eyes as if through the lens of magic lantern; vis-a-vis the world stage, these blasé elegantes affected an aristocratic detachment that Gauffier would so admirably capture thus reviving the portrait style of the Grand Tour. The artist preferred to place his sitters either against the backdrop of the Florentine countryside or en plein air, as in the celebrated Portrait of Doctor Penrose (1798, Minneapolis, Institute of Art), which is without a doubt the masterpiece of the genre or in an interior, or in an interior, as in the 1793 portrait of Count Gustav Moritz Armfelt. Swedish minister to the King of Tuscany (Stockholm, National Museum). Gauffier’s other aristocratic subjects of this period include several portraits depicting the young heroes of the revolutionary armies including General Dumas (Bayonne, Musée des Beaux-Arts) ; A Young Officer of the Cisalpine Republic (Paris, Musée Marmottan); General Championnet, the future Marechal of Masséna; and Louis, son of the Duke of Parma, future King of Etruria.

Gauffier’s growing notoriety compelled Lucien Bonaparte, Minister of the Department of the Interior, to summon his return to Paris, but the artist suddenly died in Leghorn, three months after Pauline, leaving their children orphaned. If Gauffier’s reputation initially survived largely based on his work as a landscape painter, his first biographer, Paul Marmottant, specifically emphasised his talent as a portraitist: ‘It is though [his portraiture] that he will live on in our memory’.

This portrait of André-François Miot, ambassador for the nascent French Republic to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, belongs to the rich gallery of portraits of diplomats that were Gauffier’s much admired stock in trade. His portrait of the diplomat and his young family intimately set in an interior of their Florentine palazzo is also an example of a conversation piece, a French hybrid of a group portrait and a genre scene. However, given its date of 1797, a critical year in Franco-Italian relations, this work should also be considered as a portrait of contemporary history.

After the execution of Louis XVI on 21 January 1793, England declared the French government ‘outlawed’ and along with the other European nations refused to recognise the Republic. Initially defeated, the revolutionary armies eventually succeeded in halting the advance of the coalition forces of Austria and Prussia, and invaded Belgium and Italy. For a long time the outcome on both fronts remained up in the air, until the arrival of a young general, a certain Napoleon Bonaparte, who, in launching his Italian campaign, was soon victorious in flying the French flag. In 1795, realising that his state was in peril, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinand III, son of the Austrian Emperor finally officially recognised the Republic and Tuscany was declared neutral. The establishment of a legation in Florence, the only one on the Italian peninsula, at the Palazzo Ximenes (now the Palazzo della Meridiana, near the Palzzo Pitti) marked a decisive stage in Ferdinand’s struggles to save his throne.

It was in the context of these events that André-François Miot (Versailles, 1762 – Paris, 1841) was appointed to the strategic post of Foreign Affairs Commissioner, a title, which under the Directoire was equivalent in rank to that of Foreign Minister. In his Memoires, the future Count Miot de Melito, confides that the ‘the strangest rumours had preceded his arrival in Florence. They expected to see a kind of savage, outlandishly dressed, with the coarsest of tongues and little grasp of social graces who, in consequence, would precipitate into a scandal’. No doubt this intelligent, polyglot man (he spoke Latin, Italian, English and German), a former war commissioner under the ancienne régime, a constitutional moderate and a dedicated civil servant (see appendix I), soon disabused his detractors of these impressions. An etching by Jean-Baptiste Wicar dated 1796 allows us to identify Gauffier’s sitter (Fig.1).

Immediately recognisible at the extreme right of the painting, soberly dressed in comparison to the extraordinary uniforms of the Directory armies, the diplomat wears a powdered wig and a simple cockade is clipped to his silk hat. Conformity to the principles of the Constitution of 1794 stipulated that ‘all members of the Directoire and all public functionaries must appear in official costume in order to incur the respect of the legislature and of its agents.’ Effectively, Miot is dressed in the tricolore: he wears a blue frock coat, white waistcoat and a crimson mantle. This costume probably was an invention based either on the concept of ‘national dress’ or ‘the representative dress for agents of the Republic in foreign countries.’ It was certainly an appropriate sartorial statement since Miot was the public face of the Republic in Florence. Gauffier wanted to represent Miot as a man who had become ‘le soldat de la Liberté’, so occupied in the service of the République and its aims that nothing, not even family ties, could distract him from its pursuit. Significantly, Gauffier clearly sets Miot apart from his family: his brother Jacques-Francois Miot (1779-1858) ; his wife Adélaïde-Joséphine, née d’Arcambal (1764-1841) , elegantly coiffed à la Titus, wearing a white silk day dress in the latest French style; and his two children René-Hyacinthe (1795-1815) , who was to later to perish at Waterloo, and Rosalie (1792-1866) the future Countess Fleischmann. The foreign minister tenderly, if absently caresses his small daughter’s hair, while his gaze, turned away towards the middle distance, expresses the steely determination of this republican hero. Not co-incidentally, he poses proudly beside a bust of Lucius Junius Brutus (First Consul c. 509 B.C.), traditionally revered as the founder of the Roman Republic, a figure who would appear to be something of a role model for Miot. The bust in the portrait is a marble copy after the late fourth century B.C. original in the Capitoline Museum, Rome (Fig. 2). The so-called ‘Capitoline Brutus’ enjoyed remarkable popularity at this time and would have been readily identified as a paragon of civic virtue and therefore a powerful Republican symbol. After leading the revolt against Tarquin and delivering Rome from his tyranny, Brutus had been appointed her first consul. One of his first acts as Consul was to condemn his own sons, Titus and Tiberius, to death for military incompetence during the revolt , an episode David used in his celebrated composition The Lictors bring Brutus the bodies of his sons, exhibited in the Salon of 1789 (Fig. 3). Additionally, and on a specifically personal level, Miot wanted to be associated with the Roman figure because the greatest accomplishment of his Florentine career was the armistice arranged between France and the Papal States and the signing of the ratification with Pius VI in Bologna on 9 messidor, IV (June 27, 1796). Bonaparte now had such confidence in Miot that he entrusted him to take full charge in vigorously implementing all Papal concessions, in particular article 8:

‘The pope will deliver to the French Republic, one hundred paintings, busts, vases or statues so chosen by a commissionaire, who will be sent to Rome. These objects will specifically include the bronze bust of Julius Brutus, and the marble bust of Marcus Brutus, which are both in the Capitoline.’

Miot proceeded to send a delegation of commissionaires in order to prepare the ground, and it is partly to his credit that on 9 thermidor IX (July 27, 1798) Parisians, viewing Napoleon’s triumph of the Papal spoils, were able to admire the famous bust of Brutus placed atop the triumphal float illustrating The Arts seeking the Laurel Grove (Fig.4).

By including the bust of Brutus in this group portrait Gauffier deliberately alludes to this famous episode in Miot’s career. Gauffier not only displayed his intellect and skilful command of compositional skills but he also elevated what would have otherwise been a simple conversation piece into a powerfully symbolic Republican portrait illustrating an historic example of civic virtue.

However, in his portrait of Miot and his family, Gauffier went beyond simply evoking echoes of David’s 1789 masterwork and the ceremonial transfer of the Capitoline Brutus from Rome. In the left background he also included the bronze statue of the Roman goddess of wisdom and the arts, Minerva, seated, helmeted and grasping a spear. In David’s canvas, exhibited in the triumphal procession to the Champs de Mars, Brutus is depicted pondering darkly at the feet of the same statue. This sculpture, which had come to be seen as representative of the very embodiment of the French Republic, glowers over and dominates the background of the portrait. It is placed in a large niche and appears to stand guard over the Miot family, almost as if, in this context, this icon of Republican virtues was their lar, one of the personal protective deities of Republican Rome.

The idea of representing the French Republic as a seated (never standing) Minerva originated with the sculptor Jean-Guillaume Moitte (1746-1810), director of the celebrations for 9 and 10 thermidor. Moitte’s original plaster sculpture disappeared some time after it was put into storage at the Augustins, but it survives in a modello (Fig. 5) which shows striking similarities to the statue in the portrait. Moreover, pursuant upon the famous armistice negotiated by Miot, Moitte was one of the six experts appointed to the Commission of Arts and Sciences who were entrusted by the Directory in selecting masterpieces from amongst the works seized by the revolutionary armies for the French museums. Moitte travelled to Florence in July 1796 and took up his new role there where he joined the French legation and was the guest of the ambassador. Gisela Gramaccini dates Moitte’s sketch for the Republican Minerva to between 1796 and 1798, probably at some point during the artist’s Italian sojourn, either in Milan, Florence or Rome. It would be reasonable to believe that Gauffier knew Moitte’s bozzetto and that he used it as the model for this sculpture in his portrait of Miot. Realistically, it is unlikely that such a sculpture actually existed in the Palazzo Ximenes, though the outside possibility that there might have been a fresco or wall painting depicting the sculpture a la trompe l’œil should not entirely be excluded. Miot’s letters are silent on this point and shed no light as to whether the extraordinarily modern furniture in the portrait even existed outside Gauffier’s artistic imagination. Given Gauffier’s very marked taste for the decorative arts the furniture is probably his own invention. We know that one of his principal patrons, Thomas Hope, based his design for a suite of armchairs (Fig. 6) on Gauffier’s study for the imperial throne in his canvas The meeting of Augustus and Cleopatra after the Battle of Actium (Fig. 7). While the gueridon table Miot leans upon is of an elaborate, if relatively au courant design, the stool upon which Jacques Miot crouches is more original. But above all it is the magnificient fauteuil upon which Gauffier enthrones Adélaïde Miot, rather in the manner of a Roman matron that testifies to his remarkably imaginative neo-classical style. The sphinx-shaped supports of the arm-rests, known as chimeres, are a wholly French motif and at this date are difficult to imagine in Italy.

Not only did Gauffier design furniture specifically for this portrait, but also being a peerless landscape designer, he apparently could not resist including a garden landscape in his panoramic view of Florence. It is important to point out however, that though being included in a group portrait depicting an ambassador of the young French Republic with his family this is not a view of contemporary Florence; instead it is the Tuscan capital during the time of her own glorious republic. Moreover, instead of a framed canvas Gauffier paints this Florentine panorama as a wall-hanging painted in tempera on canvas, in the manner of a pala, and in this manner succeeds in conferring an air of antiquity upon this ‘historical landscape’, which is arguably less an expression of nostalgia than a comment on the obsolescence of the Italian state. In order to play to the ‘back rows’, as it were, Gauffier simplified the Florentine skyline practically to the point of abstraction. He simplified a representation of the city down to Brunelleschi’s dome and the mediaeval silhouette of the Palazzo Vecchio. These two powerful symbols, respectively of church and state, are separated by the hill of Fiesole, possibly to make a final comment that here, like everywhere, the blind power of nature governs all.

fig. 1: J.-B. Wicart (1762-1834), François Miot, 1796, etching, Montpellier, Musée Fabre.
fig. 2: Lucius Junius Brutus, 4th to 3rd Century, bronze, Rome Capitoline Museum.
fig. 3: Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), The Lictors bringing to Brutus the bodies of his sons, 1789, oil on canvas, Paris, Musée du Louvre
fig. 4: Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), Head of the Capitoline Brutus, pen and ink drawing, London, British Museum
fig. 5: La fête du 9 thermidor, engraved by de Berthault, Private Collection.
fig. 6: J.F. Moitte, Minerve en République Française, c. 1796, terracotta, 35,4 x 18,4 cm, The Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
fig. 7: Seat with footrest from the Picture Gallery, Parham House (Sussex).
fig. 8: L. Gauffier, The meeting of Augustus and Cleopatra after the Battle of Actium, oil on canvas, Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland

68 x 88 cm (26 ¾ x 34 ¾ in)
Oil on canvas

Comte Miot de Melito (1762-1841), until 1841.
Comtesse Rosalie d’Fleischmann , (1792-1866), née Miot de Melito, until 1866.
Colonel Comte Charles Astorg, cousin and heir of Rosalie d’Fleischmann, until 1879.
(Probably) Geneviève Astorg (née de l’Estrade), wife of the preceeding, at the Château des Moulins Neufs, Lavau in the Yonne, and;
Thence by descent.


P. Marmottan, ‘Le peintre Louis Gauffier’, in Gazette de Beaux-Arts, no. 4, xiii, 1926, pp. 281-300.
M. R. Crozet, ‘Louis Gauffier, 1762-1801’, in Bull. Soc. Hist. A.Fr., 1941-1944, p. 100-113.

Where is It?
Acquired from The Matthiesen Gallery by The national Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
Historical Period
Neoclassicism - 1780-1820
Genre or Daily Life
Price band
Sold or not available