James Tissot, the son of a draper and a hat manufacturer, was so skilled a painter of women’s fashions that he receives little notice for his depictions of men’s fashions.
In The Marquis and the Marchioness of Miramon and their children, René de Cassagne de Beaufort, marquis de Miramon (1835 – 1882) and his wife, née Thérèse Feuillant (1836 – 1912), pose with their first two children, Geneviève (1863 – 1924) and Léon (1861 – 1884) on the terrace of the château de Paulhac in Auvergne.
The Marquis is elegant and at his ease in loosely-cut sack coat with sloping shoulders and balloon sleeves (cut very wide at the elbows and narrowing at the shoulder and cuff) that were influenced by the Oriental vogue. His left lapel is accented with the ultimate sartorial touch — a rose, this one in a delicate pink.
The fact that his riding breeches are cut from the same grey fabric as the coat was a novelty, considered appropriate only in domestic settings – amounting to a sporty lounge suit. His tall leather riding boots, with their marvelous row of spherical buttons, echo the spherical cuff link on his left wrist.
His white linen or cotton shirt has a turnover collar, and his deep blue patterned silk necktie is tied in a loose knot and appears to be fastened with a pearl stickpin. His light-colored, collarless waistcoat is cut high at the top and straight across the bottom, adorned with a gold watch chain. The informal dress and poses of his subjects, along with the outdoor setting, gave Tissot’s family portrait a British flair that was quite modern at the time.
At the same time, the Marquis de Miramon epitomizes Baudelaire’s 1863 theory of true dandyism as representing “perfection in dress” and “the best way to appear distinguished.” The accomplished gentleman was always dressed correctly for any occasion, public or private.
The Marquis’ son, Léon, at four, also is perfectly turned out, though more flamboyant. He wears a lace-trimmed white shirt, and his buff-colored coat and matching waistcoat are adorned with black scrollwork (soutache) embroidery, fashionable in the mid-1860s (and similar to that worn by the central figure in Monet’s monumental 1866 painting, Women in the Garden). He would be out of skirts, and wearing a jacket and trousers, by the time he reached age 5 or 6. Léon’s black leather shoes, paired with black and grey diced Scottish kilt hose, sport silver buckles. On his chair, his low-crowned straw helmet, its color an exact match with his coat and waistcoat, is made splendid by a black velvet ribbon band and rosette with a bejeweled silver ornament.
In 1867, Tissot painted 43-year-old Eugène Coppens de Fontenay (1824 –1896), the president of the exclusive Jockey Club in Paris. Married in 1853, Eugène Aimé Nicolas Coppens de Fontenay had three children.
In this distinctive portrait, he is wearing wearing a white shirt with a turnover collar and a bright blue necktie. His black sack coat has sloping shoulders and is paired with a high-cut, collarless waistcoat in pristine white.
Fontenay carries a top hat, tan kid gloves, and a walking stick, proper accouterments for day wear. His trousers, in a brown fabric contrasting with his coat, are slim-fitting and have a substantial break. He wears black leather ankle boots (probably with elastic sides) and, like the Marquis de Miramon, sports a dapper waxed mustache.
The Jockey Club began as a meeting place for members of the Society for the Encouragement of Horse Racing in France, founded in November 1833 by fourteen Anglophiles under the age of 30, who were aristocrats or the scions of financiers and horse breeders. The Jockey Club was founded in June 1834, in luxurious, wood-paneled quarters on the corner of rue Grange-Batelière, just north of the intersection between Boulevard Haussmann, Boulevard des Italiens, and Boulevard Poissonnière. All fashionable men aspired to belong to this bastion of male extravagance. By 1864, it had 650 titled and wealthy members, who voted with white or black balls; six white balls were required for admission.
In 1868, Tissot painted a dozen of the most fashionable men in Paris in a group portrait, The Circle of the Rue Royale (1868). Members of this exclusive club, founded in 1852, each paid Tissot a sitting fee of 1,000 francs. He portrayed them on a balcony of the Hôtel de Coislin overlooking the Place de la Concorde (if you look closely at the original painting, you can see the horse traffic through the balustrade). From left to right: Count Alfred de la Tour Maubourg (1834-1891), Marquis Alfred du Lau d’Allemans (1833-1919), Count Étienne de Ganay (1833-1903), Captain Coleraine Vansittart (1833-1886), Marquis René de Miramon (1835-1882), Count Julien de Rochechouart (1828-1897), Baron Rodolphe Hottinguer (1835-1920; he kept the painting according to the agreed-upon drawing of lots), Marquis Charles-Alexandre de Ganay *(1803-1881), Baron Gaston de Saint-Maurice (1831-1905), Prince Edmond de Polignac (1834-1901), Marquis Gaston de Galliffet (1830-1909) and Charles Haas (1833-1902).
Seated on the balustrade, Count Alfred de La Tour Maubourg, at age 34, wears a black sack coat with only the top button fastened, in what was called “English” or “Richmond-style” buttoning. He wears it over loose, light-grey trousers, a white waistcoat over a white shirt with a turnover collar, and a blue cravat.
Lounging next to him, the Marquis Alfred du Lau d’Allemans, age 35, wears a black sack coat over loose, dark-grey trousers, a white shirt with a turnover collar, and a black patterned cravat, while showing off his high-cut golden silk waistcoat.
Count Étienne de Ganay, in the black silk top hat, is more formally dressed in a morning suit with a high stand-up shirt collar under his tan overcoat. His low-cut, shawl-collared waistcoat displays his pristine white shirt, with its tight-fitting, stand-up collar. At 35, he wears a golden watch chain, and he carries a cane, as if soon to depart on business. He has an extraordinary combination of a blonde handlebar mustache and prodigious brown whiskers.
Count Julien de Rochechouart, age 40, is seated, with a cigarette in his right hand. His stylish black and white hounds tooth trousers echo the colors of the Dalmatian at his feet, while the solid black of his buttoned frock coat is relieved by his casually fluffed white pocket square – and his massive ginger beard. His black leather ankle boots have a high polish.
Captain Coleraine Vansittart, standing behind him with slicked-down hair, was British. He sports a brown sack coat buttoned Richmond-style and cut sharply away from the top button to show a considerable amount of the matching waistcoat. At 35, he pairs these items with grey trousers and a white shirt with a high, starched, stand-up collar. He seems to be wearing a white necktie. His pose, with his left hand tucked into his pocket, exposes the black-and-white gingham lining of the coat.
Marquis René de Miramon, age 33, is seated on the sofa, wearing a black silk top hat and holding tan gloves and an umbrella. Dressed more formally than in his 1865 family portrait, he wears his black morning coat with light-grey trousers and black leather ankle boots. Peeking out under his white turnover collar is a bright blue necktie.
Baron Rodolphe Hottinguer, a banking heir who at 33 won the right to keep the painting of the group, sits on the other side of the sofa. In contrast to his notable ginger-colored hair and impressive mutton-chop sideburns, he is quietly dressed in a black frock coat paired with a collared, high-cut black vest and light-grey trousers. He has neatly folded and tied a dark-colored square scarf over his stand-up white shirt collar
Marquis Charles-Alexandre de Ganay * sits in profile in a beautifully-carved chair, showing off the brown spats buttoned over his black ankle boots. Elegantly at his ease, he wears a black morning coat and blue, red and black plaid trousers with a white turnover collar and a light-grey patterned necktie.
[Note: The Musée d’Orsay identifies this figure simply as Marquis de Ganay, though other sources identify him as Marquis Charles-Alexandre de Ganay (1803–1881), who was the father of the third sitter from the left, Count Étienne de Ganay (1833-1903). It is not possible that the young blonde man seated in the center of Tissot’s portrait is 65 years old.]
Baron Gaston de Saint-Maurice, age 37, is seated on the arm of the sofa, wearing a black silk top hat. His black frock coat is buttoned over his high-cut white waistcoat, and the white slashes are echoed in the tidy white silk square folded into his breast pocket. His bright blue necktie is fastened with a pearl stickpin, and he wears dark grey trousers.
Prince Edmond de Polignac, at 34, lounges dreamily in the upholstered armchair, his left forefinger holding a place in his book about Louis XVII. His flamboyant, black-and-white patterned trousers are in high style. He wears a black morning coat, a high-cut white waistcoat with a shawl collar, and a blue necktie which may be fastened with a pearl stickpin. He also appears to have white or grey pearl cuff links. His grey top hat, grey gloves, and cane are stowed beneath him.
Marquis Gaston de Galliffet, greying at the temples at 38, wears a black sack coat over slim-fitting black trousers cut from the same fabric – a sporty, fashion-forward lounge suit. He pairs a blue-patterned necktie with his turnover shirt collar. Is that his extinguished cigar, crushed on the floor to the left of his black leather ankle boots? In three years, Galliffet would become known as “le marquis aux talons rouges” [Marquis Red Heels] for his brutal executions of Communards in Paris. This was a clever reference to both his brutality in glorying in the blood of his victims as well as Galliffet’s dandyism – perhaps outré – since showy red heels had been a male fashion trend from at least 1697 to 1785, but not since.
Louis XIV (The Sun King, who ruled France from 1643 until his death in 1715) declared that only those in the royal favor were allowed the privilege of having red heels on their shoes, and by Marie Antoinette’s time, red heels had become a hated symbol of the monarchy. British historian Philip Mansel observed that the bright heels indicated nobles did not dirty their shoes – but were “always ready to crush the enemies of the state at their feet.” [See Louis XIV’s 1701 portrait by Hyacinthe Rigaud, which features the red-heeled shoes.]
Charles Haas, age 35, stands, framed in the high doorway with his cane held jauntily over his right shoulder. He wears a tan coat over his brown sack coat and matching brown, high-cut waistcoat, with finely-checked light-grey trousers. He sports brown spats buttoned over his black leather ankle boots, and he is wearing tan kid gloves. He has loosened the high, starched, winged stand-up collar on his white shirt, and he wears a bright blue necktie fastened with a pearl stickpin. The fluffed pocket square in the breast pocket of his sack coat lends another white note.
Haas, a Jewish art collector and critic, was one of the models for Proust’s character, Charles Swann, in In Search of Lost Time (1913). Haas had been blackballed from the Jockey Club four times until his heroism during the Franco-Prussian War earned his entry. He was the lover, and later the friend, of Sarah Bernhardt. Haas’ gleaming, flared, light-grey silk top hat was custom-made for him by Delion, who made it for only a half-dozen other elite clients.
© 2016 by Lucy Paquette. All rights reserved.
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The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.
Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color
Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library
(295 pages; ISBN (ePub): 978-0-615-68267-9). See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.