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Paul Louis Léger Chardin

(1833 Paris, exhibited at the Paris Salon between 1855 and 1875)

Full-length Portrait of Giuseppe Verdi, Facing Left. Brush drawing in black, grey, blue and a little yellow over pencil on grey-green paper. 25.5 x 17.2 cm. Monogrammed: “F. C.”, inscribed and dated in the artist’s own hand: “Verdi rencontré à Milan 1858”.

This clever caricature portrait shows the composer, Giuseppe Verdi, at the age of forty-five and, according to the inscription, it was drawn from life. The author of the portrait, the painter and draughtsman Paul Chardin, presents Verdi as a man of great energy and enterprise. The maestro, casually smoking a cigarillo, is dressed in elegant, dandyish attire. He is wearing his characteristic top hat, which is tilted nonchalantly over his forehead. Beneath a short, tight-fitting frock-coat, which emphasises the corpulence of his stocky, robust figure, he wears a pair of tartan trousers, which were all the rage at the time for the fashion-conscious gentleman. The small, flexible walking stick is another fashionable attribute of the perfect gentleman. The score of Il Trovatore, which the celebrated composer is holding behind his back, is a reference to one of his greatest stage successes. The opera was premiered on 19 January 1853 at the Teatro Apollo in Rome just a few years before this portrait was taken. Paul Chardin studied under Adrien Dauzats (1804–1868) and Pierre Justin Ouvrié (1806–1879). Between 1855 und 1875 he regularly exhibited vedute from Italy and France at the Paris Salon. During one of his journeys the artist must have met Verdi in Milan. He is also known to have taken portraits of other composers.

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