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A Musician of the Swiss Guard by JOB

Watercolour and ink on paper. Signed ‘JOB’ lower right. Framed and glazed.

The subject wears the uniform of Louis XVI’s Garde Suisse who were overwhelmed by the French National Guard while defending the Tuileries Palace during the French Revolution of 10 August 1792. Of the nine hundred Swiss Guards, about six hundred were killed during the fighting or massacred after their surrender. One group were taken as prisoners to the Paris City Hall before being killed there by the crowd the mob. An estimated hundred and sixty more died in prison of their wounds, or were killed during the September Massacres. The regimental colours had been secretly buried by the adjutant shortly before the regiment was summoned to the Tuileries on the night of 8/9 August, indicating that the likely end was foreseen. The colours were discovered by a gardener and ceremoniously burned by the new French Republican authorities on 14 August. The barracks of the Guard at Courbevoie were stormed by the local National Guard and the few Swiss still on duty there also killed. The heroic but futile stand of the Swiss is commemorated by Thorvaldsen’s Lion Monument in Lucerne.

‘JOB’ was the pen name of Jacques Marie Gaston Onfroy de Bréville (1858-1931). He was educated at the elite private school Collège Stanislas de Paris, and was initially forbade by his father from becoming an artist. After a brief spell in the army, he returned to Paris in 1882, to follow his ambition and entered École des Beaux-Arts. He exhibited at the 1886 Salon des Artistes Français, before starting his career as an illustrator. His major colour compositions contributed to the cult of 'heroes of the nation' such as Napoleon I and Joachim Murat, and he was noted for reproducing uniform details with extreme precision. Accordingly a number JOB’s drawings were used by the modelers at the Dresden porcelain manufactory as the source for the Napoleonic figures first produced circa 1908-12. He also illustrated the life of George Washington and was well known in the USA. He was a Sociétaire of the 'humoristes' and exhibited with the Incoherents. His studio has been reconstructed at the Musée de Metz.

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