FABRE, François-Xavier
(b. 1766, Montpellier, d. 1837, Montpellier)

Portrait of a Man

1809
Oil on canvas, 62 x 50 cm
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Fabre was a pupil of Jacques-Louis David in Paris, but spent much of his career in Italy: from 1787 in Rome and then from 1793 in Florence, where he was particularly connected with the English expatriate community. He specialised in half-length society portraits; their crisp design and minute attention to detail were largely inspired by David's paintings. He gradually produced a wider range of works, painting history pictures and landscapes, and was also active as a dealer, printmaker and enthusiastic collector. It is, above all, for his collection rather than his paintings that he is now best known; it is housed in the Musée Fabre in his native Montpellier and includes a number of important sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italian paintings, as well as a wide selection of the artist's own work.

Fabre returned briefly to Paris (1809-10) and this intense and sensitive portrait of a fashionably dressed young man is dated to the first year of this visit. It bears a pencil inscription on the unpainted edge of the canvas: M Camille, which is presumably a reference to the as yet unknown sitter. His dishevelled hair is arranged in the so-called 'a la Titus' antique style which was then in vogue.