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Allegorical Portrait of the van Risamburgh Family
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Joseph Chinard
French, 1790
Marble
44 1/4 in.
94.SA.2

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Carved out of a single block of gleaming white marble, this allegorical portrait represents the Van Risamburgh family in a sweet and affectionate commemorative portrait. Lovingly looking down, Madame van Risamburgh, dressed as Minerva, goddess of wisdom and war in ancient mythology, raises her shield as a canopy over her languidly slumbering young son. He is improbably perched on a pile of military equipment and holds a sword or dagger that is clearly too large for him in his right hand. Monsieur van Risamburgh, a prominent Lyon merchant, is represented by his profile medallion portrait on a shield at the base. The medallion format, traditionally used for tomb monuments, implies that, although still living, he is absent from the family. Through the use of allegory, sculptor Joseph Chinard suggested that Madame van Risamburgh was protecting her son from current civil and military unrest while her husband was away, possibly engaged in military or civic duties.

A popular Neoclassical artist, Chinard drew on ancient mythology and used classical forms but imbued the work with a very contemporary emotional feeling, celebrating family life as the source of happiness.

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Medallion portrait
Medallion portrait