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Les sources iconographiques
des portraits fictifs du père jésuite Jacques Marquette


1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition - The St. Louis World's Fair

Collaboration de David P. Miros.

The portrait is reproduced, with a text, in Bennitt 1905 (web), p. 23, about the very important Louisiana Purchase Exposition - The 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, as follows...

REVEREND JACQUES MARQUETTE, S.J.

Even more curious than the story of the disappearance of Father Marquette's map are the circumstances surrounding the portrait of the Reverend explorer, which is reproduced herewith. While doubts have been cast on the genuineness of this supposedly contemporary painting, the preponderance of evidence seems to indicate that it is beyond a doubt a genuine portrait. Until about the beginning of the year 1900, more than two hundred years after Father Marquette's death, there was no suspicion that a contemporary painting of him was in existence, although efforts had been made for more than fifty years to find one. It remained for the Canadian artist, Donald Guthrie McNab, by a fortunate accident, to discover what is believed to be the likeness of the great explorer. Mr. McNab, in the winter of 1896-97, while walking along Little Saint James Street, in Montreal, overtook two French boys drawing a hand-cart loaded with rubbish and broken board, on top of which was thrown and old panel, the shape of which attracted his attention. The boys told him the wood had come from an old house, but would give him no further information. They readily parted with the panel, however, for a piece of silver, and it was thrown in a corner of Mr. McNab's studio, where it remained unnoticed until late in 1899, when the artist began to remove the dirt and varnish, with which the face of the picture had been covered. This disclosed a portrait in the style of Rembrandt, the face an unusually fine example of coloring and modeling, and bearing the signature, "R. Roos, 1669." above which are two lines, which are almost totally illegible, but among which it is possible to make out the words, "Marquette de la Confrérie de Jésus." On the back of the panel have been carved the words, "Pere Marquette." but this was evidently done much more recently. Photographs of the portrait fail to show the inscription. As a work of art the portrait is excellent. The details of the face are exquisitely reproduced and the features are as perfect as if taken with a camera. The apparent age of the subject is that of Marquette at that date, and the face has a placidity of expression that corresponds perfectly with what is known of Marquette's gentle and unassuming nature. The strongest evidence that the portrait is a genuine one has been furnished by the Revered A. Hamy, S. J., of Boulogne-Sur-Mer, France, to whom a photograph of the panel was sent, and who found there a descendant of one of Marquette's brothers, whose personal likeness to the face pictured on the panel is most striking. The original panel, from which the photographic reproduction above was made, was exhibited at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition by the Missouri Historical Society, which obtained it by loan from Saint Mary's College, Montreal.

Dans le texte ci-dessus, nos caractères gras identifient des informations nouvelles et importantes. D'entrée de jeu on évoque les doutes quant à l'authenticité de ce portrait. Mais on les rejette rapidement en utilisant un résumé des arguments de McNab, Jones et Hamy qui ne tiennent pas la route face à notre Analyse critique... et les documents tirés des Archives jésuites. On confirme que cette découverte a mis fin à une quête de plus d'un demi-siècle afin de le retrouver, car « on avait toujours su qu'il en exitait un » ! Le tableau a été exposé via le Missouri Historical Society où Bushnell occupait un poste important. Ne serait-ce pas lui qui l'aurait fait inclure dans l'exposition afin d'en mousser la réputation au moment où il en faisait l'acquisition ? La photo reproduite dans ce catalogue est semblable à celle conservée par le Missouri Historical Museum reproduite ci-dessous, hormis le numéro « 3089 » en bas à droite. Plus étonnant, le tableau a été prêté par le « Collège Sainte-Marie de Montréal » ! Était-il alors sous la garde de l'archiviste des jésuites, le père Jones ? Ce transit du panneau par le Collège Sainte-Marie permettrait de mieux comprendre la source du portrait publié par 1912 Currey...

La légende de 1912 Currey stipule que cette reproduction a été faite à partir d'un tableau au Collège Sainte-Marie de Montréal. Les archives des jésuites ne conservent aucune oeuvre correspondant à cette image. Ne s'agirait-il pas, alors, d'une photographie retouchée faite à partir du tableau empruntée par le Missouri Historical Society au Collège Sainte-Marie et exposé en 1904 à St. Louis ?

Collaboration de Anne Woodhouse.

I do not know the present location of the Marquette portrait. However, years ago it seems to have been photographed here [at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis] (I attach a scan of the photo negative 001-003445). We don’t recognize the number at bottom right as being any number we would have added. Bushnell is best known to us for his interest in and collections of American Indian material, and I imagine that’s how he got interested in the Marquette painting.

Apparently portraits were routinely borrowed for photography in the past, but there is little information about those paintings. Our photo curator says that our negative was made in 1981. However, it could have been made from another negative. We have no other photos of this work. However, our information about this image says that the artist was “R. Roos” and the date was 1669.

Enfin, une image de meilleure qualité qui permet de nous approcher un peu plus du portrait de McNab ! Mais pas encore assez pour permettre de voir les inscriptions au recto ! L'agrandissement de cette image confirme nombre de repeints sur un portrait qui semble plus ancien. Un cas classique d'ajouts sur un portrait existant en mauvais état. L'ensemble du visage apparaît tel un masque mis par-dessus l'ancien visage. Des trous, dans ce masque, laissent apparaitre des éléments sous-jacents d'une facture différente : les yeux, la bouche, le menton, le tour de la tête incluant les oreilles. Tout le collet extérieur, plus haut, serait-il un ajout pour faire XVIIe ? Et le trait blanc sur le col qui recouvre les craquelures ? La plus grande partie du fonds a été repeinte. La couleur bleutée, dans tout le bas du portrait, provient-elle de repeints ou de reflets lors de la photographie ? Le chiffre « 3089 », ajouté en bas à droite, serait-il un numéro d'objet d'une grande collection ? Si on retrouve le portrait, un examen aux rayons UV, infrarouges et X permettrait de mieux déterminer ce qu'il en est... Et peut-être réussir à savoir ce qui se cache derrière ce masque...

 

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