Théodore Gericault (French, 1791–1824)
Oil on canvas
18 x 15 in. (45.7 x 38.1 cm)
The Alfred N. Punnett Endowment Fund, 1941 (41.17)
Among the many achievements in his short career, Gericault is remembered for invigorating the genre of children's portraits. In his hands, the young were neither miniature adults nor simpering objects of affection. Instead, Gericault endowed them with remarkably self-confident grace.
The subject of this portrait is the nephew of Gericault's close friend the painter Pierre-Joseph Dedreux-Dorcy. Gericault crossed paths with the family in Siena in 1817, at the end of his Italian sojourn; the Dedreux children returned to Paris with their mother in fall 1819, which helps to establish a probable date for the likeness. This canvas is one of a small group of drawings and paintings by Gericault (in various private collections) that depict Alfred and his sister, Elisabeth, two years his junior. Alfred became a painter, and like Gericault, was enamored of horses and equestrian sports. Eugène Delacroix, who had studied with Gericault, later owned this painting.