The Red Portfolioc. Undated by
Vibert, Jehan-Georges 1840-1902
In The Red Portfolio, Vibert again pokes fun at his favorite victim. The main point of this painting is the immense pride of an unidentified but elegant cardinal standing self-consciously in the council chamber of Louis VX at Fontainebleau. Vibert gives and explanation for this attitude in his La Comedie en peinture, where this work is reproduced. According to his anecdote, the man is a protégé of Voltaire, who through a clever stratagem managed to have the old cardinal-minster removed. "You may judge," wrote Vibert, "how proud the new minister is of his new position from the desire that you divine in him." His air of self-importance, as he strikes a pose before an elegant fireplace, swelling his chest to better display his royal decorations, implies that he fancies himself successor to the great cardinal-ministers of France, Richelieu, Mazarin, and Fleury. The extremity of his hubris is mocked by the nearby helmeted Minerva (on the painted panel to the right) and Atlas (surmounting the clock).
Cleary the cardinal's mind is more occupied with this world than the next. His attire is fashioned of the most expensive materials, ermine, silk, gold, and lace - a match for the elegant Rococo interior. Yet the shadow if a beard - it is already four, according to the clock - implies human fallibility behind the impeccable façade. Even his perfect grooming is slightly flawed by a wig that does not quite cover his dark sideburns. With his own touch of pride Vibert includes the initial "V" on the urn decoration of the andiron in the fireplace.
Size (inches): 18 1/2 x 14 1/2
Medium: Oil on Panel
Location: McKee Room