"Marat's Snooze"

Jack Louie David

Jack Louie David, whose other work, a portrait of Leonard Bonaparte is also in the Mumblestoats Collection, tried to emulate his older brother in painting portraits of the movers and shakers of the French Revolution. Unlike his more famous brother, he could only gain access to the lesser lights of the Great Upheaval. Here we see his sensitive portrayal of Àlonzo Marat, second cousin of the Jacobin firebrand Jean-Paul Marat.


Like his cousin, Àlonzo was a writer, but a more temperate one, penning stories for children's books, both original and translations from such English and German classics as Mother Goose ("Ma Mere L'Oie") and the Brothers Grimm ("Les Freres Grimms"). Also like his cousin Jean-Paul, he suffered a debilitating disease, in this case narcolepsy, which caused him to drop off to sleep at the slightest provocation. He spent much of his time in a specially-designed waterbed, shown here, to prevent injuries from falling when an attack of the "galloping sleepies," (les dodos gallopant") as he called them, suddenly struck.


The painter was fortunate to be present when Àlonzo nodded off during the very first posing session. Jack Louie was struck by the innocent look on Marat's face, and how closely it matched the look on the face of Àlonzo's favorite bear, Charlotte. He quickly made some sketches which led to this almost-impressive work. Alas, when the more well-known Jean-Paul Marat was assassinated by a closet Girondist, portraits of his extended family quickly fell out of fashion. Jack Louie lost the promised cover assignment for Revolutionary Life magazine, and was reduced to selling the portrait to a broker of wallpaper designs for a handful of centimes and a free pass to view the guillotine at work in the Place de la Révolution.

 

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