Jean-Baptiste Wicar (Lille 1762–1834 Rome)
Antoine-Christophe Saliceti, 1803
Black crayon with white chalk highlights and touches of graphite on cream wove paper
18 x 14 9/16 in. (470 x 370 mm)
Promised Gift from the Collection of Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard
Photo Joseph Coscia Jr.
Jean-Baptiste Wicar lived and worked in Italy for most of his life, establishing himself as a portraitist and history painter. In the 1790s, he met Antoine-Christophe Saliceti (1757–1809), an ardent revolutionary who was one of Napoleon’s closest associates and, like Napoleon, from Corsica. Between 1803 and 1805, Saliceti was the French ambassador in Genoa, where he oversaw the takeover of the republic. In Wicar’s drawing of Saliceti, which may have been a model for a print, the ambassador is shown in civilian clothes, his left hand resting on Montesquieu’s Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline of 1734. An opening in the loggia behind him frames one of the symbols of Genoa, the Lanterna, at the time the tallest lighthouse in the world. In 1806, Saliceti moved to Naples, where he was appointed Minister of Police. There, he died, aged fifty-two, allegedly from poisoning.