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François-Xavier Fabre

François-Xavier Fabre (born on April 1, 1766 and died on March 16, 1837 in Montpellier in France, baron in 1828), was a painter of history, landscape painter and French engraver of the classical artistic movement.

Born in Montpellier, Fabre was a pupil of Jacques-Louis David, and made his name by winning the Prix de Rome in 1787. During the French Revolution, he went to live in Florence, becoming a member of the Florentine Academy and a teacher of art.

He became friends with Alfieri and the Countess of Albany, a widow of the last of the Stuarts. From 1790, he worked away from Paris and his master David. His clientele is cosmopolitan and aristocratic in Italy. He gives his models pleasant, discreetly flattering, rather realistic images, in accordance with the conception of the traditional social portrait. One of his most famous portraits is that of the brother of Napoleon I, Lucien Bonaparte, prince of Canino, painted in 1808 and made three versions, one of which is in the Museo Napoleonico in Rome, another in the Fabre Museum and the third in A large private Napoleonic collection (the last two from the Canino collection).

The friends he made in Italy included the dramatist, Vittorio Alfieri, whose widow, Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern, Countess of Albany, he is said to have married. On Louise’s death in 1824, he inherited her fortune, which he used to found an art school in his home town. On his own death, he bequeathed his own art collection to the town, forming the basis of the Musée Fabre.

Fabre began his training in the Montpellier’s art academy, where he spent several years prior to joining Jacques-Louis David’s studio in Paris. His studies were paid for by the financier and art collector, Philippe-Laurent de Joubert.

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It is confined to a repertory of tradition. For style he is inspired by that of David of the 1780s. He distinguished himself by the severity of the style, the purity of the drawing and the richness of the color.

In 1824, on the death of the Countess d’Albany, he settled in Montpellier, his native city, and offered to the city his collections of paintings and books on the condition that they were the starting point of a Museum, the current Fabre museum, and that he can live in this museum. The mayor of the time, Ange Jean Michel Bonaventure of Dax d’Axat, first president of the Society of Fine Arts, accepted the donation in January 1825 and after a specific deliberation of the municipal council the museum project is validated2. After three years of important works financed by the municipality and entrusted to the two architects of the city of Montpellier, Fovis and Boué, the museum opens its doors in 1828 in the Hotel de Massilian, located to the east of the Écusson, the historic center of Montpellier, overlooking the Charles de Gaulle esplanade.

François-Xavier Fabre was made a baron at the same time by letters patent of King Charles X and Officer of the Legion of Honor. He then entered the municipal council. Until his death, he was director of the Museum and the School of Fine Arts in the city.

The changes in art (romanticism) and in politics (the revolution of 1830) disappoint him. At his death in 1837, he bequeathed to the city all his collections with the condition that the Marquis de Nattes be its director. More than a thousand paintings, drawings, engravings and objets d’art will enrich the young museum in Montpellier.

Philippe-Laurent was the father of Laurent-Nicolas de Joubert. Fabre painted a portrait of Laurent-Nicolas de Joubert, which is now in the Getty Museum. Fabre gained popularity in Florence.