Museum Acquires New 18th Century French Military Portrait
May 1, 2013, Philadelphia, PA--On May 2, 1778, word of the French Alliance reached the Continental Congress. Four days later, soldiers celebrated this news at Valley Forge with a feu de joie--a celebratory rifle salute.
As we commemorate this important date, the Museum of the American Revolution is pleased to announce the acquisition of a rare 18th century portrait of a French officer--Comte Joachim de Revel du Perron-- wearing the uniform he wore during the North American campaign of America's War for Independence. The portrait remained in the possession of descendants in the south of France until last year.
To be displayed in the new Museum of the American Revolution, the portrait brings to life one of the many stories of individuals from around the world who helped to secure American Independence.
Born in France in 1756, du Perron entered the army at age 16, and served as a sub-lieutenant in the infantry Regiment de Monsieur. He served in a detachment aboard French Admiral Comte de Grasse's fleet from March 1781 to August 1782, during which time he participated in seven naval engagements against the British, as well as land service at the siege of Yorktown in 1781. Revel du Perron retired from the French army in 1789, at which time he commissioned this portrait to commemorate his service in the American Revolution.
The work is attributed to the artist Laurent-Bruno François Jourdain, active in Besançon (the location of du Perron's last army posting) from 1745-1815. The uniform details, including the lack of later military decorations and orders, as well as the naval engagement between British and French ships in the background, illustrate du Perron's appearance and activity in 1781-82. The foremost French ship pictured in the line of battle is the Languedoc, aboard which du Perron served.
Revel du Perron kept a detailed journal of his seventeen months' service in America and the West Indies in 1781-82. The journal, together with maps and drawings (three of which relate to the Yorktown campaign) is owned by Princeton University.
French aid was indispensable to victory at Yorktown. With this portrait, the Museum will have an additional resource to tell the important story of France's involvement in winning America's War for Independence.