Collection of the Comtesse Munier-Jolain;
Her sale, Paris Hôtel Drouot, Lair-Dubreuil, December 9, 1910, no. 84;
Anonymous Sale, Paris Hôtel Drouot, February 19, 1975, no. 13;
Private collection, Belgium
Ferdinand Roybet was born in Uzès on April 12, 1840.1 Although he studied
engraving at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Lyon, early on he devoted himself
exclusively to painting. In 1864 he settled in Paris, where his lyrical, zestful
canvases, for example a Jester at the Court of Henry III (exhibited 1866 Salon;
Grenoble, Musée Grenoble), quickly met with success. Roybet was influenced
by Théodule Ribot and Antoine Vollon, and in his simple handling of his
subjects and the unidealized faces of his models he is close to the French Realist
painters, Courbet, Millet, and Jules Breton. Some of his works also testify to his
admiration for Delacroix.
In 1871/72 Roybet travelled to the Low Countries and Algeria, the source of
some superb harem scenes, such as Woman with a Parrot (St. Petersburg,
Hermitage). After discovering the Dutch and Flemish 17th Century masters he
radically altered both his technique and subject matter. He gradually abandoned
canvas supports for mahogany boards prepared with a light-toned ground and
acquired a more flowing touch, which gave his paintings a porcelain-like luster.
Despite the occasional allusion to Rembrandt, Hals and David Teniers the
Younger, Roybet drew his greatest inspiration from the style of northern
European genre painting adopted in France in the early 17th century. Hence
gatherings of soldiers in taverns alternate with parties of gentlemen, for example
a Musical Entertainment (1879; ex-Vanderbilt collection, sold Christies, London
May 7, 1971). Roybet spend many years working on an immense canvas
depicting Charles the Bold at Nesles (1890; untraced). He could also be a fine
portrait painter and clients often commissioned portraits of themselves and their
families in 17th century costume, as for example the portrait of Fernand Dol
(Aix-en-Provence, Musée Granet).
From as early as 1866 Roybet was working for dealers, who encouraged him to
produce slick commercial pictures and to give up exhibiting at the Salon. Much
of the vast sums he earned as a successful Belle Époque society painter were
spent on his collection of art. Roybet died in Paris, April 10, 1920.