(Geneva 1752 – Morges 1839)
Portrait of Pierre-Etienne Louis Dumont (Geneva 1759 – Milan 1829)
Inscription on the reverse: 52 / Portrait de Dumont magistrat distingué à Genève / par Ferrière de Genève
5 inches (12.5 cm.) in diameter
In a 19th century frame with a round view, decorated with small palm leaves
Born in Geneva to an established protestant family, Pierre-Etienne-Louis Dumont adhered very early to the emerging democratic ideals. In 1782, he left for St Petersburg where he stayed for 18 months and was named pastor of the French Church. He then went to England where he served as tutor to the sons of the Marquis of Lansdowne, who confided him the management of his library. During this time, Dumont also became friends with Samuel Romilly and Bentham. The onset of the Revolution, however, forced him back to Paris where he collaborated with Mirabeau on the drafting of the Courrier de Provence, an open letter on the current political climate.
In 1791, Dumont took refuge in Geneva. However, after the arrival of the French army, he returned to England where, as secretary to Bentham, he wrote several legal and judiciary treaties. The Biographie Universelle (cited in the article on Dumont in the Grand Dictionnaire Universel du XIXe siècle, Paris, vol. 6, p. 1384) informs us about Dumont: “A lucid writer with a more and fluid elegant style than that of Condillac, rich with examples, and without pair in the art of putting forth principles and proof, facts and formulas, details and general information, he popularised the ideas of Bentham”.
In 1814, he returned to Geneva, which became independent once again, where he was nominated member of the representative council and established the model prison. He made a last trip to England in 1828 and, the following year, visited Lombardy. Dumont fell suddenly ill during his trip back to Venice from Milan, where he died shortly after.
The author of our portrait, François Ferrières, was also born in Geneva. From 1770 to 1790 he was in Paris before going to England where he quickly built himself a reputation as a talented portraitist and miniaturist. Present in Moscow during the fire of 1804, he returned to England from 1817 to 1822, before retiring to Geneva where he died in 1839.
The painter and the man versed in law were probably good friends, as both where native from Geneva and anglophiles.