Cardinal Lavigerie

Cardinal Lavigerie

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Title: Cardinal Charles Lavigerie Cardinal-Primate-of Africa.

Author : BONNAT Léon (1833 - 1922)

Creation date : 1888

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 239 - Width 164

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage place: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © RMN-GP (Palace of Versailles) / Daniel Arnaudet / Gérard Blot

Picture reference: 81-000493 / MV6020

Cardinal Charles Lavigerie Cardinal-Primate-of Africa.

© RMN-GP (Palace of Versailles) / Daniel Arnaudet / Gérard Blot

Publication date: March 2012

Historical context

Bishop of Nancy, Charles Martial Allemand Lavigerie was appointed Archbishop of Algiers in 1867. This single action would already earn him great fame, but he owes it even more to the famous “toast of Algiers” which he pronounced in 1890 on the council of Pope Leo XIII with a view to rallying the Church to the Republic. This opening resulted in the encyclical Inter sollicitudines of February 16, 1892, which received mixed reviews among French Catholics. Presented as the "supreme need of France", the republic, definitively triumphant around 1890, however did not keep its promises since in 1905 the separation of the Churches and the State was proclaimed. This toast, which had the effect of a thunderclap, earned Cardinal Lavigerie the wrath of the right, himself having long been close to legitimist circles.

Image Analysis

Bonnat represented Cardinal Lavigerie two years before the "Toast of Algiers", at a time when the prelate was fighting for the final abolition of slavery and when he still appeared as one of the linchpins of the legitimist current. Grabbed pen in hand, the character poses naturally near his work table. Dressed in his cardinal's habit, he fixed an almost amused gaze on the viewer. But beneath his good-natured air pierces the confidence of the great clerk of the Church as well as of the State, aware of his importance. In the shadow stands a tall cross. The framing chosen by the painter contributes to translating the great consideration which the prelate then enjoys.


Cardinal Lavigerie’s political development can be measured by the fact that this portrait was exhibited at the 1888 Salon at the same time that of Jules Ferry, who is known to be one of the architects of the republican roots of France. Painting these two portraits revealed Bonnat's political and religious views, and the combination of these two paintings evoked certain ongoing reconciliations between churchmen and left-wing politicians. This portrait, very simple in its conception, shows more the man than the prelate. The painter is in this sense the heir of Ingres who, with his Portrait of M. Bertin (Louvre), opened the way to this kind of representations where the character imposes some on the spectator by his strong presence as by his gaze directly on him. As a result, this portrait is not official and is just the image of a very popular man with deep convictions.

  • Algeria
  • Clergy
  • Ferry (Jules)

To cite this article

Jérémie BENOÎT, "Cardinal Lavigerie"

Video: Specialy 26 November dedicated to our beloved Cardinal Charles Lavigerie