Gustave Courbet – L’apotre Jean Jour Net (jean Journet, The Apostle)

“HAVE just painted a portrait of a famous eccentric, Jean Journet, the apostle,” wrote Courbet in 1850. “It is like `Marlborough s’en vat en guerre.’ Journet is so well known in Paris that they had to place a gendarme by the picture during the exhibition.”

Courbet’s model was an old carbonaro, who had originally taken refuge in Spain, and had then set up as a chemist at Limoux, and had finally come to Paris to convert the city to the doctrines of Fourier and universal peace. His career as an evangelist, interrupted for a time by an enforced stay at Bicêtre, was fertile in incidents, which have been turned to account in the works of Schanne and Mürger.

It is not known what has happened to the picture that was in the Salon of ’85o, but its memory is preserved by a lithograph published by Vion in the same year. There is a -plaintive poem, sung to the air of Joseph, which commemorates the apostle’s wrath in the modern Babylon:

.. In the stews what did I see ? Oh, misery ! More crimes than I can tell In this abyss of wretchedness And wickedness I found myself in Hell.

….And the rich were languishing (Oh! woe to sing!) In sodden slothful sleep I saw the poor, sublimely meek, The poor and weak Unending vigil keep.

… And I saw young women lay, Tenderly they Their love before vile men; I saw a mother give her child, Poor and beguiled, Tears for its food—oh! men!

And I saw the fallen sell, Angels in Hell, Their treasure in the street, I saw the body’s purity Suffered to be Prey to foul lust, lust’s meat.

…Now, for the weary and worn Lo! comes the dawn To bring you happiness, The Lord to us inclines His will, His justice still Shall sure redeem and bless.