Portrait of Marguerite Félicite Colzy and her husband, Peter Drege
Signature at the bottom right on the portrait of Peter Drege: "Dubufe".
Provenance : remained in the family of the models by descent.
A founding member of an illustrious dynasty of artists, Claude Marie Dubufe led a brilliant career as a portrait painter. Initially intended to work in the world of diplomacy, he nevertheless preferred to follow his tastes by painting. Family tradition has it that Jacques-Louis David, whose studio he attended, came to see his father to convince him of his son's talent when the young man was about to embark for America. Regularly exhibiting at the Salon, Claude Marie Dubufe enjoyed considerable success and was awarded numerous prestigious commissions. Decorated with the order of the Legion of Honour (1837), he was one of the official portraitists of the upper middle class and the nobility of the 19th century.
Amongst others, the painter produced the portrait of the actress Harriet Smithson, wife of Hector Berlioz, but also those of Peter Drege and his wife, Margaret Félicite Colzy. The latter was the daughter of Louis Charlemagne Colzy, known as 'Charles'. Born in Lyon in 1770, he first settled in Saint-Domingue. In 1791, when the Haitian Revolution broke out, he fled the island to settle in Charleston. Having married Angélique Guerin, the couple gave birth to seven children. Charles worked as a tailor and died in June 1819. He was buried in Saint Mary of the Annunciation Cemetery in Charleston. It was in the same city that Margaret Felicite Colzy married Peter Drege on 7 February 1816 in a ceremony conducted by the Reverend Mr Duclos Riviere.
Like his father-in-law, Peter Drege is also a tailor. He was the director of the textile firm "Firm of Peter Drege & Co", located at 139 E. Bay St. in Charleston (2). The entrepreneur is also listed in the 1825-1827 edition of Longworth's American almanack, New-York register, and city directory, which indicates that he owns a shop at 33 South h. 18 walker (3). Peter Drege traded in ready-made clothing, among other things.
A careful study of the press at the time provides more information about these activities. Peter Drege published numerous advertisements in the Columbian museum and Savannah daily gazette3. An article in The Daily Georgian of 13 January 1821 provides a lot of information about his business:
PETER DREGEE, MOST respectfully informs his friends and the public in general, that he has just arrived from Charleston with a great quantity of extra superfine. Gentlemen’s HATS, and the most fashinnable made CLOTHING—also, servant’s, seamen’s (…). The above Goods are just received by the latest arrivals from London, Liverpool and Philadelphia. PETER DREGEE flatters himself that his friends and the public will be pleased with the prices and the quality of his Goods, and that he shall endeavor to satisfy those who will honor him with their Custom. Also, 70 PACKAGES, consisting of extra fine gentlemens blue, black, and bottle green Dress Coats, Waterloos, Surtouts, Frock Coats, various colors and shapes […] Black Florentine, Valencia, Toilinet, buff, white. Marseilles and colored Vests. Extraordinary large sizes Plaid Cloaks. A great quantity of worsted and cotton Socks and long Stockings. 19,000 first rate rate Havana Segars, in quarter boxes […] The above Goods will be sold by wholesale and retail at PETER DREGEE’s cheap store, next door to Calvin Baker. jan 8 re. »(4)
Clearly well integrated into the social life of South Carolina, Peter Drege also signed a petition on 11 December 1838 for "The establishment of a port of entry and the erection of a light-house at Indian Key"(5)
Despite their settlement on American territory, the Drege and Colzy families maintained strong ties to France and returned home regularly. Peter Drege was a passenger on the liner "Ville-de-Lyon" to New York in May 1842(6). He is also mentioned
as arriving from Le Havre in the Morning Herald of 7 September 1840 (7). The couple portrayed by Claude Marie Dubufe gave birth to a daughter, Marie-Catherine-Paméla Drege (8). She married Marie-Joseph-Anatole de Sevin and seems to have lived mainly in Toulouse where she died on 8 August 1902 (9).
The choice of the two models to commission Claude Marie Dubufe was based on several criteria. Firstly, the artist was one of the most prominent portraitists of his time.
As a Frenchman, he also linked the couple to their origins. This decision was undoubtedly also a strategic and rewarding choice, allowing them to show a real connection with the Parisian art scene and to attest to their good taste. The trajectory of two of the painter's works, Adam and Eve and Paradise Lost (10), was undoubtedly a determining factor in this choice. Exhibited at the Salon in 1827, the paintings were shown in London in 1829 and acquired three years later by the Brette brothers. The two paintings then enjoyed a major American exhibition tour between 1832 and 1838. In addition to New York and Boston, the works were shown at the Academy of Fine Arts in Charleston from 27 January to 5 March 1834, then in Augusta and Savannah from 14 March to 9 April of the same year (11). This American tour seems to have been successful and to have left a lasting impression, as shown by the replicas of the works exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York and also in Worcester (Mass.) in 1849 (12).
These two portraits of the Drege couple attest to the strength of Franco-American ties, and are also a vivid testimony to life in South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century. Claude Marie Dubufe has captured the essence of these two models with a skillful and alert hand. This pair of paintings resonates perfectly with a review of the painter's work that appeared in the Annuaire des Artistes for the year 1834. This text states in particular that : "Mr Dubufe endeavours to deserve the success he has achieved; he makes charming portraits of ladies and his portraits of men are not inferior to them in any way; often it is true that his women's heads have an air of family, but his poses, apart from being graceful, have the merit of having an abandonment, a suppleness, a carelessness which is rare among portraitists" (13).
1 A Portrait of the Countess of Cholier of Cibeins, also in the artist's hand, was also painted on a canvas by Vallé & Bourniche, Cf. Claude Marie Dubuffe, Portrait de la Comtesse de Cholier de Cibeins, 19th century, oil on canvas, 130 x 98 cm, Paris, Millon sale of 13 December 2013, lot no. 60. The terminus ante quem of our two portraits corresponds to the end of the collaboration between Vallé & Bourniche in 1841, as the dealer's mark on the back of the canvas could not be affixed after this date.
2 James W. Hagy (dir.), Directories for the city of Charleston, South Carolina, Baltimore, Clearfield, 1997, p. 104
3 See in particular the edition of 10 December 1817, p. 3.
4 The Daily Georgian, saturday 13 january 1821, n° 39,
5 Public documents printed by order of the senate of the United States, third session of the twenty-fifth congress, begun and held at the city of Washington, december 3, 1838, volume II, 1839, p. 54.
6 Le Commerce, 21 mai 1842, p. 6.
7 Morning Herald, 7 septembre 1840, p. 3.
8 See Madame de Naurois, Généalogie de la famille de Sevin, Paris, H. Champion, 1912, 112 p.
9 Op. cit., p. 23.
0 Claude-Marie Dubufe, "Adam et Ève" et "Le paradis perdu", Nantes, musée des beaux-arts de Nantes, 27 mars 2009 – 10 mai 2009. Commissariat : Cyrille Sciama, Nantes, musée des beaux-arts de Nantes, 2009, 32 p.
11 The Drege couple may have seen the exhibition on one of these two occasions.
12 Voir http://expositions.modernes.biz/dubufe-paradis-perdu/ .
13 Quoted in Portraits d'un siècle d'élégance parisienne : Claude, Édouard et Guillaume Dubufe, Paris, Mairie du 9e arrondissement et Mairie du 16e arrondissement, 1988. Commissariat : Emmanuel Bréon, Paris, Délégation à l'action artistique de la Ville de Paris, 1988, p. 107.
Madame de Naurois, Généalogie de la famille de Sevin, Paris, H. Champion, 1912, 112 p.
Elizabeth Heyward Jervey, « Marriage and Death Notices from the City Gazette of Charleston, S. C. (Continued) », dans The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, vol 41, n° 2, 1940, p. 69–73.
Marcus Lee Hansen, The Atlantic migration, 1607-1860, a history of the continuing settlement of the United States, Cambridge, Harvard University press, 1941, 391 p.
Anna Wells Rutledge, « Artists in the life of Charleston through colony and state from Restoration to Reconstruction », dans Transactions of the American philosophical society, vol. 39, part. 2, 1949, p. 101-259.
Larry Koger, Black slaveowners : free black slave masters in South Carolina, 1790-1860, Jefferson, McFarland, 1985, 286 p.
Portraits d'un siècle d'élégance parisienne : Claude, Édouard et Guillaume Dubufe, Paris, Mairie du 9e arrondissement et Mairie du 16e arrondissement, 1988. Commissariat : Emmanuel Bréon, Paris, Délégation à l'action artistique de la Ville de Paris, 1988, 237 p.
Claude Fohlen, « Perspectives historiques sur l'immigration française aux États-Unis », dans la Revue européenne des migrations internationales, vol. 6, n° 1, « L'immigration aux États-Unis », James Hollifield (dirs.) et Yves Charbit (dirs.), 1990, p. 29-43.
Christie Zimmerman Fant (dirs.), Margaret Belser Hollis (dirs.) etcVirginia Meynard (dirs.), South Carolina Portraits : A Collection of Portraits of South Carolinians and Portraits in South Carolina, Charleston, National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the State of South Carolina, 1996, 488 p.
James W. Hagy (dir.), Directories for the city of Charleston, South Carolina, Baltimore, Clearfield, 1997, 131 p.
Maurie D. McInnis (dir.), In pursuit of refinement : Charlestonians abroad, 1740-1860, Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 1999, 352 p.
Robert E. Lester. (ed.), Papers of the American slave trade : Series D Records of the U.S. Customhouses, UPA collection from LexisNexis, 2004.
Claude-Marie Dubufe, "Adam et Ève" et "Le paradis perdu", Nantes, musée des beaux-arts de Nantes, 27 mars 2009 – 10 mai 2009. Commissariat : Cyrille Sciama, Nantes, musée des beaux-arts de Nantes, 2009, 32 p.
Jay Gitlin, The bourgeois frontier : French towns, French traders, and American expansion, New Haven, Yale university press, 2010, 269 p.
Pascal Labreuche, Paris, capitale de la toile à peindre, XVIIIe-XIXe siècle, Paris, CTHS/INHA, 2011, 367 p.
Martha R. Severens, The Miniature Portrait Collection of the Carolina Art Association, Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 2014, 190 p.
Tyler Rudd Putman, « Joseph Long’s Slops: Ready-Made Clothing in Early America », dans Winterthur Portfolio, vol. 49, n° 2/3, 2015, p. 63–91.
Nicole Leopoldie, « Désirer l’« autre » : mariages franco-américains et sociabilité transnationale au XIXe siècle », dans Recherches familiales, vol. 14, n° 1, 2017, p. 107-118.