Jean-Baptiste Belley, a.k.a. A Big Dick

The fingers of his right hand open in a pantomime gesture which suggests a circular motion. The gesture formally repeats the outlines of the protruding penis. Other portraits by Girodet, for example of Chateaubriand, where the model keeps the same posture, lack both. Why is Jean-Baptiste Belley, the only black deputy to the National Assembly, so pumped with testosterone? This question disturbs the Art Historians’ sleep: Is this an index of unrestrained sexuality? Or the anticipation of the days of Terror? One way or the other Chateau Versailles has a remarkable collection of portraits.

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