Scope and Content Note

The Marquis de Lafayette Prints Collection, one of the most extensive of its kind, contains close to one thousand 18th and 19th-century images (some are held in multiple copies). It includes portraits, caricatures, symbolic compositions, views of Lafayette’s homes in France, scenes from his life, and images of his family and associates from the American and French Revolutions. The prints are mainly lithographs, which became the common method for printed portraits after the invention of lithography in 1798, but the collection also includes stipple and line engravings, etchings, mezzotints, and aquatints. Some of the highlights of this collection are the engravings which have been hand-colored over the printed images with water-color washes.

For the most part, the printed portraits represented in this collection are copies of paintings or other engravings, although in some instances they are designed solely from the artist’s imagination. This helps explain the great variety in the hundreds of prints in this collection. The work of many noteworthy 18th and 19th-century engravers and artists is represented in the collection and their influence on one another is apparent throughout their designs.

When Lafayette’s participation in the American Revolution won him world-wide renown and admiration, engravers throughout Europe became extremely interested in portraying his likeness. The collection contains the work of engravers and artists from several countries, including France, England, America, Italy, and Germany. The bulk of the Lafayette portraiture in prints corresponds to the high points in his popularity during his lifetime. Major groups of prints date from his involvement in the American and French Revolutions up to 1792 and after 1817 when he returned to the political scene in France.

The earlier portrait prints depict a youthful Lafayette in the splendor of his military costume in a classic and aristocratic 18th-century world. The later portraiture in prints reveals an elderly Lafayette, burdened with years of political involvement and responsibility as well as many layers of heavy woolen clothing. Such mature portraits of Lafayette reflect a more bourgeois, 19th-century world.

Series Inventory

Series numbers, titles, and box numbers appear on the list below. Individual series descriptions are available on the Overview tab for the digital collection. Prints from Series I – XVII are arranged as much as possible in chronological order, reflecting the age of Lafayette in the portrait more than the actual date the likeness was printed. The prints are grouped into series according to the artist on whose original painting the print was or appears to have been based. In many cases, the prints dating prior to 1800 defy accurate classifications by artist, and in these cases the print is filed with the type to which it most closely relates or in miscellaneous Series VII. With few exceptions, all of the prints in the later series appear to be based on variations of the noted Ary Scheffer portrait of 1822.

Series Description Box
I. Portraits: Before 1789 1
II. Portraits: Quenedey 1-2
III. Portraits: Levachez 2-3
IV. Portraits: Debucourt, etc. 3-4
V. Portraits: Weyler 4-5
VI. Portraits: Jacobi (Bolt) 5-6
VII. Portraits: Miscellaneous before 1800 6
VIII. Portraits: Clary, etc. 6-7
IX. Portraits: Scheffer 7-8
X. Portraits: Gerard 8
XI. Portraits: Maurin 8-9
XII. Portraits: Julien, etc. 9-10
XIII. Portraits: Miscellaneous—uniform, white neck-band and collar, without bow 10-11
XIV. Portraits: Bridi, etc. 11
XV. Portraits: Miscellaneous—uniform, fur collar, etc. 11
XVI. Portraits: Martinet, etc. 11-12
XVII. Portraits: Miscellaneous: 1800-1834 12
XVIII. Portraits: Equestrian 12
XIV. Caricatures 13
XX. Symbolic Compositions 13
XXI. Members of Family 13
XXII. Scenes from the Life: 1776-1834 14-15
XXIII. Homes—Chavaniac and LaGrange 15
XXIV. Associates—French and American Revolutions 15-16

Series XXIV (Associates) has not been digitized. There is an index available at the repository. The images in this series offer an extensive visual record of Lafayette’s associates in both the American and French Revolutions. Individual portraits of these military and political figures are organized alphabetically. Approximately 70 different individuals are portrayed and most of those depicted are participants in the French Revolution.

The Process Print Collection

The Marquis de Lafayette process print collection (Box 20-24, extra-oversize folder #4) is stored at the end of the 18th and 19th-century print collection and follows a similar series arrangement.

Series Description Box
I. Portraits 20
II. Scenes from the Life 20-21
III. Members of Family 21
IV. Homes—Chavaniac and LaGrange 21
V. Statues and Sculpture 22
VI. Memorabilia 22
VII. Postcards 22
VIII. Correspondence: 1932-42 23
IX. Posters Extra-oversize folder #4

The materials in this collection include prints of lesser quality than those in the 18th and 19th-century collection, images clipped from publications, photographs, glass plate negatives, postcards, and posters. All of these images are related to Lafayette in some way. Many are photographic reproductions of art works depicting Lafayette, such as paintings, prints, and sculpture. Series I – V deal mainly with such art works and are arranged alphabetically by artist. Series VI contains images of Lafayette-related memorabilia pieces, similar to those in the Memorabilia Collection, but mainly in the collections of owners other than Lafayette College. In many cases, the postcards of Series VII represent locations Lafayette visited during his lifetime. Finally, the posters of Series IX advertise Lafayette-related commemorative events and locations in France. The process print collection also includes correspondence dating 1932-1942 (Series VIII – Box 23) which deals with Lafayette College’s acquisition of many of the photographic reproductions of Lafayette art works. These records discuss many of the original art works and provide insight into the value of the collection as a visual record of Lafayette portraiture throughout the world.

Other Lafayette Holdings at Lafayette College

Lafayette College is home to some of the most distinguished collections relating to the Marquis de Lafayette in America. In addition to the prints, the collections include: rare books, manuscripts, memorabilia, and paintings and sculpture. The rare book holdings total approximately 2,000 items, including biographical sources, children’s literature, 18th century imprints concerning Lafayette in the French Revolution, works documenting Lafayette’s 1824-25 Farewell Tour of America, and works on Franco-American friendship, particularly the assistance rendered by France to America during the American Revolution and America to France in World War I.

The manuscript collection contains more than 350 letters and documents, most of which are written in Lafayette’s hand and/or hold his signature. These manuscript pieces date from his participation in the American Revolution in 1777 to his death in 1834. The centerpiece of this collection is the approximately 150 original letters that Lafayette wrote to George Washington. Other manuscripts relate to the French Revolution and Lafayette’s 1824-25 Farewell Tour of America.

The memorabilia collection includes more than eight hundred pieces relating to Lafayette’s life, many of which are commemorative objects dating from his 1824-25 tour. This extensive collection includes ceramics, glassware, metal pieces, textiles, personal accessories, commemorative medals and ribbons, weapons, broadsides and printed ephemera, sheet music, stamps, and newspapers.

Besides these collections of Lafayette materials, the Lafayette Library also houses the records of the American Friends of Lafayette, a society founded in 1932 which is dedicated to the memory and study of the Marquis de Lafayette. The Lafayette College Art Collection holds both portraits and sculpture of Lafayette by a number of distinguished artists, including Thomas Sully and Daniel Chester French.