When we opened the first volume of Roger Portalis' book, Les Dessinateurs d'illustrations au dix-huitième siècle (1877), kept in the documentation of the Magnin Museum, we were surprised to discover a dedication from the author to Madame Magnin, his cousin.
This was the beginning of an investigation to find the family link between these two families.
Born into a large Provençal family that was particularly active in French legal and political life, Roger Portalis was the second son of Baron Auguste Portalis, a State Councillor and prosecutor. He was born in Paris on 22 January 1841. His great-uncle, the Marquis Jean-Étienne-Marie Portalis (1746-1807), a jurisconsult, was one of the drafters of the Civil Code.
A student of the painter Hippolyte Flandrin (1809-1864) and the engraver and illustrator Maxime Lalanne (1827-1886), he also trained with his friend Henri Regnault (1843-1871), who portrayed him in 1864 (above). A great traveller and connoisseur of Italy, Roger Portalis quickly devoted himself to the history of art, and in particular to the history of prints and illustrated books. In 1882, he joined the Société des Bibliophiles français, founded in 1860. He was also a member of the Société des amis du livre and Vice-President of the Société de l'Estampe nouvelle in 1897. In 1904, he was also awarded the gold medal of the Académie de Dijon.
The 18th century, his favourite period, was the subject of most of his research. He quickly became an authority in the scientific community, thanks to studies on Jean-Honoré Fragonard, for whom he wrote the first real monograph (1889), Claude Hoin (1899), Adelaïde
Labille-Guiard (1901-1902) or Henri-Pierre Danloux (1910). He is also the author of several articles and works, including Les Dessinateurs d'illustration au XVIIIe siècle (1877, 2 volumes) and above all, with Henri Beraldi, Les Graveurs du XVIIIe siècle (1880-1882, 3 volumes).
During his lifetime, Roger Portalis built up a collection of drawings, figure books and prints, mainly from the 18th century, which were sold at several auctions during his lifetime (12 and 13 May 1873, 4 February 1878, 1 December 1882, 13 May 1884, 14 March 1887, 1 April 1889, 2 and 3 February 1911) and then on 15 May 1913, after his death (he died in his castle in Thielle, Switzerland, on 29 September 1912).
Roger Portalis lived a few minutes away from the Magnin family mansion in Paris and owned a property in Burgundy, on the banks of the river Ouche in Plombières-les-Dijon, now known as the "Maison Dodoz".
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