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Title Emmanuel de Rohan
Collection Museum of the Order of St John, St John Ambulance, London
Artist Attributed to after Favray, Antoine de (French painter, 1706-ca.1791)
Date Earliest probably about 1775
Date Latest probably about 1800
Description Portrait of Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc, Grand Master of the Order of St John, 1775-1797. He was responsible for the building of Fort Tigne and the re-fortification of St Lucian's Tower and battery, as a result of which it was renamed Fort Rohan. He also elevated the village of Zebbug to city-status, renaming it Citta De Rohan. He is the author of the Code de Rohan, a book of constitutional law, published in two volumes in 1782. His rule as Grand Master was in the nature of a calm before the storm; in 1792 the Directory in France decreed that all the commanderies of the Order under their government should be broken up, and their property to be confiscated. It then turned its eye on the Island of Malta itself, which it hoped to make French territory. The seeds of doubt and eventual treason were sown amongst the Knights by French agents, and it may be that since the majority of Knights on Malta were French, some of them had split loyalties. In any case, it is probable that the anguish of these dark days at the end of his rule contributed towards the attack of apoplexy which killed him in 1797.
Current Accession Number LDOSJ:1726
Subject portrait (Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc, Grand Master)
Measurements 79 x 66 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Given by Viscountess Galway (1904?, see notes).
Notes This painting was stolen in 1988, while on display at St John's club, and returned by Jack Chapman, who had unwittingly acquired it. The only reference to paintings given by Viscountess Galway found is in the Annual Report for 1904, p. 18, 'Two oil paintings of Andrew Vyse, 39th Grand Prior, and an Unknown Knight of Malta. Presented by Viscountess Galway'. Is it likely that Rohan would not have been recognised, and described as an 'Unknown Knight'? It is hard to say; the only systematic record of acquisitions (a large ledger) was started in 1912, obviously many paintings could have slipped through the net before that date. Even in the ledger, there are several 'Unknown Knights' and even one 'Oil painting...' The descriptions are often so vague as to be worse than useless; they actively confuse the record. There are also two other virtually identical portraits of Rohan, and frankly the likelihood of establishing a definite provenance for any of them is slim after all this time.
Rights Owner Museum of the Order of St John
Author Malcolm Barclay
 

 

 

 

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