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Sunday 4 December 2016

What Lies Beneath: Henri-Ernest de ­Beaufort by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon

Henri-Ernest de ­Beaufort by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon Oil on canvas St Louis Art Museum

Niall MacMonagle

Published 22/08/2016 | 02:30

Henri-Ernest de Beaufortby Pierre-Pul Prud'hon oil on canvas St Louis Art Museum
Henri-Ernest de Beaufortby Pierre-Pul Prud'hon oil on canvas St Louis Art Museum

Bonjour. Meet Monsieur de Beaufort in stylish high-collared, open, crisp white shirt, black neckband, well-cut, mousey-brown jacket. And that fine head of dark, lustrous hair, all swept forward, all so deliberately and stylishly dishevelled? I wonder what conditioner he used. And those locks. Painted in 1818, de Beaufort eyes us with a confident gaze, his full, rose-red lips firmly closed. He's French. He's well turned out. A Naturalist and Botanist, he travelled widely in Africa, especially in Senegal, picking up rocks and plants and the disease, said to be venereal, that killed him at 27.

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As for the artist, Pierre Prudon, the tenth son of a stonecutter, reinvented and gentrified himself with a Paul and an apostrophe h. He enjoyed great success with portraiture, including one of Josephine of 'Not tonight' fame - but like De Beaufort, ended badly: his pupil and collaborator for twenty years slit her throat in his studio and, devastated, it was the death of him.

Fast forward 200 years: another French man, one more follicly challenged: Monsieur Le President François Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande, it was revealed, spends [merci taxpayers!], €120,000 a year on what little hair he has. You may need to read that again. Oui, oui. Ten thousand a month, actually, €9,895. Still, it's hair-raising stuff. Every morning, hair stylist Olivier Benhamou attends to Hollande's coiffure and ensures that Hollande's hair is totally elegant for high-powered events. Mr President, never without a partner, standing 1.7m tall, and so clearly charismatic, was forced to admit his "grooming arrangements" during an interview this Bastille Day. Later that same day the Bay of Angels in Nice became a bay of anguish.

What happens to people that they lose the run of themselves? David Cameron's hairdresser, Lino Carbosiero, was awarded an MBE. Bertie had his make-up people. And these are grown men. People found fault with frugal De Valera but vain he was not. He wore an overcoat in the Aras to save on heating; the Queen goes around Buckingham Palace turning off lights. May I recommend the six-euro barber [four-euro tip], on Rathmines Rd? Hollande, smoked-salmon socialist? He's more a shampoo-and-dye one. Poo! Merde!

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