Jacques-Louis David - Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and His Wife Marie-Anne-Pierrette Paulze, 1788 [***]
“[…] much the most extraordinary of all these men was Antoine Lavoisier, widely celebrated as France’s greatest chemist.
Lavoisier was a phenomenon, but the fact that he could apply his scientific inventiveness to something so apparently archaic and repressive as the great customs barrier the Farmers were building around Paris says much about the contradictions of Louis XVI’s France. Like so many in the culture of that time, Lavoisier was at once pioneering and arcane, intellectually free and institutionally captive, public-spirited but employed by the most notoriously self-interested private corporation. Yet there is no doubt that Lavoisier believed his science to be compatible with (indeed crucial to) his profession and that by administering the Farm to the best of his abilities he was serving France in the true spirit of patriotic citizenship.
Certainly his work routine was hardly that of the stereotypically languid old-regime aristocrat living for pleasure and attended by swarms of obsequious servants. Rising at dawn he worked either on Farm papers or in his private laboratory from six to nine. Until late afternoon, at his office in the Hôtel des Fermes, he attended one or more of the five committees to which he was assigned (including the administration of the royal saltpeter and gunpowder works). After dining rather frugally he returned to his laboratory, where he worked again from seven to ten in the evening. Twice a week he gathered friends and colleagues in the sciences and philosophy to hear papers read and informally discuss current projects. And his family life was no less outgoing and productive. His wife was a fine artist in her own right, and Jacques-Louis David’s brilliant and animated double portrait shows husband and wife very much as professional partners as well as conjugal friends.”
— Excerpt From: Schama, Simon. “Citizens.” Penguin Publishing, 2004-01-21 / iBooks. / This material may be protected by copyright.”