The Man in the Red Coat

Luc Sante writes:

T he man​  in the title of Julian Barnes’s eighth work of non-fiction is the Parisian physician Samuel Pozzi. The red coat, or perhaps it’s a dressing-gown, is what he is wearing in the 1881 portrait by John Singer Sargent, Dr Pozzi at Home. It is a swashbuckling, very theatrical portrait, one that would make anyone curious about its subject. Almost any other sitter would be devoured by that bright red coat, floor-length with a giant collar, but Dr Pozzi easily dominates his apparel, the coat merely a showcase for his matinée-idol looks and long, tapered fingers. So it was, too, in Pozzi’s world, as chronicled by Barnes; even among the loudest and most insistent personalities of fin-de-siècle Paris, the mild-mannered Dr Pozzi more than held his own. And he knew everybody, or at least that small segment of the population that considered itself to be everybody.

(LRB 23 Feb 2020)

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