Enfilade

Montreal Acquires Rigaud’s Modello for Portrait of Louis XIV

Posted in Art Market, museums by Editor on June 2, 2017

Press release via Art Daily (31 May 2017). . .

Hyacinthe Rigaud, Modello for the Portrait of Louis XIV in Royal Ceremonial Robes, 1701, oil on canvas, 55 × 45 cm (Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal).

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has just acquired a remarkable work: the modello, or painted sketch, for the famous Portrait of Louis XIV in Royal Ceremonial Robes by Hyacinthe Rigaud (Musée du Louvre, Paris).

“We are pleased that we were able to acquire this iconic painting on the art market. It is the modello for one of the most famous portraits in the history of Western art,” said Nathalie Bondil, the MMFA’s Director General and Chief Curator. “Often copied and even imitated, the painting is the origin of a rich iconographic lineage in the history of state portraiture. It is an important addition to our collection of historical international art, since Louis XIV enabled New France to evolve from a trading outpost to a populated settlement.”

Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Senior Curator of Old Masters, had this to say about the work: “The canvas is in very good condition and has not been refixed. The exquisite execution succeeds in concentrating formidable power into a small format. The attention paid to the textures is admirable and is to some extent more impressive than the large final version: look attentively at the rendering of the ermine and the velvet and also the way in which the fleurs de lys, following the curves of the folds in the cloak bend and twist, catching the light, something that is not evident in the final version.”

“By representing the contact of the king’s skin with the regalia, the painter is accentuating his special status among men,” added Sylvain Cordier, Curator of Early Decorative Arts. “Louis XIV is the only one who can touch with his bare hands the sacred instruments that confirm his royalty: anyone looking at the painting was aware of this. In our world, awash in political images, it is exciting to look at the composition of an official portrait as emblematic as this one, which uses specific codes and a profusion of detail to depict his royal majesty and legitimacy as a ruler in the seventeenth century. We are the inheritors of this past, which also raised profound questions that led to the rise of democracy and citizenship. Today, as we view this ‘icon,’ it feels both familiar and distant.”

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The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal acquired the painting from Paris-based Galerie Éric Coatalem, which, as reported by Didier Rykner for La Tribune de l’Art (16 May 2017), displayed the painting at this year’s TEFAF in Maastricht.

Much more information is available from Ariane James-Sarazin’s essay “Le modello du portrait de Louis XIV en grand costume royal” for the online catalogue raisonné Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659–1743). L’homme et son art (Editions Faton, added 2 March 2017 and updated 17 May 2017).

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