Exhibition | Madame de Maintenon

Posted in books, catalogues, conferences (summary), exhibitions by Editor on April 28, 2019

Now on view at Versailles:

Madame de Maintenon: In the Corridors of Power
Château de Versailles, 16 April — 21 July 2019

Curated by Alexandre Maral and Mathieu da Vinha

The first exhibition entirely devoted to the Marquise of Maintenon, on the tercentenary of her death on 15 April 1719, recounts the extraordinary life of Françoise d’Aubigné (1635–1719). She was born in a prison yet went on to become the Sun King’s wife in 1683.

The different stages of her life are shown in around 60 works from the collections of Versailles and other museums, including paintings, drawings, engravings, books, sculptures, medals, and so on. The visit passes through the four adjoining rooms of the apartment she lived in from 1682 until 1715, on the first floor of the Palace’s central section.

The scenography returns the walls to their original colours at the time. They are richly draped in alternating silk panels as described in the Furniture Store-House inventories from 1708: red damask, crimson damask, and red taffeta for the second antechamber; green and gold damask for the bedroom; and crimson and gold flower damask for the Chambers. This installation was made possible thanks to the restoration of these wall hangings by Tassinari et Chatel, the nation’s oldest silk manufacturer, founded in Lyon by Louis XIV.

The exhibition is curated by Alexandre Maral (Head Curator for Heritage and Director of the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles) and Mathieu da Vinha (Scientific Director of the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles), with scenography by Jérôme Dumoux.

Alexandre Maral and Mathieu da Vinha, Madame de Maintenon: Dans les allées du pouvoir (Paris: Hazan, 2019), 192 pages, ISBN: 978-2754110723, 35€.

The exhibition brochure (in French and English) is available as PDF file here

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Symposium | Madame de Maintenon, 1719–2019
Château de Versailles, 21–23 March 2019

This international symposium offered a fresh look at this multifaceted historical figure, reviewing the biographical aspects of the Marquise, as well as her correspondence and the literary and iconographic legend surrounding her.

Details along with audio recordings are available here.

Exhibition | The Taste of Marie Leszczyńska

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on April 28, 2019

Now on view at Versailles:

Le Goût de Marie Leszczyńska
Château de Versailles, open from 16 April 2019

Curated by Gwenola Firmin and Marie-Laure de Rochebrune, with Vincent Bastien

During the 42 years she spent at Versailles, Marie Leszczyńska (1703–1768) had a profound impact on both the layout of the Palace and artistic life at the time. Her influence has inspired this dedicated exhibition. A Taste of Marie Leszczyńska is presented in the Dauphine’s Apartments, which have been reopened for the occasion. Although few traces of her 42 years at the Palace remain—most were wiped out as a result of the changes wrought by Marie-Antoinette—the wife of King Louis XV nevertheless made her mark through the art she commissioned and the private chambers she created.

The exhibition gathers together around 50 paintings and other works of art, most of which are from the Palace collections and include several recent acquisitions of great significance for the Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon. The aim is to illustrate how her personal taste evolved throughout the course of her reign and thus get to know her better.

In Pursuit of Privacy

Throughout her reign, Marie Leszczyńska abided by the ceremonial rules required in the Queen’s State Apartment, endeavouring always to lead an exemplary life free of any scandal. As for the layout of the Palace, from 1725 she set about redesigning her chamber in the style of the time: wood panelling carved by Vassé was installed over the fireplace, which was replaced with one in Sarrancolin marble. The décor between the windows was created by the master sculptors Verbeckt, Dugoulon, and Le Goupil. The overdoor panels, which are still in place today, were commissioned by the Queen in 1734 from Jean-François de Troy—whose La Gloire des princes s’empare des Enfants de France features the Dauphin and his two eldest sisters—and Charles-Joseph Natoire, who painted La Jeunesse et la Vertu présentent les deux princesses à la France.

In 1735, Gilbert de Sève’s ceiling painting of Apollon au milieu des Heures was replaced by a geometric design adorned with intertwined figures of the royal couple. At the same time, on the order of Louis XV, the managers of the King’s buildings asked François Boucher to decorate the arches with four grisaille paintings representing the Virtues: Prudence, Piety, Charity, Generosity. But Marie Leszczyńska had to wait another 13 years, until 1764, before the tarnished gilt was restored under the supervision of François Vernet.

The Queen liked to live a simple life, even if only for a few hours a day, so she had private chambers installed directly behind her parade apartment, and it was to these she withdrew for a number of hours each day to pray, meditate, read, and spend time with those closest to her.

Painting, Master of Arts

Marie Leszczyńska after the work by jean-Baptiste Oudry, The Farm (Château de Versailles; photo by Gérard Blot).

Marie Leszczyńska spoke several languages and was highly cultured, with a great interest in the creative occupations, literature, music and art—especially painting. Indeed, one of the rooms in her private apartment was laid out as a studio. Her ‘colourist’, Etienne Jeaurat, guided her paintbrush for 15 years, and she was advised by Jean-Baptiste Oudry. Among other works attributed to the Queen is a faithful rendition of a painting by the latter, called Une Ferme (A Farm).

One of her favourite painters was Jean-Marc Nattier, whose portrait of her wearing ‘town clothing’ was completed in 1748. But the one she regarded most highly was Charles-Antoine Coypel, who produced no fewer than 34 religious paintings for the Queen’s private chambers. She also liked to contemplate lightweight subjects, chinoiserie, pastoral scenes, and landscapes.

A Touch of the Exotic

Marie Leszczyńska had a particular affinity for China. In 1747, she created an oriental chamber in her ‘laboratory’, in the heart of her private apartment. In 1761, she decided to replace it with a collection of canvases known as the Chinese Chamber. The paintings were produced by five painters of the King’s State Apartments—Coqueret, Frédou, de la Roche, Prévost and Jeaurat—as well as Marie Leszczynska herself. They portray a picturesque image of China, inspired by the tales of travellers to the land of Cathay. The tea ceremony, evangelisation of the Chinese by the Jesuits, and a fair in Nanking are among the events depicted. Chinese architecture, dress and landscapes are portrayed in minute detail, while the bird’s-eye perspective is taken directly from Chinese painting.

During the last 15 years of her reign, a new artistic trend emerged in France, which, from the 18th century, was referred to as à la grecque (‘in the Greek style’). The trend marked the onset of the neoclassical movement and rejected the outmoded Rococo style in favour of a deliberate return to the simplicity of classical antiquity and a more decorative repertoire of subjects drawn from Greek art. The Queen participated in this movement in her own way.

For example, in 1753, she commissioned an overdoor panel for her chamber, depicting the arrival of Saint Francis Xavier in China, from Joseph Marie Vien (1716–1809), who would go on to become the leading exponent of this style in terms of painting. Later, in 1766, she appointed Richard Mique (1728–1794) to carry out a project that was particularly close to her heart: the construction at Versailles of a convent for the canonesses of Saint Augustine, who provided education for young girls (it is now the Hoche school). It was decided to lay the convent chapel out in the form of a Greek cross within a square, accessed by an entrance portal comprising an arcade of Ionic columns capped by a pediment. The chapel was completed after the Queen’s death thanks to the determined efforts of her daughter, Madame Adelaide.

From the early 1760s, the new style was also adopted by the Royal Sèvres porcelain manufacture for its service pieces, as well as vases and sculpted ornaments. Étienne-Maurice Falconet (1716–1791), head of the sculpture studio from 1757 to 1766, produced many bisque figures and vases with a neoclassical look and feel.

Through her architectural alterations, her style and, above all, the way in which she conducted herself as queen, Marie Leszczyńska led a quiet revolution.

The exhibition is curated by Gwenola Firmin, chief curator at the Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, and Marie-Laure de Rochebrune, chief curator at the Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, with assistance from Vincent Bastien, doctor of art history.

The exhibition brochure (in French and English) is available as PDF file here»

Brooklyn Museum Acquires Portrait by Vigée Le Brun

Posted in museums by Editor on April 28, 2019

From the press release (26 April 2019) . . .

Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Portrait of Countess Maria Theresia Czernin, 1793, oil on canvas, 54 x 39 inches (Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Lilla Brown in memory of her husband John W. Brown, Mrs. Watson B. Dickerman, A. Augustus Healy, Helen Babbott MacDonald, Charles H. Schieren, and L.L. Themal, by exchange, 2018.53).

The Brooklyn Museum announced significant new acquisitions that emphasize the institution’s dedication to presenting diverse narratives through its collection. The artists represented by these acquisitions span a wide range of aesthetic styles, mediums, eras, and nationalities. Highlights include over 3,000 vernacular photographs documenting a century of women’s history from the Kaplan-Henes Collection; a work by eighteenth-century French portrait painter Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun; a portrait gifted by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; a significant gift of over fifty photographs by experimental Chinese contemporary artists; and a painting created specifically for the Brooklyn Museum by one of China’s most important living artists, Xu Bing. Works by Al Held, Chris Martin, and Joan Snyder also join the collection.

Anne Pasternak, Shelby White and Leon Levy Director, Brooklyn Museum, says, “We are so excited by these transformational works of art that add significantly to the strengths of our exceptional collections, and we are tremendously grateful to the generous donors behind them who make it possible for our institution to continue telling trailblazing stories of inclusion through art.”

Portrait of Countess Maria Theresia Czernin by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun

Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun is one of the most celebrated portrait painters of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Europe. She secured the patronage of the French aristocracy and served as portrait painter to Marie Antoinette. Vigée Le Brun became one of only four women members of the French Royal Academy in 1783 and spent her later years enjoying fame and financial success. This large, striking portrait by Vigée Le Brun is notable for the way it presents the sitter, Countess Maria Theresia Czernin. Vigée Le Brun paints the countess holding an open book about ancient Greece, suggesting that she was engaged in scholarship and history, qualities that were more often seen in portraits of men at the time.

The portrait allows the Brooklyn Museum to present a more inclusive narrative of European art with regard to the contributions of women and to further explore how identity in portraiture is visually constructed and constituted along cultural, class, political, and gender lines. It will strengthen the current presentation of historical portraiture in the Museum’s European Art galleries. It also provides an important link between our historical collections and Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, where Vigée Le Brun is referenced on the floor of the work and in the historical timeline. . . .

The full press release is available here»

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