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Portrait of Charles X in Coronation robes
(Francois Pascal Simon Baron Gerard)

Description

Gérard was no less content to work for the restored Bourbons as he had been for Napoleon (who had included him among the first recipients of the Legion d’Honneur) and his parvenue family, accepting commissions to paint Louis XVIII, the king’s nephews and nieces the dukes and duchesses of Aquitaine and Berry and, perhaps his greatest achievement of the Restoration period, his portrait of Charles X in Coronation Robes. Wishing to renew the traditions of the ancien régime, Charles X chose to be represented full-length with all the insignia of royalty, inspired by earlier models such as the portrait of Louis XVI in Majesty, by Callet (which exists in several autograph and studio versions) (Fig.1).

 

After the death of his childless brother, Louis XVIII, in September 1824, Charles-Philippe, comte d’Artois (the courtesy title he had been given at his birth), succeeded to the throne as King Charles X. The name Charles had not been used for a king of France since the death of the penultimate Valois king, in 1574 and just five years after his coronation Charles’ monarchy ended with the July Revolution and the accession of his cousin, the duke of Orléans, as Louis-Philippe, king of the French.

 

 

Fig. 1. Charles-Clément Bervic, Louis XVI in Coronation Robes, engraving after Antoine-François Callet, London, Royal Collection Trust

 

Gérard had been named First Painter of the King by Louis XVIII in 1818, the new sovereign confirming him in this function in 1824, having appointed him to the ancient royal Order of Saint Michel in 1816, further elevating Gérard with the title of Baron in 1819. The new king expressed his desire for an official portrait painted by Gérard, and that he wished to be painted full length, unlike the seated portrait of Louis XVIII, with all the splendours of the monarchy. The painting was completed in May 1825 (having been begun before the ceremony, which had taken place on 29 May) and was sent to the Louvre for temporary exhibition (Fig.2). Gérard also produced, with extensive studio participation, a large (514 x 972) painting of the coronation ceremony, which owes a heavy debt to David’s Coronation of Napoleon (Paris, Musée du Louvre), of which a studio replica now hangs in Chartres, while the original is rolled in the store rooms at Versailles.

 

Fig. 2. François Gérard Portrait of Charles X in Coronation Robes, London, Private Collection

 

 

The king is painted standing at an angle, facing the viewer with his body half-turned, wearing the collar of the Saint Esprit, in an embroidered white silk tunic with a lace jabot, and lace cuffs, in a long violet velvet full-length robe sewn with gold fleurs de lys, over white silk breeches and stockings. Next to him, on a gilt wooden stool, rests a gold trimmed violet velvet cushion embroidered with gold lilies, on which is placed the crown of France used for the coronation (the crown was stripped of its jewels in 1886, which were then sold, and the crown itself melted down in 1887), with the “hand of justice” on a gilded wooden handle laid beside it and the king holding the royal sceptre, whose end rests on the cushion. His left hand holds a black jewelled hat, with white and black plumes, and one can see part of the diamond studied hilt of his sword.  He stands in an imaginary palatial setting, following a pattern for grand royal portraits then some two hundred and fifty years old, with a red velvet curtain on the left behind him, and to the right, behind a colonnade, can be seen a white marbles balustrade, perhaps intending to recall the palace of Versailles where the king had been born, sixty-seven years earlier.  Gérard was the acknowledged master of such exaltations of monarchical power, as he had produced for Napoleon and his brothers and for Charles X’s own brother, Louis XVIII (who, however, had never been crowned) (Fig. 3).

 

Fig. 3. François Gérard, Portrait of Louis XVIII in Coronation Robes, France, Château du Marais

 

On the 9 June 1825, the comte de Forbin, director-general of the museums, wrote to the vicomte de la Rochefoucauld, minister of the fine arts: “I would like to submit a few reflections relating to the portrait of HM by M. the Baron Gérard, the work that is now exhibited in the Salon of the Louvre, where it has had a great success, being the original model of all the portraits of the King, which will be ordered from M. Gérard’s studio, not forgetting that [when] you commanded a portrait of HM for which you have assigned as payment the sum of 12,000 francs, the one that was consequently put at our disposal by Monsieur the First painter, who has assured us instead that the exhibited portrait is intended for the Ministry of Foreign Affair, which has for a long time been responsible for the engravings of this kind of work. It follows that this will not be delivered later by M. Gérard, who painted the exhibited portrait entirely himself, and is not a copy executed by his students and only retouched by him. That is why you should not worry. I think you must insist, Monsieur le Vicomte, that we are left with the original which is now in the Louvre and which will then appear again in the Tuileries and are not given a workshop replica.[i]

 

This last proposal to transfer the painting to the Louvre, however, was never carried out and the painting was ultimately given by the king to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, Prince de Talleyrand, who had led the provisional government which had declared Napoleon deposed and restored the Bourbon monarchy of Charles’s brother, Louis XVIII (Fig. 4). Napoleon had given Talleyrand the first version of his portrait in coronation robes (lost since the Valençay sale of 1899) and this generous gift had been emulated by Louis XVIII (whose portrait by Gérard now hangs in the château du Marais, acquired by the American heiress Anna Gould, then Comtesse Boni di Castelane and later duchesse de Talleyrand and now owned by her descendants). Talleyrand, however, ultimately came to oppose Charles’s governments and, even while these portraits hung along with Gérard’s portraits of Talleyrand and his wife, in his château of Valençay, was financing the anti-government journal, Le National, with the co-operation of the young Adolphe Thiers, some forty years later first president of the Third Republic.

 

 

Fig. 4. François Gérard, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Sovereign Prince of Benevento, later Prince de Talleyrand, in his Study (1808), New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

On the 18 July 1825, Forbin wrote to the Vicomte de la Rochefoucauld: “I have sent to M. le Baron Gérard the payment for the portrait of HM in royal costume, of which the execution had been confided to him and I have made him known at the same time of the decision made on 4 November last regarding that this same portrait be executed as a tapestry by the Gobelins factory…[ii] The painting, although promised to Talleyrand, in the opinion of the Director-General of the Museums, should be returned to the Louvre, as attested in this letter of 14 December 1825 addressed to Gérard: “M. le Baron, M. le Vicomte de la Rochefoucauld having ordered that the full length portrait of HM would be inaugurated on the 1 January 1826 in the grand salon of the Musée Royal, I would be obliged if you could carry out this decision…”.[iii]

 

One knows today more than twenty repetitions of this portrait by the studio, more or less retouched by Gérard, to satisfy the desire of the king and the needs of the administration, to be sent to the provinces or abroad. Among the most successful versions and closest to the original one may cite the painting commanded by the king following the ceremony and offered to the duke of Wellington (Fig. 5). This version, finished in November 1825, was sent to London but misaddressed by the embassy to the marquess of Salisbury, whose mother had also commanded a replica from Gérard, and the painting was only finally recovered by Wellington in 1826. By a letter dated 24 November 1825 from Gérard to the Duke, the artist informed him that he had made some alterations compared with the original: “I would be very happy, Monseigneur, if Your Grace would be satisfied with this work; not wanting to change the figure because it has been agreed by the King with the Gobelin factory and for the small size engraving, that the Government will produce, so I have looked for a way to make some variations in the effect and in the disposition of the background, and so that one can recognise in comparing this painting with the two others that I have been commissioned by the Embassy and for Lord Salisbury.[iv]

 

 

Fig, 5. François Gérard and Studio, Portrait of Charles X in Coronation Robes, Wellington Museum, Apsley House

 

On the 5 December 1826 the duke replied to Gérard to thank him, telling him that he had finally received the painting of the king from the hands of the ambassador, the painting having been sent in error to Lord Salisbury, and that he had send Gérard’s letter of 24 November to the ambassador to inform him. Wellington, meanwhile, requested Gérard write to the secretary of the French embassy, M. de Flavigny, to explain the changes made by the artist to differentiate the two paintings. Gérard replied expressing his regrets that the version commissioned by the Duke was erroneously addressed, adding that he had written to M. de Flavigny to inform him that the painting with the background of sky should have arrived first.

 

The version requested by the dowager marchioness of Salisbury, was commanded by the ministry on 22 June 1826, and shows a different background (Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, collection of the marquess of Salisbury).[v] The painting that he had been ordered to paint for the French embassy in London was a repetition destined for Prince Jules de Polignac, minister of Foreign Affairs of Charles X, and ambassador in London from 1823-1827. Retained by the prince on his return to France along with a version of Gérard’s portrait of Louis XVIII, this belongs today to a family descendant.

 

 

Fig. 6. François Gérard and Studio, Portrait of Charles X in Coronation Robes, Reims, Palais du Tau, Musée du Sacre

 

Text by Alain Latreille

[i] Lenormant, op. cit.,p. 184.

[ii] Henri Gérard, Œuvre du Bon François Gérard, 1789-1836. Gravures à l’eau-forte. Première partie. Collection des 83 portraits historiques en pied. Paris, Vignières-Rapilly, 1852-53. The painting ultimately sent to the Gobelins was actually one of the studio versions, and not the Talleyrand painting.

[iii] Henri Gérard, Lettres adressées au baron François Gérard, peintre d’histoire par les artistes et les personnages célèbres de son temps. 2nd edition. Published by Baron Henri Gérard, his nephew and preceded by a notice on the life and works of Baron François Gérard and a memorial by Alexandre Gérard, his brother, Paris, 1886, vol. 2, p. 407.

[iv] London, Wellington Museum archives

[v] Alain Latreille, François Gérard (1770-1837), Catalogue raisonné des portraits peints par le Baron François Gérard, Mémoire inédit présenté à l’Ecole du Louvre, 1973.

Measurements
261 x 185 cm; Framed size : 302 x 227 cm
Type
oil on canvas
Provenance

Given by King Charles X to Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, prince de Talleyrand (1754-1838) to commemorate the occasion of his coronation at Reims, 1825, and hung at the château of Valençay[i]; inherited at his death by Talleyrand’s great-nephew, Napoléon Louis de Talleyrand-Périgord (1811-1898), styled duc de Valençay, 3rd duc de Talleyrand et Sagan (this title inherited from his mother, Dorothée Biron de Courland, 1793-1862, created duchesse de Sagan by the king of Prussia, 6 Jan 1845, who had married Edmond de Talleyrand-Périgord, his uncle’s heir); included in the Vente de tableaux anciens, d’ameublement, tapisseries et tapis dependant de la succession du duc de Talleyrand, Valençay et Sagan et provenant du château de Valençay, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 29 May – 1 June 1899, no, 3 (illustrated), acquired at this sale by Boni and Anna de Castellane (née Anna Gould, after her divorce from Boni de Castellane, she married in 1908 Hélie, marquis de Talleyrand, duc de Sagan and from 1910 5th duc de Talleyrand), using the pseudonym “comte de Bari”, grandson of Henri, marquis de Castellane (1814-1847), and his wife Pauline de Talleyrand-Périgord (1820-1890),27 for F.Fr 4,200; Boni and Anna acquired the château du Marais (Essonne), in 1899 (from the duchesse de Noailles), the painting later hanging at the château de Rochecotte (that had been acquired by Dorothée, duchesse de Dino and inherited by her daughter Pauline) and acquired by Anna’s only daughter by her second husband, Hélène-Violette de Talleyrand-Périgord (1915-2003), duchesse de Sagan, Comtesse James de Pourtalès (divorced, remarried Mme Gaston Palewski); to her heirs.

[i] Georges Lacour-Gayet, Talleyrand, Paris, 1928-1931, 1990, p. 1005.

Literature

(selection) : Auguste Jal, La Coronation de Charles X : Le Peuple au Sacré, critique, observations, causeries, faites devant le tableau de M. le Baron Gérard, premier peintre du Roi, A. J. Denain, 1829; Charles Lenormant, François Gérard, peintre d’histoire: essai de biographie et de critique, Paris, A. René et Compagnie, 1847, p. 184 ; Henri Gérard, Œuvre du Bon François Gérard, 1789-1836. Gravures à l’eau-forte. Première partie. Collection des 83 portraits historiques en pied. Paris, Vignières-Rapilly, 1852-53; Henri Gérard, Lettres adressées au baron François Gérard, peintre d’histoire par les artistes et les personnages célèbres de son temps. 2nd edition, 1886; Alain Latreille, François Gérard (1770-1837), Catalogue raisonné des portraits peints par le Baron François Gérard, Mémoire inédit présenté à l’Ecole du Louvre, 1973 ; Jennifer Marie Langworthy, PhD, On Shifting Ground : The Revolutionary Career of François Gérard, Doctoral thesis University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2012, pp. 1, 332, 336.

Historical Period
Romanticism - 1810-1870
Subject
Historical events
School
French
Price band
Price on application