Le Pautre, Jean (1618-82; French) & Chauveau, François (1613-76; French)
Les Divertissements de Versailles donnez par le Roy… en l’année 1674 (1675-76)
6 engravings
Gift of George Collins Levey, 1879
National Gallery of Victoria (p.183.78-1 etc and p.183.80-1)

= Levey gift, cat.nos.128-33

[reproduction: Premiere JournéeAlceste (p.183.78-1)]

These festivities were held to mark Louis XIV’s return from conquering Franche-Comté in May 1674 (the second time the province had been conquered by the king: see now Simonneau after Le Brun La Franche Comté conquise pour la seconde fois 1688 {1879} NGV [PR]).

“Theatricality as a strategy of propaganda,” identified by Thomas Gaehtgens as a key characteristic of the culture of Louis XIV, particularly during the first half of his reign, can hardly be exemplified better than in these engravings of the festivities of 1674, which were even more grandiose and elaborate than those staged in 1664 and 1668 (as documented by Silvestre and Le Pautre: see separate entries).

The 1674 festival included full performances of Lully’s opera Alceste (premiered only a few months earlier, in January 1674); and Molière’s last play, Le Malade Imaginaire, a comedy-ballet with music by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, first performed in Paris on 10 February 1673, only a week before the playwright’s death, at the age of only 51.

Other events included concerts, banquets and fireworks staged in various parts of the Versailles gardens; and the climactic nocturnal illumination of the Grand Canal, evidently an extraordinary spectacle even by the remarkable standards of the era.

The individual engravings in the present group (all by Le Pautre, except plate 2, by Chauveau) are listed as follows in 1727 (Suite et Arrangement):

Le Pautre: Premiere Journée – Alceste, Tragedie en musique… 1676 (p.183.78-1)
Chauveau: Seconde Journée – Concert de musique… dans le Jardin de Trianon 1675 (p.183.80-1)
Le Pautre: Troisieme Journée – Le Malade Imaginaire… 1676 (p.183.85-1)
Le Pautre: Quatrieme Journée – Festin, dont la table estoit dressée autour de la fontaine… 1676 (p.183.87-1)
Le Pautre: Cinquieme Journée – Feu d’artifice sur le Canal de Versailles 1676 (p.183.89-1)
Le Pautre: Sixieme Journée – Illuminations autour du grand Canal de Versailles… 1676 (p.183.91-1) {Fuhring 2015, p.265}

Le Pautre and Chauveau (refer linked artist entries for further details) also collaborated on the series of engravings of the Grotto at Versailles, first published in 1676 with a text by Félibien, reissued in 1679 (not part of the 1879 donation to the NGV).


Not included in NGV 1894 or 1905

For details and reproductions, see https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/artist/3686/ (for the prints by Le Pautre) and https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/39021/ (Chauveau’s print)

Cf. Suite et Arrangement (1727), p.15; Duplessis Cabinet du roi (1879), p.12, noting the 1679 publication, again with a text by Félibien. See also Fuhring Kingdom of Images (2015), esp.pp.5-6 (including the quote from Gaehtgens’ general introduction; and pp.262ff. (ch.VIII: “Events,” by Louis Marchesano)