In 1879, George Collins Levey (1835-1919), a British-born journalist and newspaper editor who lived and worked in Australia, mostly in Melbourne, between 1851 and c.1883, donated a substantial collection of prints to the NGV – arguably the most significant donation to the gallery prior to the Felton Bequest. (For Levey, see in particular the biography by Suzanne Mellor, ADB 5, 1974; available online).

[photo: wood engraving of Levey published in Illustrated Australian News, 28 Nov.1877: SLV copy]

During the 1870s, Levey was closely involved in the organization of a number of international exhibitions in Australia (beginning with the Sydney exhibition of 1870), and travelled to other exhibitions elsewhere in the world, representing Victoria and Australia.

At the Exposition Universelle held in Paris in 1878 (at which he was awarded the French Légion d’honneur), Levey acquired a large group of nearly 200 prints (almost all engravings), and then donated them all to the Melbourne gallery in August 1879.

The NGV’s annual report for 1879 reported the donation laconically, describing them simply as “a collection of about 200 Engravings of Paintings, &c., obtained at the Paris Exhibition by George Collins Levey, Esq.” The NGV catalogues published in 1894 and 1905 are scarcely more helpful with details, each listing only a fraction of the engravings given by Levey (those that were on display then, apparently).

Nevertheless, most of the prints can be identified, and almost all of them are still in the NGV collection. Most of them are from the remarkable ensemble of engravings recording the artistic, architectural, cultural and military achievements of Louis XIV’s reign, collected in 1727 under the general heading of the Cabinet du Roi, totalling some 1,000 prints in 23 volumes: see now Suite et Arrangement (1727), summarising the contents. 

Stamps on the backs of a number of the NGV prints indicate that they had previously belonged to the French National Library, presumably duplicate impressions deemed surplus to requirements (many thanks to Petra Kayser, Curator of Prints and Drawings at the NGV, for her informed advice on this matter, Sept. 2018, citing Lugt).

The prints donated by Levey fall naturally into several groups, as listed below.


Tableaux du roi (cat.1-38)

These engravings, which formed Volume 1 of the Cabinet du roi, first issued in 1677 and then in its final form in 1727, reproduced the most highly prized paintings in the French Royal collection during the first part of Louis XIV’s reign. The prints, dating from 1671-82, were by noted French engravers of the day.

In the 1660s-70s, the paintings were displayed first in the Tuileries Palace, and then in a new suite of rooms in the Louvre known as the King’s Cabinet. Later, some were also transferred to Versailles; the majority are now in the Louvre. Refer individual entries for details regarding the source paintings, some of which have been reattributed. Italian Renaissance and Baroque artists predominated, although the largest number were by Poussin, the most recently deceased painter represented. 

In the first edition of 1677, 22 paintings were reproduced, with others added later. Eventually, the group included reproductions of 38 paintings, all in the French royal collection except Raphael’s Transfiguration (cat.12-13).  Biblical and mythological themes predominated, with portraits, landscape and genre subjects generally excluded.

Levey’s gift included impressions of all the engravings in this group except Edelinck after Turchi The Deluge {1868} NGV [PR] (already donated to Melbourne in 1868: see cat.A1). Prints are listed below in the sequence indicated in Suite et Arrangement (1727), beginning with Old Testament subjects and ending with allegorical works.

1.   Rousselet after Raphael St Michael {1879} NGV [PR]

2.   Rousselet after Poussin Eliezer and Rebecca 1677 {1879} NGV [PR]

3.   Rousselet after Poussin The Finding of Moses {1879} NGV [PR]

4.   Chasteau after Poussin The Gathering of Manna 1680 {1879} NGV [PR]

5.   Picart after Poussin The Plague of Ashdod 1677 {1879} NGV [PR]

6.   Rousselet after Domenichino David singing {1879} NGV [PR]

7.    Edelinck after Raphael Holy Family {1879} NGV [PR]

8.    Picart after Bonifazio Veronese Holy Family 1682 {1879} NGV [PR] (after a painting in the Louvre formerly regarded as by Palma Vecchio)

9.    Picart after Domenichino Madonna and sleeping Christ Child {1879} NGV [PR] (after a Louvre painting formerly seen as by Annibale Carracci)

10.  Chasteau after Poussin Christ healing the Blind {1879} NGV [PR]

11.   Baudet after Valentin Tribute Money {1879} NGV [PR]

12-13.  Thomassin after Raphael Transfiguration of Christ 1680 {1879} NGV [PR] (the only 2-part print in this group, this was also the only engraving to reproduce a painting not in the French Royal collection at the time) 

14.  Rousselet after Titian Entombment {1879} NGV [PR]

15.  Masson after Titian Christ at Emmaus {1879} NGV [PR]

16.  Chasteau after Carracci (Annibale) Martyrdom of St Stephen {1879} NGV [PR] (this engraving and Baudet’s [cat.17] both reproduce the same picture by Carracci, painted on copper c.1604 [Louvre Inv.204])

17.  Baudet after Carracci (Annibale) Martyrdom of St Stephen 1677 {1879} NGV [PR] (see also cat.16)

18.  Picart after Lanfranco Separation of Sts Peter and Paul 1679 {1879} NGV [PR]

19.  Rousselet after Poussin St Paul lifted up {1879} NGV [PR]

20.  Chasteau after Carracci (Annibale) Assumption of the Virgin {1879} NGV [PR] (the source in this case was a reduced-scale copy in the French royal collection of Carracci’s altarpiece in S.Maria del Popolo, Rome)

21-24.   Rousselet after Valentin The Four Evangelists {1879} NGV [PR]

25.  Scotin after Turchi Mystic Marriage of St Catherine 1679 {1879} NGV [PR]

26.  Picart after Correggio Mystic Marriage of St Catherine {1879} NGV [PR]

27.  Picart after Domenichino St Cecilia singing the praises of God {1879} NGV [PR]

28.  Rousselet after Reni St Francis in Meditation {1879} NGV [PR]

29.  Rousselet after van Dyck St Anthony of Padua {1879} NGV [PR]

30-33.  Rousselet after Reni Labours of Hercules {1879} NGV [PR] (the four scenes are: Hercules killing the HydraHercules and AchelousThe Abduction of Deianira by Nessus; and Hercules mounting his funeral pyre)

34.  Audran after Spada Aeneas saving his Father {1879} NGV [PR] (the source painting [Louvre Inv.680] was previously thought to be by Domenichino)

35.  Chasteau after Poussin Pyrrhus hidden from the enemies of his father 1676 {1879} NGV [PR]

36.  Picart after Correggio Virtue triumphant over Vice 1672 {1879} NGV [PR] (Correggio’s allegories of Virtue and Vice, painted for Isabella d’Este in about 1530, were later bought by Charles I of England and then Louis XIV) 

37.  Picart after Correggio Allegory of Vice 1676 {1879} NGV [PR] (see previous entry) 

38.  Picart after Spada The Concert {1879} NGV [PR] (the inscription describes the Louvre painting as by Domenichino, the older attribution)


Plans, elevations and views of the Louvre and Tuileries (cat.39-82)

Levey’s gift included all the engravings collected in Vol.4 of the Cabinet du roi, dating originally from the 1660s and 1670s, documenting the modernization and expansion of the Louvre and Tuileries palaces during that period. These comprise plans and elevations of both palaces (cat.39-53); and three sets of engravings of decorative projects carried out in the two buildings, also in the 1660s-70s (cat.53-82). These projects dominated the first part of Louis XIV’s reign, prior to the eventual transfer of the entire court to Versailles in 1682: for a good survey, see Berger A Royal Passion (1994), ch.4. 

Prints are catalogued below in the sequence in which they are listed in Suite et Arrangement (1727), pp.3-4.

39-40.  Bérain Plan General du Chasteau du Louvre {1879} NGV [PR] (2-part print recording a 1674 proposal by Perrault for linking the Louvre and Tuileries Palaces)

41.  Le Clerc Installation of the Louvre Pediment 1677 {1879} NGV [PR] 

42-44.   Marot (J.) Plans and elevations of the Louvre 1676/78 {1879} NGV [PR]

45-53.   Silvestre Views and Elevations of the Tuileries Palace & Gardens {1879} NGV [PR]

54.  Bérain & Scotin Ornemens de peinture…[title page] 1710 {1879} NGV [PR] (title page for entries following: cat.55-82)

55-65.  Bérain Galerie d’Apollon [Ornemens…, 1710, pls.2-12] {1879} NGV [PR] (recording the decorations of the Louvre Gallery of Apollo by Le Brun & others, 1663ff.)

66-78.  Chauveau Grand Apartment of the Tuileries Palace [Ornemens…, 1710, pls.13-25] {1879} NGV [PR] (documenting now-destroyed 1660s decorations by Le Vau & others; see also next entry)

79-82.  Lemoyne Lambris, dans le Grand Appartement des Tuileries [Ornemens…, 1710, pls.26-29] {1879} NGV [PR] (see previous entry)


Plans, elevations and views of Versailles (cat.83-113)

These engravings correspond essentially to vol.5 of the Cabinet du roi (1727), comprising plans, views and elevations, mostly by Israel Silvestre, originally produced between 1664 and 1682 (cat.83-102); and reproductions by Baudet and others of major decorative projects from the 1670s-80s (cat.103-113). For the aggrandisement of Versailles and the construction of its gardens by Le Vau and others during the opening years of Louis XIV’s reign (from 1661), see Berger A Royal Passion (1994), ch.6.

83.  La Pointe Untitled plan of Versailles {1879} NGV [PR]

84-98.  Silvestre Plans, elevations and views of Versailles {1879} NGV [PR] (these comprise views of the palace and gardens as they were developing  between 1664 and 1682)

99-100.  Le Pautre (P.) after Hardouin-Mansart Ecuries du Roy… Versailles 1689 {1879} NGV [PR] (Royal Stables, built 1679-82)

101-102.  Nolin after Hardouin-Mansart L’Orangerie de Versailles 1688 {1879} NGV [PR] (built 1681-85)

103-109.  Baudet after Le Brun Le Grand Escalier de Versailles 1679-83 {1879} NGV [PR] (documentation of the ceiling paintings formerly above the Ambassadors’ Staircase at Versailles)

110.  Simonneau after Le Brun Franche Comté reconquered 1688 {1879}  NGV [PR] (reproducing the ceiling painting from the Grande Galerie at Versailles, dating from 1674)

111-113.  Audran after Mignard Tableaux de la Voute de la Galerie du Petit Appartement du Roy a Versailles [3] {1879} NGV [PR] (reproductions of now-destroyed ceiling paintings from the Petite Galerie, begun in 1685)


Festivals at Versailles (cat.114-133)

These sets of engravings, published as vol.11 of the Cabinet du roi (1727), document festivities staged at Versailles in 1664, 1668 and 1674, during the decades preceding the full transfer of the French court to the completed palace and gardens. Louis Marchesano observes that these spectacles, which included performances of plays, ballet and operas as well as fireworks and other special effects, were “affairs whose splendor, magnificence and (for some observers) profligacy set the tone for the first part of Louis XIV’s reign”: see Fuhring A Kingdom of Images (2015), p.262.

114-122.  Silvestre Les Plaisirs de l’Isle enchantée 1673 {1879} NGV [PR] (festivities inaugurating Louis XIV’s building campaign at Versailles, including plays and music written for the occasion by Molière and Lully)

123-127.  Le Pautre (J.) Feste de Versailles du 18 Juillet 1668 {1879} NGV [PR] (celebrations occasioned by the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, marking the end of war between France and Spain)

128-133.  Le Pautre (J.) & Chauveau Les Divertissements de Versailles…1674 {1879} NGV [PR] (festivities to mark Louis XIV’s return from reconquering Franche-Comté in May 1674)


Louis XIV’s military victories (cat.134-173)

Levey’s 1879 Melbourne gift included all 40 engravings originally issued in the 1680s under the title Grandes Conquêtes du roi, and later collected in vol.15 of the Cabinet du roi as Plans et Profils appellez communement Les Petites Conquestes servant a l’Histoire de Louis XIV. Grav.par S.Le Clerc & autres. They depict various episodes from the so-called War of Devolution (1667-8) and the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78), described as the “Wars of Gloire” by John Lynn, The Wars of Louis XIV, 1667-1714 (1999). The events are reenacted theatrically, the Sun King typically depicted prominently, in a pose of relaxed triumph, often on horseback, frequently against a panoramic backdrop; see e.g. cat.151Colin Sortie de la Garnison de Dole {1879} NGV [PR].

Le Clerc coordinated the series, which also included engravings by others – for details, see the following entries:

Châtillon 14 engravings from Les Grandes Conquêtes du Roi {1879} NGV [PR]

Colin Sortie de la Garnison de Dole {1879} NGV [PR]

Dolivar 3 engravings from Les Grandes Conquêtes du Roi {1879} NGV [PR]

Le Clerc 17 engravings from Les Grandes Conquêtes du roi {1879} NGV [PR]

Marot (D.) 4 engravings from Les Grandes Conquêtes du Roi {1879} NGV [PR]


Miscellaneous prints (cat.174-96)

These comprise a handful of other engravings relating to Louis XIV’s reign (cat.174-177); and some prints dating from Levey’s own era (cat.178-96).

174.  Le Clerc Visit of Louis XIV to the Jardin du roi {1879} NGV [PR]

175.  Jeaurat after Le Brun Interview of Louis XIV & Phillip IV 1728 {1879} NGV [PR] (reproducing one of Le Brun‘s tapestries, showing the prelude to the marriage of Louis XIV and Maria Theresa of Spain in 1660; see also next entry)

176.  Jeaurat after Le Brun Marriage of Louis XIV & Maria Theresa 1731 {1879} NGV [PR] (see previous entry)

177.  Unknown after Nanteuil Pierre-Armand de Cambout {1879} NGV [PR]

178.  Tegazzo after Siemiradzki Les Torches vivantes de Neron 1878 {1879} NGV [PR] 

179-96.  * Unknown artists: 18 plates from L’Art {1879} Loc? [PR]


Appendix: engravings not donated by Levey – but previously described thus (cat.A1-4)

A1.  Edelinck after Turchi The Deluge 1681 {1868} NGV [PR] (one of the prints donated to the Melbourne collection by John Pascoe Fawkner in 1868}

A2.  * Carracci (Agostino) after Barocci Aeneas bearing his father Anchises {by 1894} Loc? [PR]

A3.  * Goltzius Adoration of the Magi 1594 {by 1894} Loc? [PR]

A4.  * Goltzius The Visitation 1593 {by 1894} Loc? [PR]