F. Souchal, F. de La Moureyre, H. Dumuis, French Sculptors of the 17th and 18th centuries. The reign of Louis XIV, Oxford, 1977, t. I, p. 189-190, n° 32.
A. Maral, 'Nouvelles acquisitions. Versailles, Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon', La Revue des Musées de France. Revue du Louvre, 2, 2007, p. 82.
The only son of Louis XIV and Queen Maria Theresa, Monseigneur Louis of France (1661–1711) – known as the Grand Dauphin – was born on 1 November 1661 at the Château de Fontainebleau. Although heir to the Crown, he never reigned as he predeceased his father by four years. He was a cultured man who developed a strong taste for the Arts and courtly pleasures, distinguishing himself in the King’s armies between 1688 and 1694. He married Marie-Anne of Bavaria in 1680, with whom he had three children. After her death in 1690, he secretly married his mistress and retired to his château in Meudon where he died prematurely in 1711.
Numerous artists made portraits of the Sun King’s son, including the painters Pierre Mignard, François de Troyes and Hyacinthe Rigaud, along with engravers, miniaturists and medallion-makers, as well as sculptors such as Coysevox and Girardon who made busts of him, and Martin Desjardins, who cast the model for an equestrian statue. There were also many marble and bronze medallions made.
Lyon-born Antoine Coysevox trained from 1657 in the Paris studio of Louis Lerambert, who specialised in sculpted portrait busts. Between 1667 and 1671 the Bishop of Strasbourg commissioned Coysevox to decorate his Saverne château. On his return to the capital in 1676, Coysevox made his reputation at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture and the Royal Court thanks to his superb busts, particularly a terracotta portrait of Charles Le Brun (1676) and the marble bust of Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1677). Coysevox was admitted to the Academy in 1676 and rose through the ranks to become Director from 1703 to 1705. In 1678 he was commissioned by the Superintendent of the King's Buildings to design monumental statues for the Palace of Versailles (reliefs in the War Room, Ambassadors’ Staircase and Princes’ Staircase) and its gardens (a statue of Empire for the Triumphal Arch Grove; statues of Nymph with a Shell and Crouching Venus after the antique; Castor and Pollux after the antique; the Vase of War; bronze statues of the Garonne and Dordogne for the Water Parterre, among others). From 1698, Coysevox sculpted large groups for the gardens at Marly (Neptune, Amphitrite, the Seine and the Marne for the Rivière de Marly; Mercury and Fame for the Abreuvoir; and Flora, Fauna and Hamadryade for the Appartements verts). He also worked on a number of funerary monuments, such as the tombs of the Marquis de Vaubrun, Colbert, Cardinal Mazarin, Charles Le Brun and the Comte d’Harcourt. Between 1686 and 1691, Coysevox executed the monumental Louis XIV equestrian statue in bronze for the town of Nantes. In 1690 and 1700, Coysevox took an active part in sculpting the decoration of the Dôme des Invalides church. Like his older contemporary François Girardon, he was a principal sculptor to King Louis XIV. His lively, energetic style breathed new life into the classicism of Versailles. Coysevox trained a number of eminent pupils including Nicolas and Guillaume Coustou (his elder sister’s sons), Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, and Jean Thierry.
Coysevox earned a strong reputation for portraiture – excelling in official portraits such as his many busts of the King (for whom he was the appointed portraitist), Condé, Mansart and others – alongside commissions for clients from all strata of society, from the higher echelons to more modest patrons. His busts became increasingly free and lifelike, especially those from the end of the century (Matthew Prior, Robert de Cotte, Marie Serre, Fermel'huis, the Duke of Chaulnes and other unknown sitters). Not only did he succeed in capturing the physical likeness of his subjects, but he also brought out their more private character (witness the admirable nobility of soul of Hyacinthe Rigaud’s mother, Marie Serre).
Coysevox executed many portraits of the Grand Dauphin as a child, both busts and medallions. Three medallions by his hand have been identified. The first that can be attributed to him with certainty (see A. Maral, op. cit.) is at Versailles (fig. 1; inv. no. MV 9079; H. 0.60, L. 0.47) and appears to date from 1676. It shows the King's son in right profile, his hair short and curly, his nose not yet aquiline, sporting a lace cravat and a cuirass adorned with a dolphin. This medallion is mentioned in the inventory of the Royal Collections of 1692-95. It inspired at least five other medallions, two of which were signed by Coysevox: this one, and another now in the Galerie Kugel. The three remaining medallions, from 1683, emulate the composition of the Versailles MV 9079 medallion, although they are by other sculptors.
In these medallions, the King's son is no longer a child but a young man. The first of them is in the Louvre (fig. 2; inv. no. RF 3948; H. 0.60, L. 0.47) and might be the medallion described in the 1707 inventory (see G. Bresc-Bautier, op. cit.). It bears the initials N. C. benath the contour of the shoulder and is thought to be the work of Nicolas Coustou (1658-1733). Coustou was Coysevox’s nephew and trained in his uncle's Paris studio, where he would have been familiar with Coysevox’s other medallion designs, and could have produced this portrait before leaving for Rome in 1683.
Two other versions of this model are known, both white marble reliefs applied to an oval background of grey marble. One was at the Ratton-Ladrière Gallery in 2001, and the second is in the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle (inv. no. S.90). There is a further medallion in Versailles (inv. no. MV 6307) that is very different from the earlier ones. An inscription on the reverse tells us it dates from 1677, although the sculptor is unknown. It is a half-length, frontal portrait of the Grand Dauphin wearing an embroidered doublet, gloves held tightly in one hand, and pointing with his other index finger.
Our medallion is one of the few portraits signed by Coysevox. It was probably produced in 1679, the year that Coysevox sculpted an official bust portrait of the Dauphin for Versailles (inv. no. MV 2044). At the end of that year, Monseigneur was to marry the electoral princess of Bavaria, Maria Anna Victoria of the House of Wittelsbach.
The composition of this portrait may be likened to the medallion now with Galerie Kugel, Paris, originally in the former A. L. Mayer collection in Munich, and purchased by Kurt Bachstitz in The Hague. This medallion is monogrammed under the contour with the initials A. C. F. and bears the date 1683; the inscription LUDOVICUS DELPHINUS is engraved on either side of the portrait. As in our medallion, the Grand Dauphin depicted here is a young man who has matured, shown in right profile and only down to the neck, with the top edge of his garment visible. His short, curly hair is vigorously sculpted with a trepan, the pupils are finely drawn, the eyes are incised, and the corner of his mouth is hollowed out. Our medallion, dating from four years earlier, appears to be a preliminary version: a medallion that Coysevox would have provided the model for, entrusting his studio to translate it into marble, then signing it without hesitation after carefully following its execution.
We are most thankful to Mrs Françoise de La Moureyre for the cataloguing of this lot.
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