The Prince of Condé

The Prince of Condé


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Title: Portrait of Louis II of Bourbon known as Le Grand Condé (1621-1686)

Author : D'EGMONT, Justus Van Egmont Juste (1601 - 1674)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 146 - Width 110

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage place: Condé museum (Chantilly) website

Contact copyright: Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Domaine de Chantilly) / René-Gabriel Ojéda

Picture reference: 02-000221 / PE131

Portrait of Louis II de Bourbon known as Le Grand Condé (1621-1686)

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Domaine de Chantilly) / René-Gabriel Ojéda

Publication date: May 2014

Academy Inspector Deputy Academic Director

Historical context

The prince and the painter

On May 19, 1643, the young Louis II of Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, eldest son of the Prince of Condé and cousin of the King of France, won a decisive victory against the Spaniards at Rocroi, in the north of France. His participation in the Princes' Fronde from 1650 to 1652 forced him into exile in the Netherlands, where he served Spain against France. It was there that he undoubtedly reconnected with Juste d´Egmont (1601-1674), a Flemish painter whom he had already met in Paris during the 1640s.

Indeed, Juste d´Egmont - Joost Verus Van Egmont - had lived in Paris as early as 1628, after having been a pupil of Rubens. An appreciated painter, it was especially as a portrait painter of the royal family and the great of the kingdom that he was successful.

It is not known at what precise moment he painted the portrait of the Grand Condé. The facial features of Louis II of Bourbon are those of maturity, and not those of the impetuous youth that the Duke had at Rocroi. Conde, for his part, returned to France at the end of 1659, thanks to the Franco-Spanish Treaty of the Pyrenees. We can therefore think that this portrait was painted in 1657 or 1658, if we compare it to a mention made in the prince's correspondence.

The blue scarf worn by the prince does not refer to the order of the Holy Spirit, which he did not accede until 1661, after his return to grace. A copy of our portrait dated 1665 shows him with the blue scarf AND the cord of the order of the Holy Spirit.

Image Analysis

A court portrait against a background of battle

The canvas is made up of two clearly separated planes. In the foreground, the Duke of Enghien, whose aquiline profile is clearly identifiable, casually poses leaning on a pedestal on which his helmet rests and stares at the viewer. Armed with a sword, he wears rich, articulated and immaculate armor - the use of which gradually disappeared in the 17th century.e century - and wields a staff of command in the direction of the backstage, expressing her dominance over the events it represents. His curly wig and blue sling worn over the shoulder make him a ceremonial military leader who looks determined but calm. Its location in what appears to be the entrance to a natural cavity contrasts with a portrait inscribed in the codes of court portraits and reinforces the feeling of detachment from the background.

Bottom left, a cavalry fight opposes the French charging valiantly against the Spaniards forced to flee in a cloud of smoke. The relegation of combat to the background and lower part of the painting emphasizes in contrast the grandeur and mastery of the Duke, whose outstretched, extended arm of the staff of command overlooks the entire war scene. This mastery and certainty make it possible to refrain from any explicit sign of victory. The canvas itself celebrates a victorious and glorious general whose merits can remain implicit without fear of being misunderstood.

The painting is therefore a demonstration, that of the prince's greatness by the painter, and that of the victorious battle by the prince himself. Juste d'Egmont also used the argument of the battle of Rocroi to paint other portraits of the Grand Condé, in particular a canvas with an identical overall composition but where the prince appears in a fanciful Roman costume (tunic golden, large red enveloping cape, bare arms) and where the battle scene takes place at the foot of the Rocroi fortress. He also represented Conde in general ancient in 1645, playing on the literary amalgamation with Alexander the Great, as the painter Jean Tassel would do to celebrate the capture of Dunkirk the following year. This choice has not been repeated here, since the representation makes no reference to Antiquity and, on the contrary, seeks an anchoring in the contemporary. The absence of a precise reference to a battle - even if it is highly probable that it is indeed the founding victory of Rocroi, as the copy of 1665 recalls - also makes it possible to make the military successes of the Prince of Condé.

Interpretation

An apology for the Grand Condé

Juste d´Egmont does not seek to represent the war, reduced here to the victorious general and the charge of cavalry - whose role in the Battle of Rocroi was indeed decisive. On the other hand, he inscribes his work in the tradition of Condean apology. It was the prince who commissioned several portraits of himself, from David Teniers and especially Egmont during the 1650s, and others from the 1660s, and who had copies made. Art was to praise the prince and erase the setbacks of the 1650s, during which Condé turned his military talent against France. From his return at the end of 1659 to his death in 1686, the prince fought again in the service of the king while devoting himself more and more exclusively to his domain of Chantilly, where he maintained a brilliant court.

The Condean successes are all the more laudable in the eyes of a good number of contemporaries as they made it possible to save the kingdom on several occasions from invasion or defeat - in Rocroi in 1643 or in Lens in 1648 during the War of Trent. Years, in Paris in 1649 during the Fronde, without counting the victorious campaigns of the years 1660 and 1670. Many artists also contributed to the condean apology, until Bossuet who evokes "this other Alexander" painted as a magnificent and magnanimous hero in his Funeral oration of the Prince of Condé. However, Juste d´Egmont chooses here voluntarily to abandon the ancient reference to Alexander, the Grand Condé being sufficient in himself as a model of military perfection. A few years later, Louis XIV will operate the same transformation at Versailles, from the ancient reference system to the self-referential.

Highlighting a success that is difficult to compare, the portrait of the Grand Condé by Juste d´Egmont is itself a great success. It is disseminated through engravings, copies, and even objects - the Condé de Chantilly museum, for example, keeps a box whose lid is decorated with a miniature copy of this portrait.

  • allegory
  • absolute monarchy
  • army
  • regency
  • Sling
  • Great Century
  • Grand Condé

Bibliography

Katia BÉGUIN, The Princes of Condé. Rebels, courtiers and patrons in Grand Siècle France, Champ Vallon, Seyssel, 1999.

Simone BERTIÈRE, Condé, the misguided hero, Paris, Editions de Fallois, 2011.

To cite this article

Jean HUBAC, "The Prince of Condé"


Video: Au cœur de lhistoire: Condé, un héros oublié Franck Ferrand


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