Seminars in the History of Collecting: The paintings by Horace Vernet in Louis-Philippe's private collection: commission, purpose, display and destination
Speaker: Valérie M. C. Bajou (Chief Curator, Versailles Palace)
Abstract: The collection of paintings in a princely residence formed part of the pomp and the demonstration of wealth and power. But when the Duke of Orléans became king of France in 1830, his collection became part of the royal patronage, even if, for the first time in France, the king himself distinguished his private collection from the royal collections.
The choice of modern painters is particular to Louis-Philippe and, as is obvious in the publication of the deluxe volumes of the 'Galerie lithographiée de Son Altesse Royale Monseigneur le duc d’Orléans', published in 1824, the paintings by Horace Vernet were numerous. From the first commission made in 1817 of the small 'Portrait of Louis-Philippe inspecting the Hussars Regiment', to the four battle paintings of 'Valmy', 'Jemmapes', 'Hainau' and 'Montmirail', the collection shows the duke’s preference for subjects related to his patriotic commitment during the French Revolution, and for the Napoleonic epic. Such paintings highlight the public and political image that the Duke wanted to present during the French Restoration. At this time the Palais-Royal echoed the Napoleonic legend that Louis-Philippe hijacked for his advantage. Louis-Philippe found the right painter, who prioritised sharpness of vision, as in his military paintings. His interest in paintings by Horace Vernet was probably opportunistic, as propaganda was as important as aesthetic. Above all, he favoured an iconographic program concerning his own history. In 1830, Louis-Philippe owned twenty paintings by Horace Vernet.