View of the Orangerie of Versailles, taken from the balustrade at the edge of the terrace of the chateau
Vue de L'Orangerie de Versailles, prise de la balustrade au bord de la terrasse du château
Jacques Rigaud (French, 1681–1754)
Sheet: 22.5 x 47.3 cm (8 7/8 x 18 5/8 in.) Framed: 42 x 66 x 4 cm (16 9/16 x 26 x 1 9/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Black chalk, pen and gray ink, and brush with gray wash
Not On View
On original Glomy mount
Jacques Rigaud was a prolific and meticulous etcher/engraver of landscapes. As the present drawing reveals, he executed highly finished drawings in preparation for his prints. His most notable works were his topographic studies of palaces in both France and England. Versailles was the palace on which he lavished the greatest attention. Of the 130 views of palaces that he published in his “Maisons royales de France,” 1730, twenty four were of Versailles. No other palace was shown in more than six plates. The publication date suggests that the present drawing was executed in the 1720s, early in the reign of Louis XV (1710-74). The Versailles views record the achievements of designers in the service of Louis XIV (1638-1715).
The present drawing shows the southward view from the Queen’s apartments above the Parterre du Midi. The terrace balustrade and wings were designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and built 1684-86. Placed 155 meters apart, they provided a protective embrace for the orange trees set out in boxes and neatly arranged in the middle distance. Beyond, one sees the Grande Pièce d’Eau des Suisses, a vast basin measuring 682 x 334 meters and reaching to the southern perimeter of the Versailles complex.
Riguad populated his views with animated figures, and the present drawing is no exception. More than two dozen men, women, and children are out for a morning stroll to take in the magnificent view on a gorgeous day as fluffy clouds drift above. Their fine dress–full skirts for the women and tailored coats for the men–and decorous if informal behavior marks them as members of privileged classes. Rigaud’s crisp handling of light and shade gives the impression that the fine stuffs rustle as they move about.
Riguad’s painstaking technique as both printmaker and draftsman produced images notable for their precision and their airiness. He carefully laid out the design using black chalk, then built up the image with pens and brushes. The present drawing was taken from a high viewpoint and shows off Riguad’s able use of both linear and atmospheric perspective coupled with his penchant for fine detail. True to Enlightenment aims, he makes us believe that we can observe the full extent of a well-ordered world with perfect clarity.
Riguad engraved the image in the same direction for his “Diverses vues de Versailles” in the “Maisons royales de France,” 1730, pl. 7.
On mount, recto, lower right, stamped in blind -- mark of J.-B. Glomy, Lugt 1119
Mounted by Jean-Baptist Glomy (18th century, Paris, Lugt 1119), Jean Bloch; sold Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 21 May 1957, lot 16g; with Galerie J. Kugel (Paris), 1996; sold, London, Christie's, 3 July 2007, lot 126; purchased at the auction by the MFA. Accesioned by the MFA September 19, 2007
Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow Fund