Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Louis XV (1710–1774) as a Child

After Hyacinthe Rigaud (French, Perpignan 1659–1743 Paris)
ca. 1716–24
Oil on canvas
77 x 55 1/2 in. (195.6 x 141 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Mary Wetmore Shively Bequest, in memory of her husband, Henry L. Shively, M.D., 1960
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 522
Louis XV succeeded to the throne of France in 1715 upon the death of his great-grandfather, Louis XIV, who had reigned for more than seventy years. The five-year-old boy was the only surviving son of Louis, duc de Bourgogne, and Marie Adélaïde de Savoie, both of whom had died of smallpox in 1712. The canvas is one of many versions of Rigaud’s first official portrait of Louis XV, which was commissioned by the regent, the duc d’Orléans, for the palace of Versailles.
Louis XV was the great-grandson of Louis XIV (1638–1715). He was born to Marie Adélaïde de Savoie (1685–1712) and Louis, duc de Bourgogne (1682–1712) on February 15, 1710 at Versailles. The succession appeared secure. However the king’s heir, Louis, called le Grand Dauphin, died the following year, and then his grandson, the duc de Bourgogne, with Marie Adélaïde and the older of their two boys, succumbed to smallpox in the winter of 1712 leaving a son aged two. On the death of Louis XIV on September 1, 1715, he therefore became king as a child of five, while Louis XIV’s nephew, Philippe d’Orléans (1674–1723), assumed the regency. In October 1722 the coronation took place and on the king’s birthday in 1723, the regency ended.

French monarchs were crowned at Reims cathedral in a ceremony called the "sacre". The costume was that worn by Louis XIV in his famous standing portrait of 1701 (Musée du Louvre, Paris): white hose, a blue velvet mantle strewn with gold fleurs-de-lis and lined with ermine, and the collar and cross of the order of the Saint-Esprit. The regalia depicted are the sword and crown, and the scepter terminating in a fleur-de-lis. Rigaud shows the boy Louis XV in that costume. In addition to the crown, sword, and scepter with the fleur-de-lis, the scepter terminating in an ivory hand, the so-called hand of justice, lies beside him. The red drapery and tassels and the floor coverings are also similar.

This canvas is one of many versions of Rigaud’s first official portrait of Louis XV, which was commissioned in the autumn of 1715 by the duc d’Orléans for the palace of Versailles, where it remains. Rigaud was taken up first by the Orléans family and then became a favorite of both the old king and the new one. Born in the south, he studied with Jean Ranc (1634–1716) in Montpellier and then in Lyons before traveling to Paris to enter the school of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1681. By 1700 he had been admitted as both portrait painter and history painter and he rose steadily, becoming rector and director in 1733. Rigaud devoted his career almost exclusively to court portraiture and had a busy studio.

[Katharine Baetjer 2012]
Nicolas Jean-Baptiste Ravot d'Ombreval, Paris (1724–d. 1729); Thérese Geneviève Ravot d'Ombreval and her husband, vicomte Honoré Charles Henri de Buissy, Château de Long (1729–his d. 1762); vicomte Pierre de Buissy, Château de Long (1762–d. 1787); Anne Charlotte de Buissy-Long and her husband, marquis Amédée Charles Marie de Boubers-Abbeville-Thunc, Château de Long (1787–their d. 1846); Ilda Rose Blanche de Boubers-Abbeville-Thunc and her husband Pierre Jules du Maisniel de Saveuse, Château de Long (1846–his d. 1887); Fernand Pierre Marie du Maisniel de Saveuse, Château de Long (1887–d. 1888); Édith Rose Marie Josèphe du Maisniel de Saveuse and her husband, comte Jules Jean Joseph Le Mesre de Pas, Château de Long (1888–his d. 1903); Éliane Le Mesre de Pas and her husband, comte Jean de Robien, Château de Pont-Rémy, near Abbeville, Somme, Picardy (1903–59; sold to Heim); [Heim, Paris, 1959–60; sold to MMA]
Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries. "Le cabinet de l'amateur," February–April 1956, no. 90.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "In the Presence of Kings: Royal Treasures from the Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 18–June 11, 1967, no. 28.

Hyacinthe Rigaud. Le livre de raison du peintre Hyacinthe Rigaud. Ed. J. Roman. Paris, 1919, pp. 178, 182–84, 278 [an incomplete list of works by Rigaud and his shop compiled by the artist between 1681 and 1743], cites the original portrait under 1715 and the price as 8,000 livres; lists eight copies by Rigaud and his workshop: in 1716, three copies by Rigaud, of the king for the king for 1,200 livres and two copies by Lapenaye for 80 livres; in 1717, two copies by Rigaud, one for "le Grand duc" and one for "l'archevesque d'Aix" for 300 livres each, and a copy by Lapenaye for 30 livres; J. Roman, ed., p. 178 n. 4, records a copy with the marquis de Boubers, Amiens.

George Van Derveer Gallenkamp. Letter to Theodore Rousseau. February 1, 1960 [the author was writing a catalogue raisonné that was not completed], describes this portrait and that of the Maréchal de la Tour d'Auvergne as fine examples of Rigaud's work.

Ruth T. Costantino. How to Know French Antiques. New York, 1961, ill. between pp. 128 and 129.

Myra Nan Rosenfeld. Largillierre and the Eighteenth-Century Portrait. Exh. cat., Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Montreal, 1981, pp. 282–83, fig. 1, as "Workshop of Hyacinthe Rigaud," about 1715–17.

Eric M. Zafran. The Rococo Age: French Masterpieces of the Eighteenth Century. Exh. cat., High Museum of Art. Atlanta, 1983, p. 84, fig. III.2.

Claire Constans. Musée national du château de Versailles: Les peintures. Paris, 1995, vol. 2, p. 755, under no. 4260, lists our picture among versions of royal provenance (with Caen, Reims, Rouen, and Winnipeg) of the Versailles original (189 x 135 cm; signed and dated: Fait par Hyacinthe Rigaud en septembre 1715, and commissioned by the duc d'Orléans as regent).

Philippe Malgouyres. Peintures françaises du XVIIe siècle: La collection du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen. Paris, 2000, p. 175, under no. 156, notes that the administration of the Bâtiments du roi distributed twenty-four examples of this portrait between 1716 and 1721 and attributes the Rouen version to François-Albert Stiémart; mentions versions sold in Paris in 1895 and 1978.

Daniëlle O. Kisluk-Grosheide in The Wrightsman Galleries for French Decorative Arts: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2010, pp. 172, 174, no. 86, fig. 11 (gallery installation), ill. in color pp. 27 (gallery installation), 175.

Stéphan Perreau. Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659–1743): Catalogue concis de l'œuvre. Sète, 2013, pp. 42, 249–50, no. P.1247-1, fig. 37 (framed), ill. p. 249.

Ariane James-Sarazin with the collaboration of Jean-Yves Sarazin. Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1659–1743. Dijon, 2016, vol. 2, p. 441, under no. P.1311.

Versions of the original portrait at Versailles are also recorded in the museums of Brunswick, Caen, Chambéry, Raleigh, Reims, and Rouen; the Winnipeg Art Gallery; the châteaux of Compiègne, Chantilly (Musée Condé), Fontainebleau, and Versailles; at Hampton Court Palace, and at Frohsdorff (Vienna); others have been on the Paris art market in 1895 and 1978.

This entry has been amended in 2012 with the assistance of material provided by both Ariane James-Sarazin and Stéphan Perreau but it does not entirely represent either of their views.

The provenance was provided by Stéphan Perreau in an email of September 9, 2012.
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