Jean François de Troy (French, Paris 1679–1752 Rome)
Oil on canvas
33 7/8 x 59 1/8 in. (86 x 150.2 cm)
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1906
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 615
The painting belongs to a series inspired principally by the Old Testament book of Esther and shows her kinsman Mordecai riding triumphantly through the streets of Susa, led by his enemy Haman.
In 1736 de Troy undertook seven cartoons representing the story of Esther for the Gobelin tapestry works. The final cartoon for The Triumph of Mordecai (Musée du Louvre, Paris) was completed in Rome, probably in 1739, and the first tapestry was woven between 1741 and 1744. The present work is a preliminary sketch for the cartoon.
Jean François de Troy studied under his father, the portraitist François de Troy (1645–1730), then at the school of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. He spent the years 1699 to 1706 in Italy. Later the younger de Troy was received into the Académie as a history painter, though he worked in various genres, specializing in tableaux de modes—detailing contemporary fashions and customs—as well as religious and mythological subjects. In 1734 and 1737 he contributed to the decoration of the palaces of Versailles and Fontainebleau.
In 1736, de Troy was commissioned to design seven scenes from the Old Testament book of Esther for the Gobelins tapestry manufactory. The story of Esther, the Jewish queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus, had been dramatized as a tragedy by Jean Baptiste Racine (1639–1699) in 1689. This preliminary sketch for the cartoon (Musée du Louvre, Paris) shows Esther's uncle Mordecai led in honor through the city of Susa by Haman. Mordecai, who had saved the king's life, was appointed chief minister. The cartoon was prepared in Rome, de Troy having been appointed director of the French academy there in 1738. The sketch, cartoon, and tapestry (Mobilier National, Paris) depict the crowded scene in vibrant colors and great detail. The cartoon, exhibited at the 1740 Salon, was engraved by Pierre Ignace Parrocel (1702–ca. 1775) and Jacques Firmin Beauvarlet (1731–1797). The tapestries were woven between 1738 and 1744 and at various times later in the eighteenth century.
[Katharine Baetjer 2013]
Georges Hoentschel, Paris (until 1906; sold to Morgan); J. Pierpont Morgan, New York (1906)
Jean François de Troy. Letter to M. Orry. August 29, 1738 [published in Anatole de Montaiglon and Jules Guiffrey, "Correspondance des directeurs de l'Académie de France à Rome," Paris, vol. 9, 1899, p. 349], writes that he has not been able to work on the paintings [cartoons], since he does not have the sketches with him.
chevalier de Valory in L. Dussieux et al. Mémoires inédits sur la vie et les ouvrages des membres de l'Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. Paris, 1854, vol. 2, p. 277, dates the sketches to 1736, and states that the cartoon for the Triumph of Mordecai was painted after de Troy arrived in Rome in 1738.
Joseph Breck and Meyric R. Rogers. The Pierpont Morgan Wing: A Handbook. New York, 1925, p. 299, call it a study for the Louvre painting.
Gaston Brière in Louis Dimier. Les peintres français du XVIII siècle. Vol. 2, Paris, 1930, pp. 18–19, 34, no. 18, conflates this painting and the ex-Rothan version.
J. Combe. Exposition esquisses maquettes: projets et ébauches de l'école française du XVIIIe siècle. Exh. cat., Galerie Cailleux. Paris, , p. 22, states that all the sketches except the Triumph of Mordecai were included in the Marcille sale of 1857.
Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 117–18, ill.
Charles Schaettel. Unpublished catalogue of the paintings in the Musée des beaux-arts, Beaune. 1971, p. 57, under no. 24, identifies the Beaune painting as a copy after the MMA work, which he dates after 1737, calling it the second study, after the ex-Rothan version.
Marie-Catherine Sahut inLa collection A. P. de Mirimonde (legs aux musées de Gray et de Tours). Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1987, p. 83, ill.
Nicole Hoentschel et al. Georges Hoentschel. Saint-Rémy-en-l'Eau, 1999, p. 197, ill. pp. 195, 197–98 (overall and gallery installations), reproduces photographs of it hanging in Hoentschel's gallery on Boulevard Flandrin.
Christophe Leribault. Jean-François de Troy (1679–1752). Paris, 2002, pp. 98, 352–53, 360, no. P.252a, ill. pp. 97 (color), 352, dates it probably 1736 and calls it the first sketch.
Tableaux et dessins anciens et du XIXe siècle. Sotheby's, Paris. June 23, 2011, p. 88, under no. 66, mentions it in the entry for a sketch for the same subject attributed to the Workshop of de Troy [lots 61–67 are seven sketches depicting the story of Esther, all attributed to de Troy except for the one of this subject, which also has a different provenance from the other six].
Alexis Merle du Bourg. Jean-François de Troy (1679–1752): The Story of Esther. Paris, , pp. 53–54, 57, 59, under no. VI.
Daniëlle O. Kisluk-Grosheide and Ulrich Leben inSalvaging the Past: Georges Hoentschel and French Decorative Arts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide et al. Exh. cat., Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture. New York, 2013, p. 27, fig. 2.10 (color).
Jean Vittet. Les Gobelins au siècle des Lumières: un âge d'or de la manufacture royale. [Paris], 2014, p. 149.
Hommage à la Galerie Cailleux. Exh. cat., Galerie Eric Coatalem. Paris, 2015, pp. 173, 184.
The cartoon for the Triumph of Mordecai (329 x 710 cm) was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1740. The MMA painting (86 x 150.2 cm) is considered to be the earlier sketch. A smaller version (55 x 130 cm) in a private collection was formerly in the Rothan collection. A studio version (61 x 132 cm) is in the Musée des beaux-arts, Beaune (inv. 882-3-1).