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Work Chancellor Séguier at the Entry of Louis XIV into Paris in 1660

Department of Paintings: French painting

Chancellor Séguier at the Entry of Louis XIV into Paris in 1660

© 1996 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Paintings
French painting

Author(s):
Kazerouni Guillaume

Pierre Séguier, Chancellor of France, was Le Brun's principal patron during his youth, notably enabling him to spend time in Italy.

The turbulent history of a masterpiece

The portrait of Chancellor Séguier is one of those art icons we naturally think of as rightfully being in a museum. Nonetheless it was only after a long and eventful career that it joined France's national treasures in 1942. Inexplicably ignored by Charles Le Brun's contemporaries - apart from a brief allusion by the artist's biographer Nivelon - the picture is first mentioned as belonging to the Duke d'Estissac, a descendent of the Chancellor. At the time of the French Revolution it was confiscated from the Château d'Estissac along with the rest of the duke's property and taken to nearby Troyes, where it was hung in City Hall. Under the First Empire it was reclaimed by the family, who kept it in hiding until it was acquired in 1942, after the death of the Baroness de la Chevrelière, née Séguier.

Portrait of a great patron

Pierre Séguier (1588-1672), Chancellor of France and the nation's number two administrator, was one of the great patrons, collectors and scholars of his time. Living in the sumptuous mansion built by Louis Le Vau on the Île Saint-Louis and decorated by Simon Vouet, he became the young Le Brun's leading patron, sending him to Rome and helping him cut free of the Vouet workshop. In this portrait painted several years after his return from Italy, Le Brun shows the Chancellor on horseback with eight pages surrounding him: a theatrical presentation whose measured harmony and interplay of posture are reminiscent of the ballet. What this monumental equestrian portrait offers is neither a warrior nor a conquering hero, but the pomp and grandeur of an enlightened man of state. Its origin remains a mystery: it may have been one of the official portraits intended for the walls of the chancellery, but could equally have been a private commission - which would explain why it was kept in the Séguier family down the years.

Charles Le Brun

Le Brun remained a leading artistic figure throughout the second half of the 17th century. He supervised most of the royal projects, producing the drawings for their paintings, sculpture and ornamentation. Here he demonstrates the full measure of his talent and skill, for in addition to his large historical pieces he was a most accomplished portraitist and a master of presentation. The Louvre is also home to his portraits of Charles-Alphonse Dufresnoy and Louis Testelin.

Technical description

  • Charles Le Brun

    Chancellor Séguier at the Entry of Louis XIV into Paris in 1660

    c. 1655-1661

    France

  • Oil on canvas

    H. 2.95 m; W. 3.57 m

  • Acquired from the subject's descendents, with the assistance of the Friends of the Louvre association

    R.F. 1942-3

  • Paintings

    Sully wing
    2nd floor
    Le Sueur
    Room 24

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