A Trompe l’oeil by Jean Valette-Penot Acquired by the Château in Pau

1. Jean Valette-Falgore, dit Penot (1710-1777)
Oil on paper maroufled on cardboard
35 x 26 cm
Pau, Musée national du château
Photo : Galerie Orsay Paris

16/2/12 - Acquisition - Pau, Musée national du château - The Musée national du château de Pau has just acquired from the Orsay Gallery in Paris, a work by Jean Valette-Falgore, known as Valette-Penot, representing a relief with a portrait of Henri IV in profile (ill. 1).

Born in Montauban in 1710, a student of Antoine Rivalz at the Académie de peinture in Toulouse, the artist spent most of his career, except for a stay in Rome, in his home town where he died in 1777.
He specialized in still-lifes (the Musée Ingres notably holds a small canvas representing peaches and nuts) and particularly in trompe l’oeil, of which several examples reside at the Musée de Beaux-Arts in Rennes, originally from the collection of the Marquis de Robien.

The work acquired by Pau is signed and dated on the back 1771 (ill. 2). This is an oil on paper glued on cardboard (marouflé). The king’s profile is characteristic of his likeness, known from countless contemporaneous or posthumous representations (there was no need to find his skull in order to fabricate a 3D representation [1]...).

2. Signature and date on the back of the work by Jean Valette-Penot
acquired by the Musée national du château de Pau
Photo : Galerie Orsay Paris

While Henri IV was indeed popular during the Ancien Régime (before the Revolution), his representations increased even more in the course of the 19th century. Due to the simplicity of the composition and the subject, this work by Valette-Penot might have been mistaken for an early 19th century work, except for the presence of the beautiful signature on the back certifying its true identification.

Version française

Didier Rykner, jeudi 28 février 2013


[1] The story of the recent rediscovery of Henri IV’s skull, though it does not fall in our chronological field, sounds so much like that of Caravaggio’s bones or his drawings, or the head of L’Origine du Monde that we might be allowed to feel just a little skeptical of the findings.

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