A painting by de La Hyre acquired by the Musée de l’Armée

1. Laurent de La Hyre (1606-1656)
The Defeat of the English by French
Army on the Island of Ré,
8 November 1627

Oil on canvas - 112 x 210 cm
Photo : Sotheby’s

13/7/09 – Acquisitions – Paris, Musée de l’Armée – An important painting by Laurent de La Hyre [1] reappeared in an auction at Sotheby’s Paris last 24 June. The defeat of the English on the Island of Ré (ill. 1) caused quite a sensation and was acquired, without pre-emption, by the Musée de l’Armée in Paris for a total of 200,000€ (without charges).

The composition was known thanks to an engraving. Without it and the signature, visible on the lower left side, an attribution would have been difficult as there is no other comparable canvas known by this artist. Only the tree trunk, hollowed out and split in the foreground, and which can be found in all of Laurent de La Hyre’s paintings, is typical of his work.

In their catalogue raisonné – they only knew then about the engraving [2] – Jacques Thuillier and Pierre Rosenberg put forth the theory, given the realism of the representation, that the painter might have witnessed live the events of 8 November 1627. This panoramic and topographical view of the battle is a precocious example in French painting, a genre practiced in the early 17th century mainly by Flemish painters or in engraving by Jacques Callot who immediately comes to mind, if only because of the subject. Although the canvas also recalls the figure of Adam van der Meulen, we should remember that the work probably dates back to around 1628, that is four years before Louis XIV’s painter was born. Thus this La Hyre canvas is not only an important milestone in the painter’s oeuvre but also in 17th century French painting as a whole. We can only rejoice at the fact that it was acquired by a French museum.

2. Juste d’Egmont (1601-1674)
Louis II de Bourbon, Known as
Le Grand Condé, before the Battlefield
at Rocroi
, 1645
Oil on canvas - 246 x 163 cm
Paris, Musée de l’Armée
Photo : Musée de l’Armée/Dist. RMN

The Musée de l’Armée has, for the last three years, implemented an active and very pertinent acquisitions policy for 17th century paintings. In late 2006, we had already pointed out here the purchase of a masterpiece by Jean Tassel (see news item of 18/1/07, in French, on La Tribune de l’Art). In 2007, another important canvas was acquired [3], the Portrait of the Grand Condé before the Battlefield at Rocroi (ill. 2). Signed and dated by Juste d’Egmont in 1645, that is two years after this illustrious battle linked historically to Louis II de Bourbon, this is perhaps the canvas he commissioned for his castle in Chantilly to decorate the gallery of Actions de Monsieur le Prince. There is one, smaller, copy acquired in 1997 by Chambord. Juste d’Egmont painted the Grand Condé several times and there is notably another known representation of him standing, also before a depiction of the battle of Rocroi, belonging to the château at Versailles. Two other versions of this last painting, with several variations, are held at Chantilly [4].

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 13 juillet 2009


[1] Its original provenance is not known. It had been held for the last seventy years in the Angers region.

[2] Pierre Rosenberg and Jacques Thuillier, Laurent de La Hyre, 1606-1646. L’homme et l’œuvre, Geneva, Skira, 1988, catalogue of the exhibition Grenoble – Rennes – Bordeaux, cat. 56, pp. 146-147.

[3] The painting was pre-empted in Paris at Artcurial on 11 December 2007 for 100,000€ (without charges). It had been offered at Sotheby’s New York on 28 January 1999 where it went unsold

[4] At least three copies from the 17th century, after this painting but representing only the bust of the model in an oval format, can also be found in the Chantilly collections.

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