The Louis XIV sculpture returns to Versailles


1. Return of the Louis XIV statue to the
Place d’Armes in Versailles, on 27/4/09

29/4/09 – Restoration – Versailles, Domaine national du château et des Trianons – The return of the equestrian bronze statue of Louis XIV (ill. 1) is excellent news. The location designated by the public establishment, in front of the Avenue de Paris, is indeed the best possible choice. Louis XIV will continue, to the chagrin of those who claim that this work is of no artistic value, to welcome visitors to Versailles. The group, first installed in 1836 between the Gabriel and Dufour pavilions (at the site of the royal grill destroyed at the end of the 18th century), is made up of two distinct elements originally. The horse, sculpted by Pierre Cartellier, was to be used in the production of an equestrian monument to Louis XV commissioned by Louis XVIII in 1816 for the Place de la Concorde in Paris, replacing Bouchardon’s which was destroyed during the Revolution. It was finally founded in 1829 by Charles Crozatier and completed with a Louis XIV produced by Louis Petitot, Cartellier’s son-in-law, then finished in bronze by Crozatier. Severely damaged, the group was removed from its original location (ill. 2) to make room for the mediocre modern grill which claims to restitute the one by Hardouin-Mansart.

2. Pierre Cartellier (1757-1831) and
Louis Petitot (1794-1862)
Equestrian statue of Louis
XIV

Bronze
View taken in
December 2003 in the Versailles
Courtyard, on the sculpture’s original
site
Photo : D. Rykner

3. Pierre Cartellier (1757-1831) and
Louis Petitot (1794-1862)
Equestrian statue of Louis XIV (detail)
Bronze
After restoration, in
the workshop of the Fonderie
de Coubertin
Photo : Press release


On 27th April, the horseman and his mount were thus put back on the plinth. The scaffoldings will remain in place for a few months as work on the sculpture is still not finished.
The restoration (ill. 3) was carried out by Fonderies de Coubertin (the same ones who founded the new grill). This consisted in replacing entirely the interior structure which was too rusted and which threatened the structure of the work, restoring the surface damage, replacing the elements (hat feathers, harness on the horse and the sword blade) which had to be removed as they risked falling off and, finally, redoing the patina which had, alas, totally disappeared. The latter, of a bronze-green colour, was reconstituted according to the colour visible on the Horace Vernet painting showing Louis-Philippe and his sons in front of the château. Although this shade is perfectly plausible and a choice did have to be made, thus its pertinence is not in question, let us point out nonetheless that Vernet’s painting does not confirm, as claimed by Frédéric Didier, chief architect for the domain, during the presentation to the press, that we are certain that this is exactly the original colour, especially as the patina changes over time. Vernet obviously never thought that he had to reproduce perfectly the shades of the sculpture in order for it to be restored one and a half centuries later. Let us repeat once again : old documents, paintings, drawings or engravings should not be interpreted as gospel truth.

4. Pierre Cartellier (1757-1831) and
Louis Petitot (1794-1862)
Equestrian statue of Louis XIV (detail)
Bronze
View taken on 27/4/09 during the installation
On the
Place d’Armes after restoration
Photo : D. Rykner

5. Pierre Cartellier (1757-1831) and
Louis Petitot (1794-1862)
Equestrian statue of Louis XIV (detail)
Bronze
View taken on 27/4/09 during the installation
On the
Place d’Armes after restoration
Photo : D. Rykner


The results of the restoration are spectacular. When looking at the statue close up, one can see the all of its qualities and the remarkably quick style of the chiseling (ill. 4 and 5).
The inauguration will not take place until 25 June after the scaffoldings have been removed at which time visitors will finally be able to admire Louis XIV.

Version française


Didier Rykner, jeudi 30 avril 2009



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