Head of King Louis XV

Object Details

Title:

Head of King Louis XV

Artist/Maker(s):

François Le Moyne (French, 1688 - 1737)

Culture:

French

Date:

about 1729

Medium:

Black chalk and pastel on faded blue paper

Dimensions:

29.5 x 21 cm (11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in.)

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When François Le Moyne produced this pastel drawing of him, the French King Louis XV was only nineteen years old. Viewed from below, Louis poses informally without a wig, his hair left long and unpowdered. He gazes off into the distance, wearing a calm yet regal expression.

Using fine strokes of black chalk, Le Moyne created the young king's gently curling hair. Delicate lines of pastel give soft highlights to his hair, eyes, nose, and slightly pursed lips. Darker shadows around the jaw line form Louis's round and fleshy chin.

Le Moyne made this drawing as a preparatory study for the head of the king in an allegorical portrait, Louis XV Bestows Peace upon Europe. The work was commissioned in 1729 when the king was trying to build a central role for France as a peacemaker. The painting, which originally hung at the entrance to the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, was as much a tool for propaganda as it was a portrait of the young ruler.

Provenance

Vicomte Maurice du Dresnay, by descent from the du Dresnay family

David Weill, Neuilly-sur-Seine

June 10, 1959

Sotheby's (London), lot 71

Private Collection

January 12, 1995

Christie's (New York), lot 87

Exhibitions
Pastels français du XVIIème et du XVIIIème siècle (May 23 to June 26, 1927) (Cat. 5; catalogue by E. Dacier and P. Ratouis de Limay)
  • Galerie Charpentier, Paris, May 23 to June 26, 1927
Carmontelle's Transparency: An 18th Century Motion Picture (2000) (March 14 to May 28, 2000) (Cat. 5; catalogue by E. Dacier and P. Ratouis de Limay)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), March 14 to May 28, 2000
Posing for Posterity: Portrait Drawings from the Collection (October 30, 2001 to January 20, 2002) (Cat. 5; catalogue by E. Dacier and P. Ratouis de Limay)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), October 30, 2001 to January 20, 2002
Carmontelle's Transparency: An 18th Century Motion Picture (March 14 to June 18, 2006) (Cat. 5; catalogue by E. Dacier and P. Ratouis de Limay)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), March 14 to June 18, 2006