The solemn entry of Louis XIV and Marie-Thérèse into the city of Douai on August 23, 1667
Workshop of Adam-François van der Meulen (Brussels, 1632 - Paris, 1690)
Oil on canvas, h. 62 cm, w. 80cm
Louis XIV period frame in gilded wood and richly carved with foliage and scrolls "à la Berain"
Framed dimensions: h. 83 cm, w. 100cm
Our remarkable painting illustrates the surrender of Douai, the solemn entry of the king and the royal family but also - for propaganda purposes - one of the highlights of the War of Devolution (1667-1668), the first of the great wars of the young sovereign.
The event represented corresponds to an episode of the Flanders campaign of 1667, in which the king himself took part: on July 6, 1667, the city of Douai surrendered to the French armies after a four-day siege. The king, who was at the head of his troops, then went to fetch Queen Marie-Thérèse at Compiègne to show her this conquest made in her name and to make a solemn entry into the Flemish city. Van der Meulen captures the moment immediately before entering the city, when the magistrates of the city come to testify to their submission before the ramparts.
At the center of the composition, Queen Marie-Thérèse appears at the door of a richly decorated ceremonial carriage, accompanied by ladies from her entourage. The procession stopped in front of the Porte d'Arras, one of the entrances to the city of Douai - you can see the belfry and the tower of the Saint-Pierre church in the background. A group of aldermen dressed in black kneel before her, to pay homage to their overlord and hand her the keys to the city. This central scene is framed by horsemen in the foreground, and fits into a colorful military crowd in the background.
Surrounded by his generals (some of whom are armored), to the left of the carriage, the king rides a brown horse. Hat with red feathers, he is dressed in a ceremonial jerkin embroidered with gold, girds the white sash of the military command and, with his right hand, leans on a cane. His posture facing the spectator, and towards which all his entourage turns, completes his identification as the sovereign.
In the background the city of Douai stands out against a blue sky with scattered clouds dominated by the smoke of the guns, indicating that the siege is over. Partially ruined ramparts welcome many spectators, as does the access bridge to the city. A few flames rise in the distance, to the left. Only the spears and a few emblematic monuments of the Flemish city break with the horizontal arrangement of the composition.
The richness of court costumes and toilets contrasts with the images of war in the background, transforming a military event into a scene of curial life in .
It is known that Van der Meulen had made a trip to Flanders in the year 1667, to become acquainted with the local topographical and urban characteristics. The scene depicted in our painting is a highly political event on the part of the young sovereign who, in order to claim Spanish provinces, organized there an honor offered to this city, in the person of the Queen of France Marie-Thérèse of Spain, daughter of their former master Philip IV, who inherited the rights to the reconquered territories from his father.
The cause of the war was the respective claims of Louis XIV and Emperor Leopold I regarding the inheritance of their common father-in-law, King Philip IV of Spain. A summer campaign was launched by the King of France towards the Spanish Netherlands in May 1667: Charleroi, Ath, Tournai and finally Douai on July 7 fell within a month.
Wonderfully surrounded by the great artists Charles Le Brun and Adam Frans van der Meulen, the king decided on an iconographic program celebrating this military campaign and chose tapestry for this purpose. Among the many subjects chosen for the tapestry of 'l'Histoire du Roy, five relate to events of the War of Devolution. After the siege of Tournai, the second episode represented is that of the siege of Douai which took place on July 4, 1667. There were therefore two subjects chosen for Douai: the capture of the city but also the solemn entry of August 23, to which a drawing by Le Brun and van der Meulen is kept at Versailles. The tapestry of this episode having never been woven - no doubt because Colbert judged that it duplicated the capture of the city on July 7, 1667 - our painting constitutes a precious testimony of this royal commission for which workshop replicas with variants are known.
• Oil on canvas, 63 x 81 cm, Versailles, National Palace Museum, inv. MV 5906.
• Oil on canvas, 61.8 x 93 cm, Paris, Dutch Institute, Custodia Foundation, larger composition with additional details left and right (inv. 3595)
• Oil on canvas, 74 x 92 cm, Douai, Musée de la Chartreuse, composition in the same frame as that of Versailles
• Oil on canvas, 65 x 82 cm. Artcurial sale, June 16, 2020