Offered by Galerie Léage
French furniture of the 18th century
This small rectangular painting, in embossed pewter foil, enhanced with gold, silver and watercolor, is representing a view of the Palais Bourbon, which today holds the Assemblée Nationale. On the foreground, the Seine is embellished with barks, located right before the riverfront, and is overlooked by a garden composed of beddings, which continues on the central part and thus forms an axis slightly off centered of the composition. On each side, the two single-story “Italian” facades of the Palais Bourbon on the left, and the Hôtel de Lassay on the right, appear before the multiple courts, arranged in the years preceding this work of Compigné. Indeed, even though the Palais Bourbon and the Hôtel de Lassay were both built between 1722 and 1728, wings were added from 1768 on the demand of the Prince Louis-Joseph de Bourbon- Condé. They were added around the court of the Palais Bourbon, stretching on to the West behind the Hôtel de Lassay in small apartments. Their extremities, in hemicycle, are clearly visible on the right side of the Compigné.
In the background, the neighborhood of la plaine Saint-Germain, is not very built yet, but one can clearly distinguish the gold outline, characteristic of the dome of the Invalides, built between 1671 and 1706 by the architect Liberal Bruant, and on the right the buildings of the École Militaire, then in construction (1751-1780).
The overall of the composition is animated by small characters navigating on boats, wandering around the quais de Seine or the gardens, others passing by the courts of the private mansions. All the subtility of Compigné’s technique is deployed here, associating the polychromy of the watercolor with a subtle work of micro-engraving of the pewter plate, which underlines almost each detail of the elevation of the palaces, walls and boats or the shimmering effects of the Seine. The ensemble is enhanced with gold and silver, adding refinement and preciosity to the composition.
The Palais Bourbon and the Hôtel de Lassay
The Palais Bourbon and the Hôtel de Lassay were edified simultaneously, from 1722 to 1728, on the lands acquired by the Duchess of Bourbon, also called, Mademoiselle de Nantes. She was Louis XIV’s and Madame de Montespan’s legitimized daughter. She married Louis III of Bourbon-Condé, Duke of Bourbonnais and sixth Prince of Condé in 1720 but then gave a part of her lands to her lover, the Marquis de Lassay. Following the “Italian” architectural style, the two buildings were built on ground-floor between the court and the garden.
After the Duchess’ death, the palace was acquired by Louis XV who surrender it in 1764 to the Prince of Condé. He entrusted Antoine Matthieu Le Carpentier, and then Claude Billard Bélisard with an extensive expansion work: the Cour d’Honneur was surrounded by extended buildings on the West side to the Hôtel de Lassay, which was bought in 1768 by the Marquis’s heirs.
The small appartements leaning against the sheds and stables were built in 1771 et 1772 for Louise-Adelaïde, one of the Prince of Condé’s daughters. After her visit in 1784, Mrs of Oberkirch said about it: “It’s a jewel, Mr. The Prince of Condé made it the most beautiful trinket in the world.” The palace then had an extensive shape in the style of the Grand Trianon at Versailles and close to the Hôtel de Lassay, which were built simultaneously and to which it was soon attached by a gallery. It stayed in thee princes of Condé’s hands until the French Revolution. Under the Restoration, the Prince of Condé wanted to take over his property. He got the possession of the Hôtel de Lassay but was obliged to rent the palace transformed in a hemicyclic of the Deputy chambers “by a lease of 3 years”. The government finally became the owner of the Palais Bourbon in 1827 and of the Hôtel de Lassay in 1843.
Paintings in Compigné
Of great preciosity and variety of materials, the paintings in Compigné were made according to a mysterious process starting from a sheet of tortoiseshell or cardboard to which a pewter or gold leaf was applied. The surface could then be decorated with gold, silver, gouache, and colored varnishes. These “miniatures”, known today under the name of Compigné, had a great success in the 1760s.The small format, characteristic of this production, required to work in extreme precision, probably with the help of a magnifying glass, in order to develop the perfection of these technical details and colors.
Thomas Compigni probably arrived from Italy around 1750, and later on took the name Compigné when he settled in the shop Roi David, rue Greneta, in Paris. As a tabletier, he specialized in the manufacture and sale of boxes, knitting sets, draughts and chess sets, snuffboxes and other cane handles of blond tortoiseshell inlaid with gold. Renowned for the quality of his objects, he passed on to posterity through the production of precious paintings which technique remains unknown to that day. In 1773, he presented two views of the Château de Saint-Hubert to the King and obtained the title of “tabletier privilégié du Roi” under Louis XV and Louis XVI. His themes of predilection were most often views of towns, monuments and châteaux in the extension of park or landscape perspective. The ensembles were almost always animated by small characters.
Anita Semail, « Ces délicats chefs-d’œuvre de la tabletterie au XVIIIe siècle : Les Compigné et leurs créateurs », Plaisir de France, n° 427, mars 1975.
Ouvrage collectif, Compigné, peintre et tabletier du Roy, catalogue d’exposition., Grasse, Villa- Musée Jean-Honoré Fragonard, juin-juillet 1991.