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Louis XVIII crowns the rosebush of Mittau. 1799.
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais
Publication date: March 2016
The memory of exile
Louis-Stanislas-Xavier, count of Provence and brother of Louis XVI, intelligent and ambitious, left France in June 1791, succeeding in crossing into Belgium while the king and Marie-Antoinette were arrested in Varennes. Having assumed the succession to the throne under the name of Louis XVIII on the death of his nephew Louis XVII in 1795, he endeavored to maintain around him the label of Versailles and an obsolete protocol which made the life of the city even more gloomy. exiled royal family and the small court of faithful gathered around it.
A clever piece of propaganda
Presented at the Salon of 1817, the painting is the subject of the following commentary in the booklet: "During the stay that S. M. Louis XVIII made at Mittaw [in 1799], this prince deigned to crown with his hand a rosebush. It is assured that the young virgin, after having bowed respectfully under the diadem of roses that the monarch placed on his forehead, said to him these prophetic words: "Sire, God restore you". The king pays homage to virtue by crowning a young virgin girl, who predicts him that he will take back the crown of her fathers: the allusion to the Restoration was transparent and obvious to the contemporary public. A difficult period in the sovereign's life was thus cleverly recalled in the form of a country scene, good-natured and almost family-oriented, but nevertheless with real political significance.
The anecdotal story
Tardieu’s painting is characteristic of an increasingly anecdotal conception of the representation of history, typical of the Restoration and the July monarchy. Louis XVIII crowns the rosebush of Mittau thus plays above all on the picturesque nature of a peasant assembly, in the tradition of the 18th century (which brings to mind the Russian scenes of the painter and engraver Leprince, then very fashionable). The costume and, above all, the architectural elements of the decor reinforce this aspect. But the essential thing is nevertheless the person of the king himself, surrounded by his relatives, such as the Duchess of Angoulême, Marie-Thérèse, daughter of Louis XVI, who had married her cousin, nephew of Louis XVIII and son of the count of 'Artois, future Charles X. Dressed in a red velvet civilian dress, with the blue cord of the Order of the Holy Spirit, Louis XVIII behaves here like his ancestor Henri IV: close to the people while keeping his dignity. This is one of the emblematic features of monarchical propaganda under the Restoration, which highlights the founder of the Bourbon branch, attempting to play on the unabated popularity of the "Vert-Galant". It should also be seen as one of the most profound influences of "troubadour" painting, whose subjects are limited to episodes from the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, but whose spirit invades and largely contaminates all of his painting. contemporary history.
- Louis XVIII
- rural life
Claire CONSTANS Les Peintures 2 vol., Paris, RMN, 1995.Francis DEMIER 19th century France Paris, Seuil, coll. "Points Histoire", 2000.François FURET The Revolution, 1780-1880 Paris, Hachette, 1988, reed. "Pluriel" collection, 1992.Evelyne LEVER Louis XVIII Paris, Fayard, 1988.Emmanuel de WARESQUIEL and Benoît YVERT History of the Restoration: birth of modern France Paris, Perrin, 1996.
To cite this article
Barthélemy JOBERT and Pascal TORRÈS, “Louis XVIII crowns the Mittau rosebush. 1799 "