Love of Virtue by François Lemoyne

François Lemoyne, 1688-1737
Study of a head for Love of Virtue in The Apotheosis of Hercules, circa 1733,
Pastel, trois crayons and stump blending on formerly blue paper, © château de Versailles, France

The Doors of the Versailles Exhibition… Drawings for Versailles, 20 years of Acquisitions… closed for the interested visitors, but the preparatory drawing of a head for the Love of Virtue by François Lemoyne has become a favourite! The exhibition displayed acquisitions that have joined the Palace of Versailles Graphic Arts Department over the last 20 years. On display, in Madame de Maintenon’s apartments, visitors were able to admire pastels, gouaches, watercolours, and other works that are often kept in storage because of their great fragility. Portraits and scenes from life at court, such as Louis XIV portrayed as a Roman emperor or Charles Perrault drawn by Charles Le Brun, plans, architectural drawings, and preparatory sketches for the major painted decors of the Palace of Versailles were on display and greatly admired! The visitors traveled through four centuries of graphic creation, discovering a Versailles as envisioned by great artists like Charles Le Brun, Charles de la Fosse, François Lemoyne, Richard Mique, Jacques Gondoin, and Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer… a place of great wonders!

Around 1733, while François Lemoyne was painstakingly working for the Apotheosis of Hercules ceiling decoration of the Versailles Hercules Room, a small preparatory drawing of a head for the Love of Virtue was quickly drawn… and if I may humbly say, the finesse of French Baroque Art turning to Rococo comes to fruition.

The Hercules Room-View of the Ceiling and the Paolo Veronese Painting of the Feast in the House of Simon, Palace of Versailles’Hercule_(24302264315).jpg

Part of the King’s (Louts IV 1638-1715) State Apartment, the Hercules Room was lavishly decorated in the Italian-style with exceptional marble wall paneling, splendid chimney bronzes, a monumental painting by the Venetian Paolo Veronese depicting the Feast in the House of Simon and the largest painted ceiling, representing the Apotheosis of Hercules by François Lemoyne. The decoration of the Hercules Room initiated in 1712, was interrupted by the death of Louis XIV in 1715; it resumed in 1729 and was completed in 1736. The Hercules Room is undoubtedly one of the finest in the palace. and

The Room’s pièce de resistance is Lemoyne’s Apotheosis of Hercules. This vast, impressive, allegorical work, depicting no fewer than 142 persons, can be considered on a par with masterpieces by Italian fresco painters. It was created, however, using the marouflage technique, that is the scenes were painted on canvas and then stuck onto the ceiling. When the painting was finally cleaned and restored in 2000 the composition’s drama and bright colours were justly revealed and the room was once more lit up enhancing the other great exhibited masterpiece, the Renaissance monumental painting of the Feast in the House of Simon by Paul Veronese.

François Lemoyne was a hard-working and ambitious artist of the early 18th century, aspiring to be seen as the new Charles Le Brun. He was admired by his contemporaries for covering vast spaces with bold mythological scenes, graceful figures, and elegant, pastel colours. In 1728, he was awarded a royal commission to paint the ceiling of the Hercules Room at Versailles, at à ciel ouvert style. The Apotheosis of Hercules painting (finished in 1736) received unanimous praise, Voltaire complimented the artist’s talent, and Lemoyne was appointed 1st painter of King Louis XV. It was a short triumph. Six months later, Lemoyne committed suicide exhausted by work, court intrigue at Versailles, the death of his wife, and psychological instability.  

For a PowerPoint on François Lemoyne, please… Check HERE!

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