Eleven of the large engravings produced for the Cabinet du Roi, at the direction of Louis XIV, cataloguing his treasures. The works in this set are formed by three separate recognized works. Included are:
1. The seven prints forming Le Grand Escalier de Versailles, the art being engraved and printed by Etienne Baudet after the art at the top of the Versailles Grand Staircase, attributed to Charles le Brun. The first leaf is designed as a plaque, explaining the work, and was by Claude Auguste Berey.
2. One print of the still extant Versailles painting La Franche Comte by le Brun; this engraving is by Charles Simonneau.
3. Three engravings of the ceiling paintings of Pierre Mignard in the Petite Galerie (Louis XIV's private rooms). These engravings executed by Gerard Audran.
Together, eleven impressive engravings.
The presentation of the engravings in this volume is excellent, the plates edges are at the gutter, allowing the full plate to be shown on the recto (right); lesser (smaller) copies bind the plates at the center to reduce the size of the volume (the plates then display across the opened book).
Unfortunately the binding is quite degraded, but it does still wear a royal emblem at the center of the front board. This collection of prints was often gifted by the King (more below).
About the Work -
In extreme brief, Louis XIV hired Charles Le Brun to orchestrate the building and decoration of the Palace at Versailles. When the work neared completion, Louis XIV hired engravers to document the treasures, art and architecture of Versailles, over a course of forty years, and would gift these prints to other nobles. As a whole, the collection of prints is known as the Cabinet du Roi (the Kings Cabinet). In 1727 all the plates were gathered, and a complete edition of 23 volumes printed.
On the 17th of June, 2022 Christie's sold an incomplete set of eight volumes for 403,200 Euros.
The French Wikipedia states, "The Cabinet du Roi is an artistic and political tool for the dissemination through prints of the 'magnificence' and 'glory' of France's King Louis XIV... It includes 956 engravings, all executed by the most talented engravers of their time at the request of the king. A collection entitled Le Cabinet du Roi, published in 1727 brings together all the prints (23 volumes)."
Georges Duplessis produced a reference to the Cabinet du Roi in 1869. Regarding these eleven (and a handful of other plates), on page 15 he notes (translated), "One often finds united in one volume the following plates which do not, to tell the truth, form a homogeneous whole, but which, before taking their place in the great collection, accompanied the series of volumes which the King offered as a gift."
In his listings of the plates, he does break them down, noting the seven Escalier plates go together, the single engraving of the painting stands alone, and the three plates of ceiling paintings go together. A handful of other misc. prints are sometimes found with these.
In renovations to Versailles, in 1752, all of the art modelled in the 7 Escalier plates, and the three works of art in Louis XIV's private rooms, were destroyed, leaving these prints as the only record of their existence. Of these prints, only the Franche-Comte painting remains in Versailles.
Bibliographic Details -
Worldcat catalogue number 145875348 records Le Grand Escalier at The Getty Research Institute, and Princeton University Library. The catalogue notes -
"The suite consists of a title page and six prints reproducing the four corners and two side portions of the ceiling. Each print includes several lines of explanatory text engraved in calligraphy by Claude-Auguste Berey. The text identifies the allegorical figures and emblems representing the four continents of Asia, America, Europe, and Africa, the allegorical representations of months, virtues, and arts, and the mythological figures of Apollo and the muses Clio, Polymnie (Polyhymnia), and Melpomene."
National Gallery of Victoria also has a set of Le Grand Escalier and the three bedroom ceiling paintings. Ascension number P. 183.47-1
OCLC Worldcat number 39550065, Tableaux de la Voute... also found at The Frick, New York.
In the Autumn Princeton University Library Chronicle, there's a lengthy piece, The Grand Escalier at the Chateau de Versailles: The Monumental Staircase and Its Edges by Carolyn Yerkes, which discusses these seven prints in great detail.
Regarding the Mignard painting, Apollon... , Princeton University's catalogue notes: Pierre Mignard, the chief rival of Charles Le Brun, had to wait until the death of Le Brun’s protector Colbert in 1683 before he too could paint at Versailles. In 1685, he was chosen to decorate the ceiling of the Petite Galerie, situated above the vestibule of the Ambassadors’ Staircase. The room was part of the king’s private apartments and home to a great number of famous works of art (most of which are now in the Louvre). As the centerpiece of the vault, Mignard painted this mythological composition celebrating the royal patronage of arts and sciences. The “genius of France” is represented with the traits of Louis XIV’s then 3-year-old grandson, the duke of Burgundy.
The Victoria and Albert Museum has a copy of the Escalier, and they write that the original copperplates are in the Chalcographie du Louvre (Angoulvent 1007-1013).
On the 20th of February 2019 Christie's sold a set of Le Grand Escalier, with 15 other plates of paintings, for 5,000 euros. These plates were mounted at their center.
Physical Attributes -
The binding measures approx. 80 x 56 x 2.5 cm. Extremely worn and dry rotted leather over pasteboards. Royal emblem at center of front board.
Leaves without folds measure approximately 79.8 (height) x 55.5 cm. According to sizing guides, this would qualify as an Atlas Folio, although many of the bibliographies refer to it as a "Grand" folio.
L'Europe folds out to approximately 64 cm. L'Amerique folds out to approximately 67 cm. Tableaux de la Voute... folds out to approx. 61 cm.
See pictures. Binding is gone. The leather is dry and leaves marks wherever it touches. The boards are held on by the cords and those are only poorly tacked together. But, it is held together as a book unit. A rebinding might be in order, but you'd lose the royal emblem on the front board (which will eventually disappear anyway). Joints/hinges entirely cracked.
Binder's blank endpapers with foxing spots.
Some thumbing throughout, especially along fore-edge of papers, mostly marginal. A little ghosting of plates to facing leaf. 1st engraved leaf with two ink spots bottom margin; same following two leaves. 1 cm tear fore-edge l'Afrique. Top corner of all leaves bumped with crease (dog-eared, even if folded back flat). Some of the larger plates have a crease at middle, likely folded before they were bound into this binding. France center crease with patch on rear of leaf at edge (no text). Last two leaves (Secret et Mercure) with two patches to rear to fix small tears, circa 1-2".
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