Completed Continental European before 1800, Dress and Textiles, Continental European after 1800 34 Is anything more known about this painting? Is it a copy of a tapestry?

Topic: Subject or sitter

The subject is Louis XIV as Alexander the Great:

This looks like a copy of a tapestry and, indeed, Gobelins did produce a series of 'The History of Alexander' (designed by Charles Le Brun) using Louis' image though I have not been able to find a hanging corresponding to this.

Any further information would be welcome.

Al Brown, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The conclusion reached is that this painting is not a copy of a tapestry, but after a watercolour and gouache painting on vellum in the collection of the Musée Carnavalet, Paris, which is itself after a lost original by Pierre Mignard. The artist record has been updated to ‘after Pierre Mignard’ and the title to ‘Louis XIV as a Roman Emperor’. It has been dated ‘probably late 18th C–19th C’.

Thank you to all those who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing it for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


Osmund Bullock,

Oh no - it's cut that off too! We have been saying for a long time that this website has problems with certain types of link web addresses - I hope it will be sorted out before too long. Meanwhile I'll do a Bitly version which should work:

This looks like a cabinet miniature painted in watercolour or bodycolour on vellum, stuck on board. It would be well worth investigating the literature on late 17thc French miniaturists. (Writes Dr Stephen Lloyd, Curator of the Derby Collection, Knowsley Hall, Merseyside).

Magdalena Lanuszka,

It seems it may come from "Les Campagnes de Louis XIV. Campagne du Roy pendant l'année M.DC.LXXVI" (The Campaigns of Louis XIV. The King's Campaign during the Year 1676), after 1678, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Manuscripts Department, Western Section, Fr. 7892. Sadly, I can't find this manuscript at, so I can't check it on-line.

Douglas Dodds,

According to the Scholars Resource website, the Musée Carnavalet seems to have a similar image:

it's described as a portrait of Louis XIV, French School, 1638. I couldn't find it on the museum's own website, but it might be worth checking with them direct. The image may also be available from Bridgeman.

Martin Hopkinson,

The date attached to the Musee Carnavelet image must be of the birth of Louis XIV, or a mistranscription on 1683

Osmund Bullock,

Al, that link doesn't work either, I'm afraid. The easiest way to get round the technical deficiencies of this site when trying to post many types of link is to go here . Insert the full URL in the box and it will give you a mini-version ready to copy and paste. And they do work - every time, in my experience. They also make for a neater post!

Douglas Dodds,

I'm guessing the Scholars Resource date was meant to say 1683. I did wonder if their record is completely wrong and it's actually the Bradford image. Either way, worth checking with the Carnavalet

Osmund Bullock,

Thanks for that link, Al.

Magdalena is quite right - the similar Wikimedia image is in fact a crop of one of the pictures illustrating the manuscript book she mentioned, "Les Campagnes de Louis XIV. Campagne du Roy pendant l'année M.DC.LXXVI", that's in the French Bibliothèque nationale. It is available on Gallica, but a little tricky to find: . Click on the 'i' symbol on the left for more info, though there's little there (not even size) – and the zoom button is just below it. The book is the second of four similar volumes relating the history of the King's campaigns in the Low Countries 1675-78. The third (1677) volume contains another portrait of Louis as a general/emperor, but equestrian: . More of that in a minute. There's also a C19th print after the 1676 one, of which Bridgeman has an image:

The Musée Carnavalet version is viewable online here: . There is little detail given other than its size, 24.3 x 16.2 cm – very close to that of our (Bradford) version. A different website where it also appears gives the medium, which is watercolour and gouache. There’s no way of giving a direct link for it, you have to search from the homepage here: . Put “Louis XIV en imperator” in the box and it will come up. No date of 1638 or 1683 is mentioned on either site, though the latter may in fact not be far off.

The two versions are quite distinct, with many differences in composition and colouring, and it is clear that ours is a fairly lacklustre copy of the Caravalet version, not of the miniature in the manuscript book. The latter is very finely painted, and I feel sure is the earlier image. The background shows a river and a quite detailed view of (presumably) one of the many towns in the Low Countries besieged by Louis. But even more significantly, this image shows Louis with a relatively low-rise hairdo/wig and sporting a little moustache – as he looked in the 1660s/70s, rather Charles II-like, in fact. The Carnavalet version, on the other hand, removes the moustache and gives him a more bouffant hairstyle, and he also looks older – so certainly later, probably 1680s/90s (when Louis was back at war). The picture shape is narrower, and the landscape has become hilly and generalized, with an unconvincing castle on top. It does seem quite possible that this version derives from an adaptation of the original image for a tapestry, though like Al I cannot find one resembling it. Incidentally, other than Wikipedia I’ve not seen any suggestion that Louis is shown as Alexander – all the French cataloguing of this and the equestrian image mentioned above (which follows a full-size original of 1674/75 by Pierre Mignard) describes them as showing the King as a Roman (emperor).

Jacinto Regalado,

This might be by (or rather more likely after, given the relative crudity) Joseph Werner the Younger (1637-1710), a Swiss painter active in Paris in the 1660s, where his portrait miniatures in mythological guise were well received. He is known to have painted Louis XIV as Apollo (two such portraits are now at Versailles, but I have not seen images).

One of the Versailles images can be found here:

Not my period or school, but judging by the style, subjects, formats, colours and details such as foreground vegetation, images online make Jacinto Regalado's suggestion seem very convincing. As he says, 'after' rather than 'by', but it would be great to identify the original.

Osmund Bullock,

I’ve covered some of this before in a long post above. But Jacinto’s introduction of the name of Joseph Werner is a most interesting idea, and it would be splendid if he were indeed part of the equation. However, for reasons that will become apparent, I fear he cannot be.

The immediate source for the Bradford picture under discussion is the rather later (1680s/90s) Musée Carnavalet watercolour / gouache version ( ) of the miniature in the Bibliothèque Nationale book of the Campaign of 1676 ( ). The latter is of the highest quality, and having now looked online at many images of works by or attributed to Werner, he seems prima facie a very plausible candidate for its authorship. There are in fact nine at Versailles (including those already mentioned): . And one of them (a recent purchase) shows Louis XIV in a very similar style and dress, and is of similar date, to the BN work. But although previously attributed to Werner, Versailles have downgraded it to C17th French ‘anonyme’, and the problem they have is presumably the same problem we have: the image of the King, like the BN books, undoubtedly dates from the 1670s, when Werner was no longer at Louis’s court.

All the sources I can find state that Werner was only in Paris from 1662 till 1666 or 1667 (though one lot sold at Sothebys suggests he was still there in 1668 – perhaps a misreading of ’63?). He married in 1667 at Augsburg and made his base there for the next 15 years, travelling around southern Germany and Austria fulfilling numerous important known commissions. I can see no French work from the 1670s or after – the 1680 allegory of the marriage of the Dauphin with the Princess of Bavaria was for German clients. So unless he made an unrecorded return to Paris, this would seem to rule him out. I suppose the miniatures for the books could have been ordered at a distance – but this seems unlikely since the equestrian one is a faithful copy of Pierre Mignard’s well-known work of c1674-5, a French royal commission (with a bit added later to the LHS): .

I suspect that ours may ultimately also derive from an original painting by Mignard, now lost, but that’s for another post.

Jacinto Regalado,

Versailles has two portraits of Louis XIV in Roman dress listed as "after Mignard," links here:

It also has this painting of Monsieur, the duc d'Orleans, which is by Mignard and from 1677:

Christie's sold this Louis XIV portrait by a "follower of Mignard":

Evidently, Mignard did paint a portrait of Louis XIV which was very similar to the Bradford image and which could well have been the original source image, but I suspect that original Mignard may no longer exist or may be "untraced."

Kieran Owens,

If painted after the year 1687, both the Bradford and the Musée Carnavalet paintings would appear to be based on the statue, from that same year, of Louis XIV as a Roman Emperor, by the French sculptor Charles Antoine Coysevox (1640 - 1720), which was commissioned at the time by the municipality of Paris for the courtyard of the Hotel de Ville and which is now in the courtyard of the Musée Carnavalet in Paris:

This Coysevox statue in turn might have ben inspired by the statue of Louis XIV by Jean Varin/Warin (1607 - 1672), which still stands in the Salon de Venus, at the Château de Versailles:

The Library of Congress has also featured the work that appeared in the "Les Campagnes de Louis XIV. Campagne du Roy pendant l'année M.DC.LXXVI (The Campaigns of Louis XIV. The King's Campaign during the Year 1676)" here:

As Martin Hopkinson pointed out a year ago, the Scholars Resource website reference (see above) to the painting in the Musée Carnavalet collection as being "a portrait of Louis XIV, French School, 1638", seems a little absurd, given that 1638 was the year in which he was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye and also given that he only started his reign as king in 1643.

Given that Jean Varin died in 1672, and the image in "Les Campagnes de Louis XIV...." refers to 1676, it would be logical to assume that Varin's was the earlier version of the idea of depicting the King as a Roman Emperor.

Varin and Louis XIV were well known to each other from as early as 1654, as is explained here:

Kieran Owens,

It might also be worth referring to the Trafalgar Square statue of James II, from the workshop of Grinling Gibbons, from 1686, which bears many of the same features of both the Bradford and the Musée Carnavalet paintings and the above-mentioned sculptures by Varin (pre-1672) and Coysevox (1687). It could well be that Gibbons was influenced by the Varin's work and that he in turn influenced the work by Coysevox:

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Jacinto Regalado,

As Osmund previously noted, it seems clear that the Bradford picture is a copy of a watercolor and gouache image of Louis XIV as a Roman emperor in the Musée Carnavalet from the last quarter of the 17th century, based on a presumed original which had appeared ca. 1676 in an illustrated chronicle of Louis's military campaigns. That does not establish with certainty when the Bradford version was made, but given its relatively low quality, it probably does not merit further investigation.

Kieran Owens,

The NICE Paintings description of this work states that "William Wordsworth's first son was called John". John Gordon Wordsworth (1913 - 1995), who gifted this work to Bradford Museums in 1948, was the great, great grandson of the poet William Wordsworth. William's eldest son, by his wife Mary Hutchinson, was the Reverend John Wordsworth (1803 - 1875), who was the father of Captain John Wordsworth (1837 - 1927), who in turn was the father of Reverend Christopher William Wordsworth (1879 - 1965), who in his turn was the father of the donor, John Gordon Wordsworth. It would be very interesting to know how and when the painting came into the Wordsworth family's possession.

In addition to the various paintings found so far for this discussion, the following, attributed to the above-mentioned Joseph Werner, can be seen on the Tajan auction website, from a sale in March 2015:

It is described as being 14,5cm x 11cm, on vellum.

Kieran Owens,

And surely every work by an unknown hand or of an unidentified or mis-titled subject on the ArtUK website is worthy of the fullest investigation, no matter how high or low the initial assessment of its quality seems to be. Is unravelling these mysteries not the whole point of the Art Detective effort? Already, in this discussion's case, Bradford Museums & Galleries can now change the title to a more precise description of the work. Perhaps they might also believe that there is still some merit in knowing who it is by, especially as it seems to have come to them though such an illustrious family connection.

Jacinto Regalado,

Kieran, I was expressing my personal opinion with regard to this particular piece, which is obviously not binding on ArtUK or anyone who disagrees with me. Certainly, anyone who wishes to pursue further research is quite free to do so, though there are numerous worthier candidates (again, in my opinion).

The Wordsworth family connection does add, potentially, greater interest to this piece, though it does not affect its intrinsic artistic merit or lack thereof. In other words, the possibility that the poet William Wordsworth might have acquired it, and how, and why, is far more interesting, to me, than the identity of the copyist who made it or exactly when it was made.

Osmund Bullock,

Kieran, the miniature sold at Tajan is the 'c.1673' portrait of Louis XIV now at Versailles ("a recent purchase") that I discussed in my last post a year ago. As I mentioned, although previously attributed to Werner, Versailles have downgraded it to ‘Anonyme France XVIIe siècle - not least because even the early 1670s is too late for Werner, who had left France for Germany well before the end of the 1660s.

There is much more detail now on the Gallica website re the Bibliothèque nationale de France's version: (click on 'i' top left). Jean Cotelle is now credited with some of the book's illuminations - well, one at least, which is signed by him: . The 'Louis XIV as Roman emperor' one, however, looks to by a different (and better) hand than the signed vignette. The BNF agree that the former (and thus ours, at several removes) is after a lost original by Pierre Mignard.

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, sorry - it worked all right a year ago, but the collection has just acquired another Werner (or Werner type), making ten instead of the nine then...and that seems to have bumped the one in question down the order. I realized this when writing last night, but for some reason was unable to make a bitly link that worked for the correct one. Since the link I gave at the same time for the whole group ( ) still seems OK, I thought I'd abandon my quest for perfection and get some sleep instead!

Jacinto Regalado,

Even if this discussion remains open, enough information has been uncovered for the listing by both Bradford and ArtUK to be substantially expanded and improved upon, or so it seems to me.

I believe that this interesting discussion has reached the convincing conclusion that this is Louis XIV, after a gouache in the the Musée Carnavalet, which itself is nprobably after a lost painting by Pierre Mignard. So could be described as 'After Pierre Mignard'.

Jacinto Regalado,

I think this discussion has been effectively addressed successfully and may be officially closed.

One question only: allowing this is a copy (or copy of a copy), does anything suggest a likely date it may have been done: i.e. is it likely to be late-17th century or to perhaps as late as c. 1800?

Jacinto Regalado,

I would favor 17th century, Pieter, but that is obviously an opinion, not a substantiated fact.

Fair enough: but if someone told me it was a 1920s pastiche I might accept that as well. When I first saw the image I thought of Rex Whistler...

Osmund Bullock,

I think it's likely to be later - late C18th at the earliest, probably 19th Century and possibly 20th as you say, Pieter; but without closer examination (and even perhaps with it), it's hard to be sure.

The support for the Carnavalet version (the immediate source for the Bradford copy) is not given, and could be paper or vellum. There is a slight wonkiness in the (painted) border/framing that looks more like vellum**, but old paper can go the same way. It is certainly old, though. A closely-zoomable version of it can be found via this link (a direct one is not possible): - you should choose Musée Carnavalet in the first search box, and insert 'louis xiv en imperator' in the second.

The Bradford version is on paper (according to its NICE entry); and though there is no painted border to help, there seems at this resolution to be a blandness of execution, and a curious lack of flaws and tonal changes by comparison - for me it's all too even for a watercolour / gouache that has survived from the C17th. I note, too, that the NICE entry suggests a date between 1800 & 1900 (though the writer was apparently unable to see it in the flesh). It would be good to see a higher-res image and ideally a view of the rear label(s), one of which has clearly been misread in part.

I think, too, there are hints in the way the faces are portrayed of a later date. A comparison of the two heads can be seen in the attachments below (Carnavalet left, Bradford right). My feeling is that in the Bradford copy the king's features have been prettified somewhat - I can't see it being pre-romanticism. And the boy's face and cocked head looks suspiciously C19th. Copyists often unconsciously reveal something of their own time in their work - in the same way, a TV/film drama set in the C18th/19th but made in the 1960s or 70s usually shrieks of those decades in style of hair and clothing (especially the women's), despite the designers' best efforts to make it all look authentically period.

**EDIT: the current 'detailed information' entry for the the Bibliothèque nationale de France's earlier version mentions the Canavelet one and says it is indeed on vellum: (click on 'i' top left)