Framed Dimensions:83 x 155 cm. (32 5/8 x 61 in.)
Provenance:Given by the king to his niece the duchesse de Berry (her sale, Drouot, 19 April 1865, lot 288); comtesse de la Châtre collection, Paris; private collection, Paris.
Manuscript letters of the artist, Archives Nationales, O 1399 (see below); Ruth Kaufmann, ”François Gérard’s Entry of Henry IV into Paris: The Iconography of Constitutional Monarchy”, Burlington Magazine, 117 (1975), p. 794, no. 7; Claire Constans, Versailles, la Galerie des Batailles, Paris, 1984, p.28.</p
New Orleans, Museum of Art; New York, Stair Sainty Matthiesen;
Cincinnati, Taft Museum, 1996-97, Romance and Chivalry, History and Literature Reflected in Early Nineteenth Century French Painting, catalogue no. 32, pp. 41, 69, 85, 100-101, 173-174, 259, fig. 72; Paris, Musée du Petit Palais, Paris Romantique 1815-1848, 22 May-15 Sept 2019, no. 231, pp. 160-161.</p
Further information:Related Works: Paris Salon of 1817, full-sized painting, now in the galerie des Batailles, Versailles; autograph replica of the Salon picture in the musée municipal des Beaux Arts, Chartres.
This bold and freely painted oil sketch for the full-sized painting exhibited at the Salon of 1817 (now in the Galerie des Batailles, Versailles), marks Gérard's move towards the Romantic style. He has adopted a more flamboyant manner than in his earlier, neo-classical compositions, closer in some ways to his contemporary Gros, while the subject follows the new fashion for modern history. It is discussed in a letter from Gérard in which he stated that, though he did not usually avail himself of preliminary oil sketches, he had felt it necessary in this instance because of the importance of the subject. Pradel had viewed our painting and proposed that it should be shown to the King, whereupon Gérard requested that he be present at the viewing, given that "il s'agit d'une composition très importante dont les idées sont à peine indiquées, je souhaiterai ardemment pour l'interêt même de l'ouvrage de pouvoir expliquer mes intentions, et recueillir les observations que sa Majesté daigneroit faire."
Gérard's most ambitious history subject, however, was the Entry of Henri IV into Paris in 1594, the first major commission of the Restoration monarchy, begun in November 1815 and completed in 1817. Henry IV's entry into Paris had marked the triumph of compromise (he had converted to Catholicism in 1593), the end of the wars of religion and the return to political stability with the establishment of the Bourbon dynasty. In the context of the post-Napoleonic Restoration, this painting became a potent symbol of the moderation and reconciliation promised by the new constitutional monarchy. Although Henri had been unpopular in his lifetime, despised by both Catholics and Protestants for his conversion for political advantage by the former and for his betrayal by the latter, the publication in 1661 of a panegyric on his life, L'Histoire du roy Henri le Grand, by Hardouin de Peréfixe, established a new mythology, further popularised by several new editions produced between 1816 and 1829. The Entry of Henri IV now replaced his own painting of the Battle of Austerlitz, sent to storage, until rehung on Louis-Philippe's orders in the redesigned Versailles, where newly created rooms were designed for a series of contemporary historical subjects (the Galerie des Batailles, where the Entry of Henri IV was eventually installed to hang among portrayals of French military triumphs and the Salles des Croisades, for paintings of the crusader period). The significance of the Entry of Henri IV was lost to no one and, in reviewing the finished painting, the official government newspaper went so far as to state that "nous ne savons si le peintre a représenté le passé ou le présent" (Moniteur Universel, 9 July 1817).
The bold and freely painted oil sketch for the full-sized painting (exhibited at the Salon of 1817) marks Gérard's most overt move towards the Romantic style. He has adopted a more flamboyant manner than in his earlier, neo-classical compositions, closer in some ways to Gros, while the subject follows the new fashion for modern history. It is discussed in a letter from Gérard[i] in which he wrote that although he did not usually avail himself of preliminary oil sketches of the full composition, he had felt it necessary in this instance because of the importance of the subject. The comte de Pradel proposed that the sketch be shown to the King, whereupon Gérard requested that he be present at the viewing, given that "il s'agit d'une composition très importante dont les idées sont à peine indiquées, je souhaiterai ardemment pour l'intérêt même de l'ouvrage de pouvoir expliquer mes intentions, et recueillir les observations que sa Majesté daignerait faire."[ii]
In armour and upon his white horse, the King is welcomed by the Provost of the Merchants, L'Hullier, who presents him with the keys to the city. He is accompanied on his right by his comrade in arms, the maréchal de Cossé-Brissac, governor of Paris, saluting him with his hat, Crillon holding the flag with the fleur de lys and the maréchal de Sully, duc de Bethune, the Cardinal de Retz, the maréchal de Biron, (in shadow, as he was later to betray the king) and the maréchal duc de Montmorency, leader of the Catholic League (ancestor of Mathieu de Montmorency, a leader of the Ultras, emphasising the reconciliation of both left and right). In the foreground, on the left of the composition, appears the loyal Néret with his two sons, who had fought for Henry and opened the gates of the city; immediately behind him a standard-bearer embraces a citizen, expressing the joyous reconciliation of a divided nation - a reference to Bonaparte's soldiers returning to a life of peace. Further to the left a war widow, dressed in black, gives thanks - a parallel reference to the loss of so many lives in Napoleon's wars. On the right of the composition, the maréchal de Matignon on horseback brandishes his sword; next to him, Saint-Luc d'Epinay urges a Leaguer to face the King. In the distance, one can see the Porte Neuve where the King had entered the city and the unfinished Petite Galerie (now Galerie d'Apollon) of the Louvre, whose reconstruction was interrupted by the civil war. To demonstrate that Henri was a monarch with the feelings and desires of more ordinary men, the king's mistress Gabrielle d'Estrées, who was certainly not present, is depicted on the balcony on the right side.
The anecdotal character does not obscure the symbol of national reconciliation that this painting represented for Louis XVIII as much as later for Louis-Philippe, who was keen to emphasise his descent from Henry IV to provide some legitimacy for his usurpation of the crown. The painting was an immediate and lasting success, exuberantly praised by artists, critics and the king himself. It was engraved by Toschi and inspired numerous treatments of the subject by other artists. Gérard himself executed a reduced version, now in the musée municipal in Chartres. This sketch was acquired from Gérard and given by the king to his niece, the duchess of Berry, daughter-in-law of the future King Charles X and one of the principal patrons of artists painting modern history subjects. The reverse of the canvas bears a stamp in red: Galerie de SAR Madame/Duchesse de Berry, surmounted by a royal crown. The label of the same collection is affixed to the stretcher.
[i]April 2nd, 1816, to the Comte de Pradel, Director General of the Maison du Roi.
[ii] Ruth Kaufmann, "François Gérard's Entry of Henry IV into Paris: The Iconography of Constitutional Monarchy", Burlington Magazine, 117 (1975), p. 794, no. 7.