Charles Le Brun. El restablecimiento de la navegación . Lápiz negro, tiza blanca, inscrito en un óvalo, cuadriculación a la sanguina e incisiones. 2,470 x 2,170m. Museu del Louvre © RMN-Grand Palais – Photo C. Chavan.
“In 1682, Louis XIV transferred the French court to Versailles. The artist Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) was responsible for planning this work, to which he applied an “orchestral” treatment, which involved the participation of hundreds of artisans and artists, the best from each discipline. Le Brun personally produced several pieces, including two particularly impressive compositions: the Staircase of the Ambassadors and the Hall of Mirrors, adorned by a series of mature paintings imbued with the most captivating beauty.
A little-known body of original material is conserved from this undertaking: the preparatory cartoons, which illustrate the final phase in the artist’s working process. The cartoons demonstrate Le Brun’s virtuosity as a draftsman, his talent for constructing scenes and his painstaking care, down to the last detail. The drawings include studies of characters, allegorical figures, trophies and animals that formed part of the artist’s compositions, conceived as a great symbolic jigsaw puzzle.
Such cartoons were commonly used between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, but few have reached our days. Those produced by Le Brun are the exception: three hundred and fifty cartoons in a store of three thousand drawings found at the artist’s studio, requisitioned and added to the royal collections after his death in 1690.
Over the past few years, the Graphic Arts Department of the Louvre Museum has carefully restored these drawings, enabling us to see them now for the first time in all their original splendour.
The exhibition Drawing Versailles. Studies and Cartoons of Charles Le Brun is the fruit of a strategic agreement between the Louvre Museum and ”la Caixa” Foundation. The purpose of this agreement is to bring to public attention artists, collections and periods in art history that are not represented in our galleries but which occupy eminent positions in the Louvre’s exhibition discourse.”