Du Barry and the Louveciennes Panels

In 1769 Louis XV gifts Madame du Barry with the Louveciennes, a chateau on the Seine northwest of Paris. Under the direction of the architect, Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, she builds a pavillion where she will entertain her beloved king.

Conceived as a set of wall-sized oil paintings, the Louveciennes Panels were originally commissioned from Jean-Honore Fragonard to illustrate the Progress of Love, i.e. the friendship and love Du Barry shares with the king. Unfortunately for Du Barry and Fragonard, death claims Louis XV in 1774 before final completion of the project.  The paintings now serve as a painful reminder of the affair.  Du Barry rejects them and replaces the panels with works on the same theme by Joseph-Marie Vien.

Louveciennes Blueprint

Fragonard’s Progress of Love was considered contemporar and vivacious, imbued with love’s greatest impulses.  On the contrary, Vien’s  similarly titled work Progress of Love in the Hearts of Young Girls features classical temples as the backdrop and creatures of sentimental love in antiquated costumes.   Compared to Fragonard’s lush conception of courtship, this was a sedate love, a deadened love without meaning or passion.  Du Barry, suffering the pains of her recent loss, must have felt so.

The Greek Maidens Adorning a Sleeping Cupid, Joseph-Marie Vien

The Lover Crowning His Mistress, Joseph-Marie Vien

Interesting fact:  Madame du Barry was arrested at Louveciennes in 1793 before the Revolution took her to the guillotine.

Come back tomorrow for the story of Fragonard’s Progress of Love, including their current location in Chateau Louveciennes!

2 thoughts on “Du Barry and the Louveciennes Panels

  1. Thank you — this is helpful actually. I am rating a paper on Fragonard and could use the other two images of Vien’s series — do you have those available as well? It would be great to see the series in comparison as well.

    1. For the Progress series, I believe the two from the Louvre (cupid and crowned) complete Vien’s work on the subject. I’d love to be of further help but unfortunately I don’t have any other of Vien’s series on hand. A google search might turn them up though!

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