The auction at Drouot
in Paris with De Baecque & Associés on 20 November 2019, will be an opportunity to give back to its sitter, Paul Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain (1569-1621), his rightful place in the history of France. This minister to King Henri IV was able to stabilize power after the assassination of the king and to maintain peace in the kingdom. Scientiﬁc and technical analyses, as well as important archival research undertaken by the experts of Sculpture et Collection have allowed for the attribution of this exceptional cast to Francesco Bordoni (1574-1654), an artist of Italian origin who became the ofﬁcial sculptor to the king of France. This beautiful cast, at once theatrical and embodying the values of moral rectitude and humility of its model, has been conserved by the descendants of Paul Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain for 400 years.
« The ﬁrst time that I saw the bust was during the course of an inventory in a private country home. It seemed too beautiful to be true because it appeared to date from the 17th century, but today, all the bronzes from that period are only to be found in museums or private institutions
to ﬁnd such a masterpiece in someones private home was like a dream », auctioneer Géraldine dOuince from DE BAECQUE & Associés tells us. A scientiﬁc analysis conﬁrmed the date of the sculpture, which was executed in the ﬁrst half of the 17th century.
« At that time, portraits in bronze were reserved for only the most important ﬁgures in the kingdom, » explains Elodie Jeannest de Gyvès and Alexandre Lacroix from Sculpture et Collection. « Only a dozen busts from this period are known to us today and they are all in museums and private collections and the subjects are essentially that of Henri IV and Louis XIII or Cardinal Richelieu. » This unique work, passed on to the descendants of Paul Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain over the past 400 years, can now be added to the extremely small number of portraits in bronze of kings and dignitaries from the beginning of the Grand Siècle.
The auction of this statue on 20 November 2019 by Géraldine dOuince in Paris at Drouot will illuminate the historical importance of the man represented in this bust: Paul Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain (1569-1621), Minister to Henri IV. He was responsible for both stabilizing power after the assassination of the king and maintaining peace. The scientiﬁc and technical analyses, as well as important archival research undertaken by the experts of Sculpture et Collection have allowed for the attribution of this exceptional cast to Francesco Bordoni (1574-1654). This artist, originally from Florence, close to the Medici family, who became the kings ofﬁcial sculptor (Premier Sculpteur du Roi) is also the author of a bronze portrait of Louis XIII, which is currently to be found in the collection of the Louvre.
Soberly dressed, in keeping with his position as the kings minister
The aesthetic and stylistic choices made by the artist, notably in the sobriety of the dress of Pontchartrain and the preoccupation with truthful rendering of his portrait, underscore the moral integrity and natural authority and grace with which he was able to successfully preserve the stability of the kingdom and maintain peace. He wears a simple outﬁt, without jewellery or fancy stitching, made of slashed doublets and a wool cloak. If the fact that he is wearing a lace ruff seems ostentatious, it was, in fact a very commonly worn item at the time. And that worn by Pontchartrain is not even starched. This simplicity of dress echoes the sitters political responsibility as the secretary of state entrusted speciﬁcally with easing religious tensions known as réformée. The Huguenots were critical of the mannerism and the overly rich ostentation of the high-ranking ofﬁcials of the time, explains Géraldine dOuince.
A natural charisma that was essential to the stability of power following the assassination of Henri IV
The movement that the artist has given the cloak, which gives fullness to his silhouette by underlining his charisma, as noted by the auctioneer, as well as the statues imposing size (86 cm high with the base) and the protective gaze, slightly inclined downward that Pontchartrain gives to all those who observe him - all these elements display the natural authority and benevolence of this statesman. As Géraldine dOuince reminds us, Paul Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain is appointed minister three weeks before the assassination of Henri IV. By remaining in the highest levels of power, he would facilitate the transition of the regency of Marie de Medici, and then enable Louis XIII to assume authority. Pontchartrain was the guarantor of the stability of power in a particularly troubled time, between an assassinated king, an Italian regent, a prime minister, Concino Concini, who conﬁscated power, the emergence of cardinal Richelieu who was then bishop of Luçon
A naturalistic portrait that underscores his integrity and his honesty
The sculptor was intent on creating a portrait as realistic as possible of his sitter. This naturalistic representation, which corresponds to the taste of the period, takes into consideration every detail down to the mole that we see on his cheek, for us this detail is very important because it underscores a scrupulous depiction of the sitter who is here shown exactly as he was. In reading the memoires of Paul Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain, what is striking is his awareness of public welfare and his objectivity regarding the events. It is by keeping far away from intrigue and by remaining objective that he was successful in easing those religious tensions that were rising in the beginning of the 17th century. It was he who in fact managed to obtain the signature of the Treaty of Loudun in 1616 which kept peace between the nobles of the kingdom, separated in two clans, the Catholics and the Huguenots add Elodie Jeannest de Gyvès and Alexandre Lacroix from Sculpture et Collection.