Zéphyr, Flore et l'Amour
Commissioned by Louis XIV for the gardens of the Grand Trianon, this sculpted group is one of the last masterpieces from the end of the King's reign.
Started by Philippe Bertrand and René Frémin in 1713, it was completed by Jacques Bousseau in 1726. This sculpted group marks a shift towards lighter, more romantic themes which, in the twilight years of the Sun King's reign, would foreshadow the art of the following era. The sculpted group was intended for the woods in the Trianon gardens, which were laid out almost exclusively for the Sun King's use and decorated with numerous sculptures.
In a way, the arrival of this group at Versailles fulfilled one of Louis XIV's last dreams, although he only saw the preparatory version of the sculpture displayed in his gardens.
This major work was sculpted by Lambert Sigisbert Adam between 1753 and 1758. L'Abondance was commissioned by Louis XV for his residence in Choisy.
While many works were commissioned among the best artists of the time, very few sculptures actually ended up in Choisy.
Celebrating the second Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748), which ended the War of Austrian Succession, the Bosquet de la Paix (Grove of Peace) designed by Charles-Antoine Coypel, the "premier peintre du roi" (King's main painter), should have been decorated with five marble sculptures. L'Abondance was the only statue of this fascinating series to have been completed.
Works with an unusual fate
L'Abondance is an allegory of the prosperity that was regained under the auspices of the "peacemaker" King. In 1773, it was placed in the gardens of the Château de Menars, which Abel-François Poisson, the Marquis de Marigny, inherited from his sister the Marquise de Pompadour. As Director of the King's Buildings from 1751 to 1773, Marigny benefited from the generosity of Louis XV, from whom he also obtained several sculptures that were stored in the royal warehouses as a gift, including Zephyr et Flore in 1769.
In 1881, this prestigious series of sculptures was split up during an auction, during which the brothers Alphonse and Edmond de Rothschild purchased the most beautiful works. As such, Zéphyr et Flore and L'Abondance joined the collections that Alphonse de Rothschild, an art enthusiast who adored 18th century French art, assembled in his legendary Parisian townhouse in the Rue de Saint-Florentin. Several archive documents, including an album of unpublished photographs, provide an insight into the fate of these two sculptures, which were looted during the Occupation. The works were returned to the family after the war and placed in the gardens of the Ephrussi de Rothschild townhouse in Paris, which became the headquarters of the Embassy of Angola in France in 1979.
Having been held privately for many years, these two sculptures were somewhat forgotten until they were identified in 2018 and their prestigious past was retraced.
Considering the historical and artistic value of the two works kept in the gardens of the Residence of the Embassy in Paris, as well as the work undertaken by the Palace of Versailles to recover its artistic heritage, the Republic of Angola decided to donate them to France, so that they could rejoin the collections of the National Museum of the Palace of Versailles and the Trianon.
The exhibition circuit
The exhibition will seek to place Zéphyr, Flore et l'Amour, and L'Abondance back within the context of their creation and inspiration. It will also highlight their unusual fate, from their initial royal commission to their inclusion in the national collections today.
This presentation will also enable the public to understand another key aspect of the work carried out by the curators of the Palace of Versailles: searching for and identifying works of art.
Never-before exhibited works and documents will give visitors an insight into Louis XV's beloved residence in Choisy, as well as the Château de Menars, a jewel on the banks of the Loire.
After the specific exhibition dedicated to these two sculptures, the works will be presented as part of the permanent tour, one in the Palace, the other in the Grand Trianon.
Lionel Arsac - National Heritage Curator at the Palace of Versailles, in charge of sculptures.
Scénografiá Agency: Valentina Dodi and Nicolas Groult
Graphica Agency: Igor Devernay
Ponctuelle Agency: Annabelle Fulop and Philippe Mombellet