Louis XV as a child visits Tsar Peter Ier at the hotel in Lesdiguières

Louis XV as a child visits Tsar Peter I<sup>er</sup> at the hotel in Lesdiguières

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Louis XV as a child visits Tsar Peter I at the Hôtel de Lesdiguières

© Palace of Versailles, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Christophe Fouin

Publication date: October 2020

University of Evry-Val d'Essonne

Historical context

The Grand Tour of a Tsar

More than a century after Tsar Peter the Great's visit, the artist Louise Hersent focuses her work on an anecdote reported in the memories of the Duke of Saint-Simon: “We were astonished to see the Tsar take the king under the two arms, to raise him to his level, to embrace him thus in the air, and the king at his age, and who could not be prepared for it, have no fear of it. "

This painting was commissioned in 1838 by Louis-Philippe as part of the development of the historic Galleries of Versailles. The painting was completed on October 13, 1840 for the sum of 3000 francs. Two years later, she joined the Palace of Versailles, which she will not leave.

Born in 1672, Pierre Romanov becomes Tsar Pierre Ier at the age of 10. In 1697-1698, he carried out a "Grand Embassy" in Austria, Prussia, Holland and England. States are reluctant to help him and in 1705 Louis XIV refuses to welcome the Russian ambassador so as not to upset France's traditional alliances. France was not on the initial program of visits, but he landed with his retinue at Zuydcoote on April 21, 1717, before settling in Paris on the following May 7.

Image Analysis

Protocol proof

On the morning of May 8, 1717, the Regent Philippe of Orleans made a first welcome visit to the Tsar. The young Louis XV met him on Monday, May 10, 1717, in the middle of the afternoon. The Tsar wears a ceremonial costume executed for the occasion, in a French cut. The two rulers settle into a reception room, with a brief speech from the king and a series of hugs. By carrying and kissing the young Louis XV, the Tsar overturns protocol, with a spontaneity and an effect of surprise that the artist manages to restore.

Installed in the center with its two meters, Pierre Le Grand is the great star of the web. Behind him, different characters are identifiable. The man dressed in green velvet could be the Comte de Tessé. Marshal of France, he has multiplied diplomatic missions since the end of the 17th centurye century. On May 7, he welcomed the Russian traveler to Beaumont-sur-Oise, then lent him his coach for his entry into Paris through the Porte de Saint-Denis. In the foreground on the right, Prince Boris Kourakine, the Czar’s European affairs diplomat, plays the role of interpreter. It sports the Order of Saint Andrew founded by Peter Ier at the end of the XVIIe century, whose pale blue ribbon surprisingly resembles that of the French people carrying the Holy Spirit. In 1724, Kourakine became Russian Ambassador to France, until his death in 1727.

The seven-year-old king of France has just been entrusted to men for his political education. Behind him, we recognize his tutor, Cardinal de Fleury, while his governor, Marshal-Duke of Villeroy, holds out his left hand, as if surprised by the tsar's gesture. A member of the Regency Council and head of the Commerce Council, the latter is also the owner of the Hôtel de Lesdiguières in the Arsenal district, where the meeting takes place. Third actor in the education of the sovereign, the Duke of Maine, legitimized son of Louis XIV, is probably the character in profile in the gray suit. From the start of the Regency until his ouster in August 1718, he served as the King's Superintendent of Education.

Interpretation

A Russian in Paris

The symbolic nature of the scene almost makes one forget the exceptional moment of a meeting between sovereigns during the modern period. For Louis-Philippe, one of the challenges is to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors, in order to claim the active role of French diplomacy on the international scene.

On May 11, 1717, the Tsar of Russia met the sovereign at the Tuileries. Spontaneity and respect are still there. In the days that followed, the prestigious visitor showed great cultural and scientific interest, as the Marquis de Dangeau reported in his diary: “He was admired here by his extreme curiosity, which reached everything and disdained nothing. »The Tsar increased his visits to the capital and the surrounding area: the Louvre, the King's Garden, the Observatory, the Opera, the Academies, the Invalides, Fontainebleau, Sceaux, Meudon, Versailles, the Gobelins factory, the house education of Saint-Cyr, etc.

On May 24 and June 18, the Tsar met the King of France for the last time. On June 22, he left the kingdom of France via the Meuse. Diplomatically, this stay is not decisive, because France does not intend to let go of its traditional Swedish and Polish allies. On August 15, 1717, a treaty of friendship with commercial advantages was signed in Amsterdam between France, Russia and Prussia. Nevertheless, the territorial superiority of Russia over Sweden was not recognized and the war in the North that began in 1700 continued until 1721. In the end, Peter Ier wins over Sweden. The Moscow Czarate becomes the dominant power in Eastern Europe and his representative obtains the title of Emperor of All Russias. The French model discovered in the spring of 1717 is not neglected, as the new emperor regularly refers to it for the political and scientific modernization of his states. After the ordeals of the Napoleonic period, during the first half of the XIXe century, this canvas is a way of recalling, even reviving the links uniting France to Greater Russia.

  • regency
  • Louis XV
  • Orleans (d ') Philippe (The Regent)
  • diplomacy
  • Sweden
  • tsar
  • Peter the Great (Tsar)
  • Saint-Simon (Louis de Rouvroy)
  • Kourakine (Boris)
  • Fleury André Hercule (cardinal)
  • Villeroy (François de Neufville)
  • Bourbon Louis-Auguste (Duke of Maine)
  • Museum of the History of France

Bibliography

Peter the Great, a Czar in France, 1717, Paris, Lienart, Palace of Versailles, 2017.

Visitors to Versailles: Travelers, princes, ambassadors (1682-1789), Paris, Palace of Versailles / Gallimard, 2018.

François JACOB, An unusual visit: Peter the Great in Paris (May 1717), in Russia in Europe, Geneva, Voltaire Institute and Museum in Geneva, 2010, p. 19-41.

Michel MERVAUD, Peter the Great in France: the stories of Voltaire, Review of Slavic Studies, LXXXIII / 2-3, p. 847-870.

To cite this article

Stéphane BLOND, “Louis XV as a child visits Tsar Pierre Ier at the Hotel de Lesdiguières "


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