A trompe-l'oeil Portrait of Louis XIV
Louis Bertin Parant (1768-1851)

A trompe-l’oeil Portrait of Louis XIV, Ca. 1820.

Miniature. Watercolour on ivory painted as an antique cameo. In a rare gilded bronze frame., H. 0.74 m; W. 0.57 m

Provenance: Private collection, France.

Parant was born in the centre of France and trained by Jean Leroy. By 1800 he had moved to Paris, where he began to participate in the Salon. Until 1834 he showed there miniature portraits in the style of antique cameos, painted on ivory or on porcelain. He specialized in the imitation of engraved semi-precious stones such as agate, sardonyx, cornelian and others. With such portraits and allegorical compositions in the glory of great personalities of history, he quickly gained a respectable reputation among the painters in trompe-l’oeil manner and received medals in the Salons of 1806 and 1808. He painted the portraits of empress Joséphine and of Vivant Denon (both Paris, Musée du Louvre). It was probably with Denon’s help that Parant entered the factory of Sèvres where he was employed from 1806 till 1828 and from 1835 till 1841.

In the Salon of 1819, Parant showed a porcelain service commissioned by Louis XVIII, “The Apotheosis of Henri IV” (musée de Pau, France), and a miniature “Louis XIV receiving the crown of the immortality in the middle of the great men of his century”. Our portrait joins in the same vein of glorification of monarchic past under the Restoration.

Louis XIV is represented here as young monarch, in profile to the right, wearing a small moustache. Before him, kings of France and gentlemen had worn a beard and a moustache, henceforth the wig became the sign of nobility. It seems that Louis XIV wanted to keep his natural hair and that he obliged his perruquiers to mix them to those of his wig, that he did not let them powder. The clear tints of his skin are obtained here by the ivory tablet, left visible. Among the possible sources of inspiration, Louis XIV in profile by Charles Le Brun and Bernini’s bust sculpture are probably the closest.