Historical story

Louis XV, by Quentin de La Tour

Louis XV (1710-1774), nicknamed the Beloved, was the most represented sovereign in busts and paintings, after Louis XIV. He commissioned two portraits of him, from the famous pastellist Maurice Quentin de La Tour . This pastel exhibited in the Louvre, dated 1748 is the best known and due to its small size (0.60m by 0.54m) was certainly intended for a private space.

Quentin de La Tour

Born in 1704 and died in 1788 in his town of Saint Quentin, it is thanks to Voltaire that Maurice Quentin de La Tour is known. Received at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1746, he accepted the title of Painter to the King in 1750. De la Tour is a past master in the Pastel technique characterized by a powdery and velvety appearance.

Concerned about the quality to be rendered, he first studies the subject, turning around his client, talking with him to put him at ease, to relax him , make him change his expression. He notes the anatomical details (shape of the eyelids, shape of the eye, of the nose, size of the mouth, etc.), then begins the sketches (he is the portrait painter for whom we have the greatest number of sketches) and reproduces from a quick and sure hand, which his eye noted. He thus marvelously transcribes all the details of the expression of the face, because for him the face is life. The character and the personality being expressed in the posture, he puts forward his subjects, so that they impose themselves, so that they have a presence.

The portrait of Louis XV

Louis XV, who is already handsome, is represented in a sovereign allure. The beauty and harmony of her face are reflected in the portrait by large brown eyes, a frank, clear and direct gaze, the corner of her lips raised evoking a smile, a serene air expressing peace.

The victorious king of the War of the Austrian Succession, wears on his left shoulder and in the foreground an armor, symbol of the apogee of his reign. The ribbon of the Order of the Holy Spirit around his neck, his right shoulder is covered with the fleur-de-lis coat lined with ermine.

Quentin de La Tour usually does this kind of portrait against a sky background, which the artist likes to use whenever his character is wearing armor…except for the one of Louis XV which was made inside:the background is plain, but de La Tour played with the lighting of the window and the half-closed shutters, to obtain the shine on the armor.

Louis XV – Pastel from 1748 – Louvre Museum.