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Adam Frans van der Meulen (Brussels 1632-1690 Paris)
Adam Frans van der Meulen (Brussels 1632-1690 Paris)

The meeting between Kings Philip IV and Louis XIV on Pheasants Island

Adam Frans van der Meulen (Brussels 1632-1690 Paris)
The meeting between Kings Philip IV and Louis XIV on Pheasants Island
oil on copper, shaped
22¼ x 15½in. (56.5 x 39.7cm.)
Private collection, USA.
with Emmanuel Moatti, Paris, 1996.
J. Guiffrey, 'Le Mémoire de tout ce que François Van der Meulen a peint et dessigné pour le service de sa Majesté depuis le 1er avril 1664' in Nouvelles Archives de l'Art Français, 1883, Paris, p. 119.

Lot Essay

Van der Meulen was baptized in Brussels in 1632. He trained in the studio of Peter Snayers, a battle painter at the Habsburg court, before accepting an invitation to work in France, at the Gobelins factory, created in 1662 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Prime Minister of King Louis XIV, and directed by the court painter Charles Lebrun. Lebrun and Colbert proposed to create in the studios of the Gobelins works of arts (tapestries, decorations, furniture) to furnish the Royal mansions, which would emblematize the glory and prosperousness of Louis XIV's reign. In 1664, Lebrun hired van der Meulen to help with a tapestry series entitled the Histoire du Roy, which took for its subject fourteen episodes from the life of the King, including military conquests, political events and diplomatic occassions like the Meeting of Kings Louis XIV and Philip IV. Van der Meulen described his role for this project in his Mémoires, listing the many oil studies he made for the use of the cartoon painters. The studies were executed after the drawings that he and Lebrun supplied. For the military scenes his role was even more important, as he would follow the King in his campaigns and draw from life the sites and views of town, (C. Gastinel-Coural, 'Van der Meulen et la Manufacture Royale des Gobelins' in the catalogue of the exhibition A la goire du Roi. Van der Meulen, peintre des conquêtes de Louis XIV, 1988, p. 110-20).
In the Mémoires, published in 1879 by J. Guiffrey, Van der Meulen writes that he executed a small painting from a drawing by Charles Lebrun. The description of this painting seems to correspond clearly with the present work: 'Puis j'ai fait en petit l'entrevue du Roy et du Roy d'Espagne après un dessin de M; Le Brun qui a servy pour modèlle pour celuy qu'on a fait en grand pour la tapisserie.' The present picture is one of the rare surviving testimonials to the collaboration between Lebrun and Van der Meulen.

The Meeting of Philip IV and Louis XIV took place on the 6 June 1660. The purpose of this Entrevue was to end the war between Spain and France by agreeing to a marriage between the young Louis XIV and the daughter of Philip IV, the Infanta Marie-Theresa. The encounter took place near Saint Jean-de Luz, almost at the border between the two countries, on Pheasants Island, in the Bidassoa River. A room had been decorated with tapestries, as is partially represented in the present picture: the French had chosen tapestries from the Story of Scipio and Hannibal and the Spanish had chosen scenes from the Apocalypse. The tapestry shows the entire room peopled with many attendants, whereas the present picture concentrates on the protagonists. From left to right one can easily recognize: the Duchess of Navailles; Philip, Duc d'Orléans, brother of Louis XIV; the Queen mother, Marie de Medici and her minister the Cardinal Mazarin; Louis XIV; Philip IV; don Louis de Haro, Marquis del Carpio; Marie-Theresa, in Spanish costume, and, behind her, the painter Velasquez, aged sixty-one, who had been charged with the decoration of the Spanish side of the pavillion.

A fine example of the tapestry is in the French Embassy in Madrid (fig. 1). A copy of the lost tapestry cartoon by Simon Renard de Saint André is in the Musée de Versailles. For a complete description of the tapestries and illustrations, see the study of D. Meyer, L'Histoire du Roi, 1980.

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