These two bronze busts of the Prince de Condé and the Vicomte de Turenne are after the marbles by Jérôme Derbais dating to circa 1695. Louis II de Bourbon, Prince of Condé (1621–1686) was a French general and the most famous representative of the Condé branch of the House of Bourbon and renowned as Le Grand Condé for his military prowess. His great military rival at the court of Louis XIV was Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne (1611–1675), the most illustrious member of the La Tour d'Auvergne family, who also achieved great military fame and became a Marshal General of France in 1660.
The reputation of Le Grand Condé was such that upon his death Louis XIV pronounced that he had lost ‘the greatest man in my kingdom’; and the military strategy of Turenne was so admired that he was respected even by the revolutionaries with Napoleon recommending that all soldiers ‘read and re-read’ the campaigns of Turenne. Their poignancy as final representations of the feudal spirit of the Ancien Régime was especially celebrated by the aristocracy of France’s neighbours who had looked aghast at the revolution. Notably the Prince Regent bought a bronze version of Derbais’ Le Grand Condé in 1811 – no doubt admiring his independence of mind and aggressive Protestantism. Their legacy was further ennobled by the Bourbon Restoration when Louis XVIII commissioned bronze fondeurs such as Charles Crozatier to bolster Bourbon iconography by replicating statuary destroyed during the revolution. The casting technique indicates a dating for the present pair of busts to the Restauration period, placing them among a small number of other examples in bronze:
- Another pair, sold 'From the Collection of Prince and Princess Henry De la Tour d'Auvergne Lauraguais', Sotheby’s, London 3 May 2012, lot 31 (£241,500 with premium).
- Another pair, in the Wallace Collection, London, probably from William Beckford; Beckford sale, 1823, no. 1551 & 1553, bought by Delahurst. First recorded at Hertford House in 1870.
- Another pair, in the Royal Collection and displayed in the Grand Reception Room at Windsor Castle. Probably made in the early nineteenth century when it was purchased for the Prince Regent in 1811.
- Another pair, in the collection of the Dukes of Wellington at Stratfield Saye, (illustrated in J. Bourne, 'Many questions, some answers French furniture in British collections', Country Life, 24 October 1985, p. 1262, fig. 5).
- A single (Le Grand Condé) in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, bought from Arnold Seligmann, Rey and Co. in 1913. Speculated to be a bronze version made by Jerome Derbais commissioned as a gift for the family’s allies, but more probably also a nineteenth century cast.
- A single (Vicomte de Turenne) in the Frick Collection, New York, misattributed to Antoine Coysevox.
Derbais was inspired by Antoine Coysevox’s earlier bust which also shows the Grand Condé wearing heroic Roman armour and looking across his shoulder with authority. The original marble busts were bought by Henri-Jules de Bourbon, son of Le Grand Condé, and are now in the Musée de Condé, Chantilly. Their plasters are at Versailles. Jérôme Derbais frequently appears in the royal accounts from 1668 to 1715 and was employed as a sculptor and stonemason on work for the châteaux of Versailles, Trianon, Marly, Saint-German-en-Laye, Fontainebleau and elsewhere. He was the son-in-law of the sculptor Gilles Guerin. An entry in the register of accounts at Chantilly records they were billed together with a pair of busts of Moors: '29 aout 1707, à Derbais, marbrier, la somme de 2400 livres pour quatre bustes de marbre qu’il a vendus à Monseigneur le Prince, savoir un buste représentant feu M. de Turenne, sans escabellons, et deux autres bustes représentant deux Maures, avec leurs escabellons’ (op. cit. Mann, p. 62).