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Gaston d’Orléans et l’Antiquité

Colloque, 2-4 octobre 2019, université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne
Gaston d’Orléans and Antiquity. Symposium, 2-4 October 2019, University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne
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Credits: Gallica, Bibliothèque nationale de France

The most recent studies devoted to Gaston d’Orléans (Pierre Gatulle, Gaston d’Orléans, entre mécénat et impatience du pouvoir, Champ-Vallon, 2012; Jean-Marie Constant, Gaston d’Orléans, Prince de la Liberté, Perrin, 2013, as well as, by the same authors, the catalogue for the exhibition organized at Blois in 2017: Gaston d’Orléans, prince rebelle et mécène, P.U.R., 2017) have shed new light on the multi-faceted image, a product of tradition and fantasy, of a prince around whom a sort of ‘parallel court’ was created, one which, in terms of its intellectual, artistic and ideological vitality, was comparable to those of the great seventeenth-century reigns, even though it was often obscured by the colourful and/or debatable aspects of Gaston d’Orléans’s political activities and private life.

This multi-author work, which grew out of the colloquium ‘Gaston d’Orléans and Antiquity’ organized at the Université de Reims from 2 to 4 October 2019, adds to the studies that offer a more nuanced view of the romantic image that has for long been attached to Monsieur. The figure of Gaston d’Orléans, the brother then uncle of the king of France, does indeed lend itself to political, aesthetic and socio-cultural analysis, because throughout the reign of Louis XIII, and later in the context of the Fronde, this prince was a focal point for the expectations and projections of leading figures hostile to the rise of absolutism, as well as scholars and artists gravitating around his court who were inclined towards a social idealism that Gaston d’Orléans might have appeared to champion. The importance attached to the example of Antiquity by this century that was imbued with renewed humanism seems to us to provide an interesting new angle for the study of Monsieur’s image and his actions in the kingdom. The links with ancient Greece and Rome forged by Gaston himself, as well as by his entourage and his court, have thus been examined from three complementary perspectives.

Firstly, from that of material culture and collecting. As well as reflecting a particular taste, the objects brought together by Gaston d’Orléans satisfied curiosity, fed a desire for knowledge and made an implicit statement about their owner’s identity. The enthusiasm for Antiquity led to the formation of exchange networks that went beyond frontiers. It gave rise to a collection whose symbolic power was evident in the choice of subjects represented as well as in the bequest arranged by Monsieur for his nephew Louis XIV.

This association with objects from Antiquity helped to shape the prince’s image, which is examined in the second section. The studies in this part explore the role of ancient authority in affirming the majesty without effective sovereignty that was characteristic of Monsieur (Gatulle, 2013): which ancient objects, texts, corpus and figures contributed to developing the image of this prince of the blood, a fantasy sovereign who was quickly held up as a model of the honourable man?

Finally, the contributions in the third section show how Gaston d’Orléans’s close circle and those he protected drew on reference to Antiquity for their own benefit or that of the prince. They shed light in particular on the role played by allegations, quotations and allusions to Antiquity in the prince’s education and in the construction of the aristocratic ethos.

Which imaginary features, which generic, formal and aesthetic models from Antiquity formed the basis of the image of Gaston d’Orléans, who was often presented as a modern prince? Which ancient fictions, explicit or implicit, played a role in literary and artistic representations of Gaston d’Orléans (coins, mottos, paintings, engravings and musical genres like singing and ballet)? The creation, within Monsieur’s entourage, of political, historical and social models with respect to an Antiquitas magistra vitae – together with, more broadly, the making of ancient culture and, in a diffuse way, the modern uses of Antiquity, embracing effective practice and symbolic value – reveals all its richness and complexity.

See the complete programme of the symposium on Les Carnets du CRIMEL.

Organization of the symposium: Centre de Recherche Interdisciplinaire sur les Modèles Esthétiques et Littéraires (CRIMEL), with the support of the Région Grand Est and the Société d’Étude du XVIIe siècle.

Publication of this work was supported by ÉPURE (Éditions et Presses de l’Université de Reims), and was supported financially by CRIMEL and the l’Institut Universitaire de France: we extend our warmest thanks to them.

Scientific editors: Céline Bohnert and Valérie Wampfler

Electronic publication: 29 December 2021

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