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Canvases in Conversation: Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo’s Paintings for the Private Dining Room of King Frederick II of Prussia

Toiles en conversation. Les tableaux de Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo dans la salle à manger privée de Frédéric II de Prusse
Rahul Kulka

Résumés

Cet article analyse trois tableaux peu étudiés que Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo a réalisés pour la salle à manger privée de Frédéric II de Prusse au château de Potsdam en 1750. Ce groupe, aujourd’hui exposé au Nouveau Palais (Neue Palais) à Sanssouci, comprend une toile illustrant le festin de la reine Didon d’après l’Énéide de Virgile ainsi que deux œuvres plus petites représentant le pèlerinage à Cythère et une fête champêtre. Les salles à manger de Frédéric le Grand constituaient une scène de premier plan pour façonner son image de roi philosophe. C’est ici que le roi et son illustre cercle de courtisans cultivaient un type de sociabilité unique chez les princes européens en ce qu’il prônait fièrement la libre expression (tant que l’on ne parlait pas de politique et que les critiques envers le roi restaient modérées). Dans ces espaces, les peintures jouaient un rôle important de miroir et de source d’inspiration de la conversation. Pourquoi Frédéric II a-t-il choisi ces sujets et quelles conversations ces peintures pourraient-elles avoir suscité ? En me focalisant sur l’œuvre principale, le festin de Didon, je soutiens que la toile reflète les ambitions littéraires et philosophiques du roi. Deuxièmement, je suggère qu’elle est liée à l’arrivée de Voltaire en Prusse au cours de l’été 1750 et qu’elle témoigne de sa relation intime avec la duchesse du Maine, dont le Festin de Didon et Énée peint par François de Troy a servi de modèle à l’œuvre de Van Loo. Frédéric devait connaître et vraisemblablement apprécier cette référence à la célèbre arbitre du goût de Sceaux. L’article se termine par un aperçu de l’influence du festin de Didon à travers quelques objets d’art décoratif réalisés à la cour de Frédéric, soulignant l’importance du tableau pour le roi.

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Notes de l’auteur

The author would like to thank David Beaurain, Sonja Friedmann, Jana Glorius-Rüedi, Henriette Graf, María Solís del Toro, Jens Straßburger-Asbeck, and Eva Wollschläger for their generous support. Special thanks are due to Matthew McDonald and Franziska Windt for reading previous iterations of this essay.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Voltaire 1784, p. 62.

On soupait dans une salle dont le plus singulier ornement était un tableau dont il [Frederick II] avait donné le dessin à [Antoine] Pesne, son peintre, l’un de nos meilleurs coloristes. C’était une belle priapée. On voyait des jeunes gens embrassant des femmes, des nymphes sous des satyres, des amours qui jouaient au jeu des Encolpes […], quelques personnes qui se pâmaient en regardant ces combats, des tourterelles qui se baisaient, des boucs sautant sur des chèvres, & des béliers sur des brebis. Les repas n’étaient pas souvent moins philosophiques. Un survenant qui nous aurait écoutés, en voyant cette peinture, aurait cru entendre les sept sages de la Grèce au bordel. Jamais on ne parla en aucun lieu du monde avec tant de liberté de toutes les superstitions des hommes, et jamais elles ne furent traitées avec plus de plaisanteries et de mépris.1

  • 2 Seidel 1900b; Börsch-Supan 1988; Vogtherr 2005a; Windt 2009; Windt et al. 2015. Franziska Windt is (...)
  • 3 These figures are based on entries in a lost journal of Van Loo’s. Oulmont 1912, p. 144; Seidel 190 (...)

1Despite the growing number of studies devoted to the artistic patronage of King Frederick II (‘the Great’) of Prussia, the works of his French court painter Charles Amédée Philippe (‘Amédée’) Van Loo have only received fleeting attention.2 His remarkable career at the Prussian court began when his uncle, the famous Carle André Van Loo, turned down Frederick’s invitation: he worked for the king from 1748 to 1769, with a long intermission for the entire duration of the Seven Years’ War (1756–63). On 24 December 1750, Amédée received a payment of 700 thalers for three paintings that were installed in the king’s private dining room at the Potsdam City Palace, the so-called Konfidenztafelzimmer (fig. 1).3 The group, which is today on display at the nearby Neues Palais, comprises a canvas representing Queen Dido’s banquet from Virgil’s Aeneid, as well as two smaller works depicting the pilgrimage to Cythera and a fête champêtre.

Fig. 1. Frederick II’s private dining room (Konfidenztafelzimmer) at the Potsdam City Palace, destroyed in 1945. Photograph, 1912.

Fig. 1. Frederick II’s private dining room (Konfidenztafelzimmer) at the Potsdam City Palace, destroyed in 1945. Photograph, 1912.

© BLDAM, Bildarchiv, Neg.-Nr. 22 f 19/1634.53

  • 4 Börsch-Supan 1988, pp. 27–28; Vogtherr 2005, pp. 202, 205.

2Deterred by their uneven artistic quality and the author’s relative obscurity, scholars have been content to view Van Loo’s three paintings as a typical example of Frederick’s display practices of the 1740s.4 While this assessment is largely accurate, the private dining room also constitutes an exception in that it did not contain a single ‘ready-made’ work, acquired on the art market, but only ones that had been created specifically for the space. Given the king’s scrupulous curating of his paintings and the importance of the dining room, this is a key difference, which begs a closer examination of the group. Why did he commission these particular paintings?

  • 5 Kaiser and Luh 2009; Luh 2011; Biskup 2012; Pečar 2016.
  • 6 Luh 2011, pp. 39–48, 186–89; Pečar 2016, pp. 22–23.

3Published on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of Frederick’s birthday in 2012, several important studies have explored the discrepancy between rhetoric and reality in the king’s self-fashioning.5 Challenging the influential notion of the roi philosophe, who presided over an inner circle of illustrious courtiers like Voltaire and Count Francesco Algarotti, scholars have demonstrated that the limits of Frederick’s learning and his stubbornness imposed significant constraints on the quality of the intellectual exchanges. Thus, even contemporary portrayals of the philosopher-king, such as those produced by Voltaire, should be treated with some caution because their authors often harboured personal motives for producing embellished accounts.6

  • 7 It has thus far been impossible to identify the painting described by Voltaire. Christoph M. Vogthe (...)

4Even so, it remains the premise of this study that a source like Voltaire’s account, cited in the epigraph above, constitutes a useful device for understanding Van Loo’s paintings because it illustrates both the intimate relationship between art and the sociability of Frederick’s dinner table, as well as the king’s artistic dirigisme.7 It is beyond doubt that dining rooms were the most important stages for the king’s self-fashioning as roi philosophe. It was here that Frederick and his illustrious inner circle cultivated a brand of sociability that was unique amongst Europe’s princes in that it proudly professed the spirit of free discussion of all matters (as long as politics remained off the table and disagreement with the king was expressed moderately). In these spaces, paintings played a crucial role as engines of conversation, recitation, improvisation, and the exchange of witticisms and gossip.

  • 8 Baxandall 1972 and 1980.
  • 9 The most well-known example of this is the Temple of Friendship at Potsdam (1768–70), which was des (...)

5Departing from Michael Baxandall’s notion of the ‘period eye’, the present study explores the ways in which the king and the members of his cercle intime perceived and experienced the paintings of the dining room during their exclusive gatherings.8 What kinds of conversations might the paintings have given rise to? When creating and discussing detailed multivalent compositions, Frederick and Van Loo could rely on, amongst other things, their audience’s shared knowledge of the ancient world, contemporary French culture and aesthetic discourse, as well as the king’s own writings, which were not only developed in this forum but almost exclusively available to its members. All these domains were fused by a distinctly intellectualising understanding of art and a strong sense that images could be read like texts.9

6Focusing on the centrepiece of the dining room, the Feast of Dido, the evidence presented here suggests, firstly, that the painting constitutes a showcase of Frederick’s self-fashioning as a roi philosophe. Secondly, it is suggested that Van Loo’s painting is linked to Voltaire’s arrival in Prussia in the summer of 1750 and bears witness to the latter’s intimate relationship with the renowned Duchess of Maine. The study closes with a brief discussion of the Feast of Dido’s afterlife in the decorative arts of Frederick’s court, which further underscores the notion that it should be regarded as a chef d’œuvre of the Potsdam City Palace, if not the Frederician era per se.

The private dining room and its paintings

  • 10 Fumaroli 2001, p. 157.
  • 11 Vogtherr 2005. Voltaire’s and the king’s relationship soured due to the former’s shady financial tr (...)

7Inheriting a host of scattered territories in 1740, Frederick II is credited with transforming Prussia into one of Europe’s great powers, notably through a series of conquests in Silesia and major territorial gains orchestrated through the infamous partitions of Poland. Despite his ruthless politics of aggrandisement, Frederick displayed a great admiration for the ideas of the Enlightenment. Moreover, he was positively infatuated with French culture, that ‘feast of the Parisian gods’, which he kept close tabs on via books, prints, paintings and his network of correspondents and agents.10 After his father’s death, Frederick was finally free to pursue his Francophile inclinations, amassing an impressive collection of French art and successfully attracting Voltaire to the Prussian court between 1750 and 1753.11

  • 12 Giersberg 1998, pp. 55–88.
  • 13 After a visit to Dresden, where Frederick William I and the young Frederick had experienced a table (...)
  • 14 Huth 1949, p. 112. Regrettably, Huth provides no source.

8Thoroughly remodelled under Frederick, the Potsdam City Palace became the king’s main residence.12 On the first floor, the palace housed two royal apartments, which stretched across the west and east wings, the Konfidenztafelzimmer forming part of the latter. The room owed its name to the mechanical dining table (table volante), which functioned without waiters and could be lowered to the ground floor in order to be decked with food, thereby affording the dinner party greater privacy and inspiring freer conversations.13 The ‘flying table’ could also be employed for other entertainments. For instance, in March 1746, during his mother’s birthday party at the Berlin City Palace, Frederick supposedly impressed his guests by having the mechanical table decked with jewels and objets de vertu as gifts for those present.14 The furnishings of the room further comprised iron-red (ponceau rot) velvet wall hangings with gold galloon trim and several pieces of sitting furniture upholstered in the same colour, as well as a French mantlepiece with bronze mounts and chandelier (fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Johann Michael Hoppenhaupt the Elder, Canapé from the Private Dining Room (with new textile covering), 1749, 110 × 127 × 68,5 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, IV 633.

Fig. 2. Johann Michael Hoppenhaupt the Elder, Canapé from the Private Dining Room (with new textile covering), 1749, 110 × 127 × 68,5 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, IV 633.

Today, the furniture is on display in the Oval Cabinet at the Neue Palais (see fig. 8).

© SPSG, Reto Pedrini

9Regrettably, while Van Loo’s paintings survived World War II unscathed, the palace was destroyed by British bombs on 14 and 15 April 1945 and only the historic façades were reconstructed in 2010–14 (fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Johann Friedrich Meyer, The Potsdam City Palace Seen from the Southwest, 1773, oil on canvas, 78 × 112 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, GK I 5751.

Fig. 3. Johann Friedrich Meyer, The Potsdam City Palace Seen from the Southwest, 1773, oil on canvas, 78 × 112 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, GK I 5751.

© SPSG, Gerhard Murza

10Echoing the function of the space, the largest canvas depicts Queen Dido’s banquet, a subject from Book I of Virgil’s Aeneid (fig. 4). In the ancient epic, Aeneas and his companions narrowly escape the destruction of Troy by the Greeks and arrive at Dido’s kingdom of Carthage by boat. At the welcoming dinner, Venus instructs Cupid to disguise himself as Ascanius, the son of Aeneas, in order to enchant the unsuspecting Dido and make her fall in love with the Trojan hero. Van Loo depicted the crucial moment when Dido lifts Cupid-Ascanius into her lap. As his magic unfolds, her gaze comes to rest on Aeneas. Soon, however, Aeneas and the Trojans depart for Italy, where Ascanius would find Rome’s predecessor city, Alba Longa. Devastated by their separation, Dido burns herself on a pyre.

Fig. 4. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Feast of Dido, 1750, oil on canvas, 127 × 159 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4197.

Fig. 4. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Feast of Dido, 1750, oil on canvas, 127 × 159 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4197.

© SPSG, Daniel Lindner

  • 15 Luh 2011, p. 140.

11Van Loo’s Dido rests on a fanciful triclinium couch in the foreground, caressing Cupid-Ascanius on her lap. Aeneas sits before them and his companions occupy places along the table. From the far right, two turbaned pageboys approach with a tazza for Dido’s welcoming toast. On a throne-like chair next to Dido lie the veil with saffron-coloured embroidery, sceptre, necklace and crown that Aeneas salvaged from Troy and offers to his host as gifts. All these elements show that Van Loo’s representation is remarkably truthful to Virgil’s narrative. Even apparently secondary details, like the basket-bearing servant and the flower garlands draped around the ewer borne by one of the turbaned pageboys, are described in the Aeneid. Such details would not have gone unnoticed in Frederick’s inner circle, whose members knew many of the classics by heart.15

  • 16 Prominent examples include the Gallery Building at Herrenhausen (c. 1700), the Grand Gallery of the (...)

12The Aeneid featured prominently in the decorative schemes of a number of eighteenth-century princely palaces, where it was generally represented as an allegory of the soul’s journey from vice to virtue and thus functioned as a visual mirror of princes.16 Yet, unlike these examples, Van Loo’s representation is of a distinctly humorous nature. As Cupid-Ascanius proffers a jewel-studded ornament to Dido, a breeze unveils his wings in an almost burlesque detail. Unbothered by this, he and one of the turbaned pageboys smirk at their audience, a self-referential gesture that not only makes the beholder complicit in Dido and Aeneas’ deception but also reveals the artifice of the painted scene itself (figs. 5a–b). Even certain props like the humongous backrest of Dido’s couch and the billowing canopy that looms in the upper right corner seem fantastical, if not comically inflated.

Fig. 5a. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Feast of Dido, 1750, oil on canvas, 127 × 159 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4197. Detail.

Fig. 5a. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Feast of Dido, 1750, oil on canvas, 127 × 159 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4197. Detail.

© SPSG, Daniel Lindner

Fig. 5b. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Feast of Dido, 1750, oil on canvas, 127 × 159 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4197. Detail.

Fig. 5b. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Feast of Dido, 1750, oil on canvas, 127 × 159 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4197. Detail.

© SPSG, Daniel Lindner

  • 17 Bauer 2013.

13Van Loo’s creative process is recorded in a smaller canvas that was sold at Christie’s in 2000 and appears to be a preparatory study (fig. 6). Its ambiance is radically different from the final Feast of Dido, suggesting that it did not meet with the approval of the king, who preferred cheerful images.17 Van Loo began with a very limited palette and dramatic lighting, which hits the three protagonists like a theatre spotlight while the rest of the scene recedes into the shadows. Reinforcing the almost cavernous atmosphere of the scene, he set his figures in an enclosed space; there is no sky visible as yet between the pillars in the background. The somewhat ridiculous buffet bearing fruit and precious vessels, which appears between Dido and the backrest of her chair, originally appeared in Van Loo’s finished painting but was painted over at a later point, possibly to make the composition look less crowded. It remains visible to the naked eye.

Fig. 6. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Feast of Dido (preparatory study), c. 1750, oil on unlined canvas, 66 × 82 cm. Private collection.

Fig. 6. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Feast of Dido (preparatory study), c. 1750, oil on unlined canvas, 66 × 82 cm. Private collection.

© Christie’s Images / Bridgeman Images

  • 18 Nicolas Lancret, The Embarkation for Cythera, Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Bran (...)

14Conceived as a pair, the two smaller paintings were displayed on the facing, east wall of the room. The Fête champêtre, which was designed to be hung on the left, depicts an elegant party on a grassy shore, enjoying nature (fig. 7). The central motif, a group of dancers in a circle, may have been inspired by Nicolas Lancret’s Cythera at Sanssouci18. The scene is set against an expansive landscape that is dotted with ancient ruins and modern structures. In the lower right, the melancholy pose of the boatsman in his barge heralds the group’s inevitable return to society.

Fig. 7. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Fête champêtre, 1750, oil on canvas, 68 × 106 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4198.

Fig. 7. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Fête champêtre, 1750, oil on canvas, 68 × 106 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4198.

© SPSG, Daniel Lindner

15The pendant, The Pilgrimage to Cythera, depicts a group of elegant young men and women boarding an ornate boat (fig. 8). These people sport the typical attributes of pilgrims to the island of Venus, and, indeed, the painting is modelled on Watteau’s well-known representation of the subject19, of which Frederick II acquired a famous version in 1764. The backdrop is a distant shore dotted with sculptures and elegant flaneurs, while a monopteros in the far distance represents the temple of Love.

Fig. 8. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, The Pilgrimage to Cythera, 1750, oil on canvas, 67.6 × 105.4 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4199.

Fig. 8. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, The Pilgrimage to Cythera, 1750, oil on canvas, 67.6 × 105.4 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4199.

© SPSG, Daniel Lindner

  • 20 Börsch-Supan 1988, pp. 23–32. In the opening quotation, Voltaire even suggests that the king occasi (...)
  • 21 Börsch-Supan 1988, p. 27.
  • 22 Börsch-Supan 1980, p. 142.

16Helmut Börsch-Supan has argued on several occasions that the three paintings are typical of the display practices rehearsed in earlier Frederician interiors (Charlottenburg, the west apartment at the Potsdam City Palace, and Sanssouci), where ready-made works from the art market were grouped with newly-painted ones in order to illustrate contrasting ideas like seriousness and humour, war and peace, or duty and pleasure.20 Invoking conventional readings of the Aeneid as a didactic tale, Börsch-Supan proposes that the figure of Aeneas, who forfeits love in order to follow his ‘political destiny’, was designed to remind Frederick of his own duties as ruler. He also suggests that the Feast of Dido constituted a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the king’s troubled relationship with women, presumably because of its misogynistic equation of romantic self-denial and virtue.21 On the east wall, the two fêtes galantes mirror the pleasures of Dido’s court and thus represent the blissful alternative to Aeneas’ painful decision to forsake love and depart. Börsch-Supan also notes that both compositions contain ornate barges, which recall the means of the Trojans’ arrival and departure from Carthage, and thus function as a reminder that even the Arcadian pleasures of the fêtes must ultimately end. He concludes: ‘It is always remarkable how far such painting and its playful uses of ancient ideas and military motifs remains from the actual philosophy and political activity of the king.’22

Frederick II as homme de lettres

  • 23 For a discussion of the relationship between the sociability of Frederick’s dinner table and art, s (...)

17Börsch-Supan’s interpretation is unsatisfactory on a few accounts. Above all, he fails to acknowledge the special form of sociability cultivated at Frederick’s private dinner table, which functioned as the main stage for the king’s self-fashioning as a roi philosophe.23 In addition to the opening quotation from his memoirs, the ‘philosophical’ nature of Frederick’s dinner parties is most powerfully captured in Voltaire’s letters from Prussia:

  • 24 Voltaire to Nicolas-Claude Thieriot, November 1750, Voltaire 1880, p. 208.

Je ne laisse pas de jouir […] de la société […] d’un philosophe sur le trône, d’un héros qui méprise jusqu’à l’héroïsme, et qui vit dans Potsdam comme Platon vivait avec ses amis […]. Quand il a gouverné, le matin, […] il est philosophe le reste du jour, et ses soupers sont ce qu’on croit que sont les soupers de Paris : […] on y parle toujours raison ; on y pense hardiment ; on y est libre. Il a prodigieusement d’esprit, et il en donne.24

  • 25 Voltaire to Marie-Louise Mignot (‘Madame Denis’), 13 October 1750, Voltaire 1880, p. 184.

Je travaille paisiblement dans mon appartement, au son du tambour. Je me suis retranché les dîners du roi ; il y a trop de généraux et de princes. […] Je soupe avec lui en plus petite compagnie. Le souper est plus court, plus gai et plus sain.25

  • 26 Pečar 2016, chapter 2; Mervaud 1985.
  • 27 The king’s private press Au donjon du Château printed his works in small editions, which were caref (...)

18Frederick had begun to cultivate the unusual image of a royal homme de lettres as a crown prince. He pursued this goal by means of ambitious publications, which he conceived for a broad audience, and by corresponding with prominent international philosophes, who happily served as ‘multiplicators’ of his self-image because they hoped that this would allow them to influence politics in turn.26 However, after his coronation, Frederick quickly gave up his ambitions of becoming a public intellectual and directed his philosophical self-fashioning at the cercle intime instead. If Frederick’s dense epistolary network and private press created a ‘literary space’ (B. Wehinger) for his intellectual needs and ambitions, then the private dining room represented its physical counterpart.27 Yet despite its intimate character, the space should not be regarded as an expression of the king’s ‘authentic’ self, but rather as another stage where the dramaturgie des lumières was performed.

  • 28 Recorded at the Neue Palais as early as 1772, Franziska Windt has identified a bill for two picture (...)
  • 29 Voltaire to Marie-Louise Mignot (‘Madame Denis’), 13 October 1750, Voltaire 1880, p. 184.
  • 30 Frederick II 1846–56, vol. 7 (1847), p. 51: ‘Quiconque en Grèce avait des talents, était sûr de tro (...)

19One year earlier, in 1749–50, Van Loo had painted two large canvases representing the School of Athens and the Sacrifice of Iphigenia for the king’s dining room at Sanssouci, his maison de plaisance near Potsdam (fig. 9).28 Plato’s Academy, the original School of Athens, was not only the epitome of learning but also of learned conviviality, and its evocation in the dining room clearly demonstrated Frederick’s intellectual and social aspirations for this space. Given the painting, it may be no coincidence either that Voltaire likened Frederick’s court to Plato’s entourage in the letter cited above (“qui vit dans Potsdam comme Platon vivait avec ses amis”29). In a similar vein, as a Virgilian theme, Dido’s feast may have appeared appropriate for the private dining room because Emperor Augustus and Virgil’s friendship constituted the best-known model for the cordial relationship between a prince and a man of letters.30

Fig. 9. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, The School of Athens, 1749, oil on canvas, 144 × 225 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 5309.

Fig. 9. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, The School of Athens, 1749, oil on canvas, 144 × 225 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 5309.

© SPSG, Daniel Lindner

  • 31 Hagemann 2009.

20Börsch-Supan also fails to satisfactorily account for the humorous nature of the canvas. In order to present the Aeneid as an allegory of vice and virtue, as he suggests, Van Loo had no need to reinterpret Dido’s feast in a comic manner. Moreover, it is altogether unlikely that the king, who was deeply concerned about his image, would have made fun at his own expense or ridiculed his wife.31 Rather, it appears that the humorous retelling served to remove the subject from its conventional frame of reference, the world of princely ethics, to the realm of aesthetic discourse, activating it as a kind of meta-picture.

  • 32 Pečar 2016, pp. 24–25. The project was delayed and Frederick’s preface was first published as part (...)

21In the eighteenth century the Aeneid was a literary touchstone, especially between Voltaire and the king. Fashioning himself as a modern Virgil, Voltaire had not only emulated the epic, but tried to surpass it in his popular Henriade (1723), an epic poem about Henry IV of France. Frederick admired the work so much that he decided to publish a new edition of the Henriade with a self-authored preface.32

  • 33 The military man and writer Charles-Joseph de Ligne (1735–1814) may have thought of Aeneas when he (...)

22The king’s preface has been regarded as his first public declaration of support for Voltaire and the philosophes, yet it also contained a number of aesthetic judgements that staked Frederick’s claim to the role of an homme de lettres in his own right. Contemporaries were painfully aware that Virgil had primarily conceived Dido’s feast as a social setting for Aeneas’ narration of his adventures. While Aeneas’ proverbially ‘epic’ account transported his listeners to the battlefields of Troy, the harpies of the Strophades islands and the one-eyed giant Polyphemus of the Cyclopes’ island, it also disrupted the main storyline, which unfolded at Dido’s court, for two entire books (II–III)!33 In the Henriade, Voltaire had addressed this ‘sloppy’ treatment of time and space by ostentatiously observing the Aristotelian unities of action, time and place. Accordingly, Frederick stated that:

  • 34 Frederick II 1846–56, Avant-propos sur la Henriade de M. de Voltaire, vol. 8 (1848), p. 51.

L’auteur [Voltaire] a profité des reproches qu’on a faits à Homère et à Virgile. Les chants de l’Iliade ont peu ou point de connexion les uns avec les autres ; ce qui leur a mérité le nom de rapsodies. Dans la Henriade, on trouve une liaison intime entre tous les chants ; ce n’est qu’un même sujet divisé par l’ordre des temps en dix actions principales. Le dénoûment de la Henriade est naturel : c’est la conversion de Henri IV et son entrée à Paris, qui mettent fin aux guerres civiles des ligueurs qui troublaient la France ; et en cela le poëte français est infiniment supérieur au poëte latin, qui ne termine pas son Enéide d’une manière aussi intéressante qu’il l’avait commencée.34

23After Voltaire’s death in 1778, Frederick composed an Éloge, in which he picked up his comparison of the philosophe with Virgil. This time, however, he was particularly preoccupied with Virgil’s injection of fantastic or ludicrous elements into his heroic tale:

  • 35 Frederick II 1846–56, Éloge de Voltaire, vol. 7 (1847), pp. 65–66. The Éloge was read to the member (...)

Mais si l’on veut examiner ces deux poëmes […] sans préjugés pour les anciens ni pour les modernes, on conviendra que beaucoup de détails de l’Énéide ne seraient pas tolérés de nos jours dans les ouvrages de nos contemporains, comme, par exemple, les honneurs funèbres qu’Énée rend à son père Anchise, la fable des harpies, la prophétie qu’elles font aux Troyens qu’ils seront réduits à manger leurs assiettes, et cette prophétie qui s’accomplit; la truie avec ses neuf petits, qui désigne le lieu d’établissement où Énée doit trouver la fin de ses travaux; […] Ce sont peut-être ces défauts, dont Virgile était lui-même mécontent, qui l’avaient déterminé à brûler son ouvrage, et qui, selon le sentiment des censeurs judicieux, doivent placer l’Énéide au-dessous de la Henriade.35

  • 36 Witte 2011, pp. 28–39.

24By the mid-eighteenth century, irreverent readings of canonic heroes and heroines constituted a popular genre. For instance, Paul Scarron’s Virgile travesti (1648) was a bawdy parody of the Aeneid, in which Dido and Aeneas fall in love as a result of inebriation and raw physical attraction.36 The huge success of such works, which were often richly illustrated, shows that satirical adaptations of tragic epics formed an integral part of eighteenth-century literary and visual cultures. Accordingly, contemporary viewers would have commanded a broad range of interpretive modes when approaching Van Loo’s Feast of Dido, ranging from the tragic to the burlesque.

  • 37 For a survey and facsimile of the Palladion, see Frederick II 1985, vols. I–II.
  • 38 Ibid., vol. I, pp. 95–107.
  • 39 Vogtherr 2004, pp. 77–81.

25The burlesque also played an important part in the king’s own literary production. In 1749, he had begun his series Œuvres du philosophe de Sans-Souci with a comic epic, the Palladion, which revolved around the figures of the French ambassador Louis-Guy-Henri de Valory and his secretary Claude-Étienne Darget.37 Due to the work’s indecorous nature, the king only had a small edition of 24 copies produced by his private press, which were strictly reserved for his cercle intime. The Palladion also comprised eighteen illustrations, whose somewhat clumsy design Frederick is thought to have influenced and which testify to the burlesque visual culture cultivated between the king and his closest courtiers (fig. 10).38 The place of such imagery in Frederician interiors is further reflected in Frederick’s 1766 acquisition of fourteen small paintings by Jean-Baptiste Pater, created as designs for illustrations of Scarron’s popular Roman comique, which the king installed in a purpose-made chamber in the Neue Palais (fig. 11).39

Fig. 10. Georg Friedrich Schmidt, SS. Peter and Anthony Fly to Rome on a Cock and a Pig (title vignette of Chant II of the Palladion, p. 39), 1750, etching. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – PK.

Fig. 10. Georg Friedrich Schmidt, SS. Peter and Anthony Fly to Rome on a Cock and a Pig (title vignette of Chant II of the Palladion, p. 39), 1750, etching. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – PK.

Permalink: http://resolver.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/​SBB00007E6500010000

Public Domain Mark 1.0

Fig. 11. The Oval Cabinet at the Neue Palais, Potsdam.

Fig. 11. The Oval Cabinet at the Neue Palais, Potsdam.

© SPSG, Wolfgang Pfauder

  • 40 Rouillé 2011.
  • 41 Frederick II 1985, vol. 1, p. 36.

26Van Loo’s canvas, though much more demure than the orgy described in Voltaire’s memoirs, where bucks mount does and satyrs accost nymphs, was certainly also open to more ‘down-to-earth’ interpretations. Contemporaries, who were accustomed to deciphering painted gestures according to popular iconographical handbooks, might have read Aeneas’s beautifully rendered hands as expressing helplessness (demonstro non habere) or bribery (munero), depending on whether they were considered empty or not (fig. 12).40 The shimmering ornament in Cupid-Ascanius’ hands (which is not described in the Aeneid) suggests that the bribe had already found its recipient. To an audience familiar with texts like the Virgile travesti, the figure of Cupid-Ascanius might have even recalled a salacious work like Diderot’s Bijoux Indiscrets (1748), in which the ‘sultan of Congo’ (alias Louis XV) uses a magic ring in order to make vaginas (bijoux) talk and to conquer them. Indeed, in Chant IV of Frederick’s Palladion, Darget confesses to being the author of a number of new erotic bestsellers, including the Bijoux indiscrets, showing that the text was a familiar reference in the king’s inner circle.41

Fig. 12. ‘Munero’ and ‘Demonstro non habere’, in John Bulwer, Chirologia or The naturall language of the hand. Composed of the speaking Motions, and discoursing gestures thereof. Whereunto Is Added Chironomia [...], London, T. Harper, 1654, p. 155 (illustration A-Z).

Fig. 12. ‘Munero’ and ‘Demonstro non habere’, in John Bulwer, Chirologia or The naturall language of the hand. Composed of the speaking Motions, and discoursing gestures thereof. Whereunto Is Added Chironomia [...], London, T. Harper, 1654, p. 155 (illustration A-Z).

© British Library Board (Thomason / E.1092[1], p. 155). Image produced by ProQuest as part of Early English Books Online (EEBO). www.proquest.com. Image published with permission of ProQuest. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission.

  • 42 Russo 2006, pp. 28–29, 31, 42.
  • 43 Ibid., pp. 2, 10, especially chapter ‘Prologue: Boudoir and Tribune’.

27While these examples show that consumers of contemporary French culture were accustomed to a number of styles, which blended high and low, the noble and the ordinary, the tragic and the comic, this very eclecticism also caused a heated debate known as the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns, which dominated aesthetic discourse and in which Voltaire played a leading role. The ‘ancients’ advocated for the primacy of antiquity and pure classical principles and attacked the shallow galanterie and esprit of ‘modern’ authors, whom they accused of undermining the traditional hierarchies and divisions of the genres. It is worth noting that these attacks also touched on the visual arts, where modern subjects like the fêtes galantes were criticised for blurring genres in an ‘unnatural’ manner.42 Crucially, such criticism was generally expressed in gendered terms, whereby the shallow pleasure of the ‘moderns’ was equated with the supposedly corrupting influence of women on culture.43 Thus, in a picture like Van Loo’s Feast of Dido, which reinterpreted a popular theme in a humorous way, the misogyny of contemporary aesthetic discourse was seemingly grafted onto that of traditional interpretations of the Aeneid.

The historian-king

  • 44 Luh 2011, p. 156; Clark 2019, p. 110.
  • 45 Tsien 2012, p. 70. Likewise, when Frederick bought the famous collection of antiquities amassed by (...)
  • 46 Recently, Christopher Clark has suggested intriguingly that Frederick not only appreciated the fête (...)

28Frederick, who lacked Greek or Latin and therefore read the classics in French translation, firmly believed that the classical legacy lived on in modern French culture, especially that of the ‘Grand Siècle’.44 As in so many instances, his ideas were shaped by Voltaire, in whose famous Temple du goût (1733) good taste took the allegorical shape of a classical temple that had been built by the ancients, destroyed by the Gothic invaders, and was rebuilt in the age of Richelieu and Louis XIV.45 Van Loo’s paintings also elegantly interweave distant times and topographies. Behind the group of dancers in the fête champêtre, a bridge connects a cluster of ancient ruins with a building that looks very much like a contemporary country manor, transforming Van Loo’s landscape into a sort of ‘timescape’, in which the fleeting and the eternal seem to collide.46 In the Pilgrimage to Cythera, Van Loo maintained Watteau’s narrative ambiguity (are the pilgrims arriving or departing?), thereby reinforcing the paradoxical suspension of time and history.

  • 47 Luh 2011, p. 142.
  • 48 Je goûte le plaisir de lui être utile dans ses études, et j’en prends de nouvelles forces pour dir (...)

29The creation of Van Loo’s paintings coincided with two important essays in history writing at Frederick’s court. After decades of labour, Voltaire finally completed his Siècle de Louis XIV in Prussia, canonising the idea of Louis XIV’s reign as a new golden age that saw the advancement of French civilisation to unprecedented refinement. Quickly becoming Frederick’s ‘bible’, this magisterial study also revolutionised history writing, marking a shift from the discipline’s preoccupation with great men, wars and diplomacy to a broader cultural history.47 It is no coincidence, then, that Frederick developed his own ‘philosophical’ history of Brandenburg-Prussia, the Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de la maison de Brandebourg, in tandem with Voltaire. Indeed, the latter noted to a friend that he appreciated editing the king’s text as it helped him flesh out his own ideas (fig. 13).48

Fig. 13. Pierre Charles Baquoy, after Nicolas Monsiau, Frederick II and Voltaire, c.1800, engraving, 48.5 × 37.5 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, GK II (10) 1413.

Fig. 13. Pierre Charles Baquoy, after Nicolas Monsiau, Frederick II and Voltaire, c.1800, engraving, 48.5 × 37.5 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, GK II (10) 1413.

© SPSG, Daniel Lindner

  • 49 Pečar 2016, chapters 3 and 4.

30First presented at Berlin’s Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences as a series of lectures in 1748, the Mémoires were the roi philosophe’s first text to be published under his own name, in 1751.49 Criticising the cumulative and oftentimes panegyrical approach of his predecessors, Frederick aimed to provide a disinterested and engaging (‘philosophical’) account. Interestingly, his preface likens the modes of writing history to different kinds of painting:

  • 50 Frederick II 1751, p. xi.

Les histoires universelles nous présentent un grand tableau, rempli d’un nombre prodigieux de figures, dont de fortes ombres en couvrent quelques-unes, trop peu distinctes pour qu’on les remarque : Les histoires particulières tirent une figure de ce tableau ; elles la peignent en grand ; elles l’avantagent des effets de lumières & des clairs-obscurs qui la font valoir ; & mettent le public en état de la considerer avec l’attention qu’elle mérite.50

  • 51 Ibid., p. xiv.
  • 52 Here, Frederick proceeds to mention the fifteenth-century myth that the Hohenzollerns were descende (...)

31If this passage reveals that the king’s thinking about issues of representation in historiography and art was closely related, the Mémoires also offers a productive lens for understanding the painted décors of the private dining room and the Potsdam City Palace in additional ways. For instance, Frederick proudly declares that his observations are exclusively derived from (documentary) evidence: ‘J’ai rapporté les faits incertains, comme incertains ; & les lacunes, je les ai laissées, comme je les ai trouvées.’51 He thereby distinguishes himself from certain earlier historians, who had delighted in tracing noble lineages back to their quasi-mythical forebears, like the Trojans or Romans, based on the real or perceived roots of their names.52

  • 53 Frederick II 1751, pp. 1–2.

On pourroit rapporter des fables ou des conjectures sur son extraction ; mais les fables ne doivent pas etre présentées au public judicieux & éclairé de ce siècle. […] Après-tout, les recherches d’un généalogiste, ou l’occupation des savans qui travaillent sur l’étymologie des mots, […] ne sont pas dignes d’occuper des têtes pensantes.53

  • 54 Clark 2019, pp. 108–09.
  • 55 Hecht 2006, pp. 15–16, 27.

32Although Frederick criticises the blurring of history and mythology, he in fact enjoyed spinning such fantasies. As crown prince, he had jokingly claimed in a letter to Voltaire that Remus had not been killed by Romulus but had instead escaped to Rheinsberg, Frederick’s main residence at the time. He even began signing his Rheinsberg letters ‘Remusberg’ thereafter.54 Given Frederick’s delight in such games, it is safe to assume that he would have been sensitive to similar readings of the figure of Ascanius. Before the advent of the Hohenzollerns, the region around Berlin had been ruled by the House of Anhalt, who had in fact built the first castle on the site of the Potsdam City Palace in the twelfth century. The dynasty was also known as Ascanians and its chroniclers had repeatedly claimed descent from Aeneas because of their name’s resemblance with that of Ascanius.55 Subsequently, it is likely that the smirking Cupid-Ascanius provoked humorous remarks about the legendary origins of Brandenburg.

  • 56 The development may have already begun under the ‘Great Elector’ himself. On the walls, four monume (...)

33This reading appears even more likely when we consider the Feast of Dido within the broader topography of Frederick’s City Palace, especially in relation to Van Loo’s contemporaneous ceiling painting for the Marble Hall. Completed in 1751 and lost in World War II, the monumental canvas depicted the ascension of the king’s great-grandfather, Elector Frederick William (the ‘Great Elector’), to the feast of the gods on Mount Olympus (figs. 14–15) and thus completed the hall’s evolution into a pompous shrine devoted to the ‘Great Elector’.56 Importantly, the latter was also the hero of Frederick’s Mémoires: his reign not only marked the beginning of Brandenburg’s rise to glory but also served as a foil for precisely those virtues that Frederick claimed for himself. If the apotheosis of the ‘Great Elector’ presented a solemn vision of Prussian history, which corresponded to the ceremonial function of the palace’s most public space, then the Feast of Dido might have offered a tongue-in-cheek alternative, appropriate for the most private space and much more suited to Frederick’s personal taste.

Fig. 14. The Marble Hall at Potsdam City Palace, 1936. Photograph.

Fig. 14. The Marble Hall at Potsdam City Palace, 1936. Photograph.

© SPSG

Fig. 15. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Apotheosis of the ‘Great Elector’ (ceiling painting in the Marble Hall at Potsdam City Palace), 1751. Photograph of 1943.

Fig. 15. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Apotheosis of the ‘Great Elector’ (ceiling painting in the Marble Hall at Potsdam City Palace), 1751. Photograph of 1943.

© SPSG, Peter Cürlis

François de Troy’s Feast of Dido as prototype

  • 57 Duke Louis-Auguste (1670–1736) was the favourite son of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan. Duchess (...)
  • 58 The identities of the remaining characters are more complicated to establish. See Brême 2003, pp. 1 (...)
  • 59 As quoted in Brême 1997, p. 60. In particular, Dezallier d’Argenville referred to the painting as ‘ (...)

34Besides diligently illustrating the Aeneid, Van Loo’s painting also reveals the influence of a second important source: François de Troy’s Feast of Dido and Aeneas of 1702 (fig. 16). Although the latter illustrates a slightly earlier moment in Virgil’s epic, namely the instant in which Cupid-Ascanius appears at the feast, its composition clearly served as a model for Van Loo. De Troy’s canvas was doubly remarkable in that it also served as a group portrait of the patrons, the Duke and Duchess of Maine, and their closest social circle.57 The couple are depicted as Aeneas and Dido while their oldest living son appears as Cupid-Ascanius.58 In 1730, the influential connoisseur Antoine-Joseph Dezalliers d’Argenville composed an obituary for de Troy that singled out the painting and praised its author’s idea of blending history painting and portraiture into one image. While this was a departure from academic practice, it nonetheless betrayed a ‘gout inimitable’ and therefore received an exuberant verdict: ‘Tableau que l’on peut nommer le dernier effort & le chef d’œuvre de l’Art’.59

Fig. 16. François de Troy, Feast of Dido and Aeneas, 1704, oil on canvas, 160.5 × 202.5 cm (without frame). Musée du Domaine Départemental de Sceaux, inv. 2008.2.1.

Fig. 16. François de Troy, Feast of Dido and Aeneas, 1704, oil on canvas, 160.5 × 202.5 cm (without frame). Musée du Domaine Départemental de Sceaux, inv. 2008.2.1.

© CD92 / Musée du Domaine départemental de Sceaux. Photographe Pascal Lemaître

  • 60 Unlike his uncle, who partly consulted Ottoman visual sources for the harem series produced for Mad (...)

35Yet Van Loo’s representation also differs in significant ways. Besides imbuing the scene with a distinctly humorous character, the artist modified de Troy’s hybrid vision of antiquity, fusing ancient and modern attributes by introducing fashionable à la turque elements. For instance, the two pageboys in the foreground sport a fanciful ensemble of Roman sandals, plumed turbans and richly embroidered, puffy garments. Likewise, the shimmering draperies and textiles, which cascade across the scene, turned the sumptuous palace of Virgil’s Aeneid into something akin to the contemporary imaginary vision of Oriental interiors, familiar from influential publications like Jean-Antoine Guer’s Moeurs et usages des Turcs (1747).60

  • 61 De Troy’s painting was exhibited at the Salon of 1704 and hung in the ducal couple’s apartment at t (...)
  • 62 Leribault 2002, pp. 96–104, 349–68; Du Bourg 2012, pp. 44–46, no. VII.
  • 63 Williams 2014, pp. 141–42. The similarities are particularly obvious in the Sultana tapestries, whi (...)
  • 64 Leribault 2002, p. 100.

36After 1718, de Troy’s canvas was probably on display at the duke’s estate at Sceaux, six miles south of Paris, and Van Loo could have studied it here in the 1730s and 1740s.61 Yet it is also possible that he knew de Troy’s composition through an intermediary, such as the artists whom he encountered as a pensionnaire of the French Royal Academy of Painting in Rome. Indeed, François de Troy’s son, Jean-François, had become director of the French Academy in the same year that Van Loo enrolled in the institution. It was in Rome that de Troy fils completed the cartoons for a prestigious tapestry cycle illustrating the history of Esther, for which he borrowed a number of elements from his father’s Feast of Dido, such as the central reclining figure and the buffet with large gold platters and vessels (fig. 17).62 In turn, de Troy fils’ fusion of eastern and western elements appears to prefigure Van Loo’s eclecticism.63 The abundance of rich draperies is another particularly striking feature of the Esther series, possibly an allusion to its textile medium, which may have influenced Van Loo’s particular attention to shimmering fabrics and texture.64

Fig. 17. Jean-François de Troy, The Sentencing of Aman, 1740, oil on canvas, 332 × 429 cm. Paris, Musée du Louvre, INV 8218.

Fig. 17. Jean-François de Troy, The Sentencing of Aman, 1740, oil on canvas, 332 × 429 cm. Paris, Musée du Louvre, INV 8218.

Permalink: https://collections.louvre.fr/​ark:/53355/​cl010061259

© 2001 RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

37At the French Academy, Van Loo would also have encountered the stage-like compositions and elaborate architectural backdrops of Giovanni Paolo Panini, the darling of the local French community. Van Loo’s striking architectural backdrop may have been influenced by works like the Feast under an Ionic Portico, in which a colonnade gives onto a sweeping gallery with arched openings (fig. 18). Here, Panini used different vantage points simultaneously, thereby creating a composition that looks strangely stacked. Van Loo’s Feast of Dido shows a similar unorthodox use of perspective, which is particularly evident at the centre and far right.

Fig. 18. Giovanni Paolo Panini, Feast under an Ionic Portico, c. 1720, oil on canvas, 242 × 244 cm. Paris, Musée du Louvre, INV 405.

Fig. 18. Giovanni Paolo Panini, Feast under an Ionic Portico, c. 1720, oil on canvas, 242 × 244 cm. Paris, Musée du Louvre, INV 405.

Permalink: https://collections.louvre.fr/​ark:/53355/​cl010060789

© 2013 RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Michel Urtado

‘Il n’y avait au monde que Frédéric le Grand qui pût m’enlever à la cour de Mme la duchesse du Maine’: Voltaire and the Duchess of Maine65

  • 65 Voltaire to the Duchess of Maine, 8 December 1750, Voltaire 1880, no. 2155, p. 210.
  • 66 Windt 2009, unpaginated, paragraphs 21–30.

38It is likely that Frederick had heard of de Troy’s painting at Sceaux, although we lack conclusive evidence. In the eighteenth century, successful French paintings were often reproduced and widely disseminated via prints and other media. In 1763, for instance, Frederick ordered a modified copy of Charles Le Brun’s renowned Alexander and the wives of Darius by Pompeo Batoni as a thematic centrepiece for the Blue Chamber at the Neue Palais, a commission that likely proceeded in a similar manner as that of Van Loo’s canvas.66 The date of Van Loo’s paintings suggests a connection with the arrival of Voltaire, who belonged to the Duchess of Maine’s inner circle and had in fact begun his journey to Prussia from Sceaux.

  • 67 Voltaire delighted in pointing out that the Grand Condé’s spirit lived on in the duchess. See Couvr (...)
  • 68 Carlyle 1864, p. 258.
  • 69 As quoted in Mortier 2003, p. 18.

39Born into the powerful Condé family, the Duchess of Maine was the granddaughter of Louis XIV’s important military commander, the Grand Condé, whom Frederick greatly admired.67 Significantly younger than the so-called Sun King, she had refused to take up quarters at Versailles, whose star was already on the wane at the turn of the century. Instead, she created her own spectacular court at Sceaux, attracting leading members of the nobility, artists and intellectuals. By the mid-century, the duchess was widely revered as ‘a living fragment of Louis le Grand’.68 The quasi-mythical aura of Sceaux resonates in Nicolas de Condorcet’s Vie de Voltaire (1789), which notes that the duchess ‘aimait le bel esprit, les arts, la galanterie ; elle donnait dans son palais une idée de ces Plaisirs ingénieux et brillants qui avaient embelli la cour de Louis XIV, et ennoble ses faiblesses’.69

  • 70 Couvreur 2003, p. 246.
  • 71 Reinhardt 2022, pp. 280–81.
  • 72 Couvreur 2003, p. 236.
  • 73 Voltaire 1752, Préface, p. iii; Shibuya 2014, pp. 49–50.
  • 74 Couvreur 2003, pp. 238–41.

40Importantly, the duchess was also one of Voltaire’s most prestigious and loyal patrons in France. The young Voltaire, who hailed from a village near Sceaux, had been introduced to her court in 1713.70 The relationship between the duchess and her protégé culminated in the fall of 1747, when the latter sought refuge at Sceaux in order to escape likely imprisonment in Paris.71 For one month, Voltaire is said to have visited his host every night, offering witty conversation in exchange for court anecdotes.72 In 1749, when Madame de Pompadour bestowed her patronage on Voltaire’s nemesis, the playwright Claude-Prosper de Crébillon, the duchess encouraged her friend to challenge Crébillon’s Catilina and assumed an active role in developing Voltaire’s riposte. Criticising contemporary French playwrights for turning every subject into a story of love and galanterie, Voltaire’s resulting tragedy Rome sauvée was a prime example of the querelle of ancients and moderns.73 It premiered in Paris and moved on to Sceaux mere days before Voltaire’s departure for Prussia.74

  • 75 ‘Le roi de Prusse est de votre avis ; il trouve que Rome sauvée est ce que j’ai fait de plus fort.’ (...)
  • 76 And to broadcast the king’s fame to France. Pečar 2016, pp. 22–24.
  • 77 Horace Walpole to the Duchess de Choiseul, 1767, Walpole 1970, vol. 5, no. 25, p. 322.

41Voltaire would have certainly told the king everything about his important French patron, the ‘Dido of Sceaux’, not least because her famous country estate had been his last stop before Prussia and because she had played such a crucial role in the genesis of his new play, which Frederick supposedly called Voltaire’s best.75 Indeed, Voltaire was not only expected to satisfy the king’s intellectual hunger but also his voracious appetite for news about French culture and society.76 If the king had not heard of de Troy’s painting yet, it is likely that his illustrious guest told him about it now. Voltaire would not have been the only visitor to Sceaux to mention the Feast of Dido to a third party. For instance, Horace Walpole also described the canvas in a letter to the Duchess of Choiseul, after visiting the estate in 1767.77

  • 78 Pečar 2016, pp. 24–25. The king’s dinner table also hosted other men, such as the Marquis d’Argens (...)
  • 79 About the duchess’ double role as representative of the old and the new taste, see Couvreur 2003, p (...)

42It is even possible that Frederick appreciated the Feast of Dido precisely because of its association with the duchess. Like the Grand Condé, who had been a patron of Molière when his plays were banned from public stages by royal decree, the duchess had protected Voltaire from royal persecution. By doing so, she had proven herself a champion of truth and reason, an idea that was central to Frederick’s self-fashioning as an enlightened ruler and patron of Voltaire.78 Moreover, as the above quotation from Condorcet’s Vie de Voltaire shows, the duchess was considered a supreme tastemaker and the living link between old and new French culture, the grand goût and the petit goût. At a time when the old and modern tastes were increasingly viewed as aesthetic opposites, the prestige of such a double role should not be underestimated.79

43The Prussian court’s awareness of the lady of Sceaux is apparent in a letter that Voltaire wrote to the ailing duchess in December 1751:

  • 80 Voltaire to the Duchess of Maine, December 1751, as quoted in Couvreur 2003, p. 244. The duchess pa (...)

Madame, j’ai appris la maladie de Votre Altesse Sérénissime avec douleur […] On fait des vœux dans le pays où je suis, où les beaux-arts commencent à naître, comme on en fait en France où ils dégénèrent. On y souhaite ardemment votre conservation, si nécessaire au maintien du bon goût et de la vraie politesse de l’esprit dont Votre Altesse est le modèle.80

44Finally, Voltaire’s eagerness to influence the design of Frederick’s apartments is accounted for in his correspondence with the king. For instance, having learned of Frederick’s plan to publish a new edition of the Henriade, he replied that:

  • 81 The project was never realised. Voltaire to Frederick II, Brussels, 4 or 5 June 1740, Frederick II  (...)

V. A. R. est l’unique protecteur de la Henriade. On travaille ici [in Brussels] très-bien en tapisserie ; si vous le permettiez, je ferais exécuter quatre ou cinq pièces d’après les quatre ou cinq morceaux les plus pittoresques dont vous daignez embellir cet ouvrage : la Saint-Barthélémy, le temple du Destin, le temple de l’Amour, la bataille d’Ivry, fourniraient, ce me semble, quatre belles pièces pour quelque chambre d’un de vos palais, selon les mesures que V. A. R. donnerait ; je crois qu’en moins de deux ans cela serait exécuté.81

The afterlife of Van Loo’s Feast of Dido

  • 82 For a survey of Frederick’s snuffbox collection, see Baer 1993.
  • 83 Oettingen 1904, p. 5.
  • 84 It is conceivable that Van Loo painted the Feast of Dido on the basis of a similar drawing of de Tr (...)

45In 1777–79, the Feast of Dido was adapted for a snuffbox. The king famously amassed one of the most important eighteenth-century collections of snuffboxes, which were mostly produced in Berlin.82 We are exceptionally well-informed about the making of this particular piece through a diary entry by Daniel Chodowiecki, who had been contracted by the court jewellers, the Brothers Jordan, to supply enamel plaques for the box. For two consecutive days in October 1777, Chodowiecki copied Van Loo’s painting, which he described as ‘a vast composition, made with much charm [Nettigkeit] and application [Ausführung], yet very colourful and without effect’.83 Chodowiecki’s remarkably detailed drawing has been preserved at Stuttgart (fig. 19).84

Fig. 19. Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki (after Amédée Van Loo), Aeneas at the Feast of Dido, 1777, pencil on paper, 21.5 × 26.9 cm. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Graphische Sammlung, Inv. Nr. C 1954/GVL 30/96.

Fig. 19. Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki (after Amédée Van Loo), Aeneas at the Feast of Dido, 1777, pencil on paper, 21.5 × 26.9 cm. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Graphische Sammlung, Inv. Nr. C 1954/GVL 30/96.

© Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

46Next, Chodowiecki was invited to Sanssouci in order to show the king the fruit of his labour and to receive further instructions. Frederick approved the drawing and requested that it be executed in couleur de chair, one of his favourite hues, encouraging Chodowiecki to reduce the composition in whatever way he deemed necessary. Frederick also reminded him that the jewellers had promised to seek prior permission for any further modifications, a detail that underscores the tight personal control exercised by the king over his artistic commissions.

  • 85 Oettingen 1904, p. 6. Frederick commemorated Voltaire’s death by composing his Éloge de Voltaire fo (...)

47Regrettably, we do not know the original recipient of the box. Was it intended for the king himself, or maybe even for Voltaire? Stimulated by the king’s creation of a new royal library in Berlin, the two men’s correspondence and exchange of compliments had certainly intensified anew in the later 1770s. Yet Voltaire had passed away by the time Chodowiecki completed the enamel plaques in January 1779.85 Snuffboxes are a very versatile medium, and this particular example illustrates their function as portable mementos, which allowed their owners to carry souvenirs of cherished places, objects and individuals. It is worth noting that during his visit to Potsdam, Chodowiecki was also shown Batoni’s Alexander and the wives of Darius because the king was considering ordering a second snuffbox depicting the painting. The fact that the king selected these two paintings to be reproduced in such a manner, the only two known examples, demonstrates his high esteem for them.

  • 86 Duchesne and Vigarello 1991, p. 121.
  • 87 For the careful attention given to the symbolic meaning of decorative programme on snuffboxes, see (...)

48Snuffboxes were not only precious collectibles but also lay at the heart of very specific rituals of sociability.86 In the eighteenth century, their use comprised a strictly prescribed sequence of elegant gestures, through which users could demonstrate their belonging to polite society. On opening the box, the owner was supposed to offer its contents to his or her company. The box could thus be shown around and its details could stimulate conversation. In the context of this box, it might have served as a prompt for the recipient to commemorate Van Loo’s painting, the king’s philosophical dinner parties, or even the ‘Dido of Sceaux’.87

  • 88 Lenz 1912, p. 58.
  • 89 Until World War II, the manufactory’s archive also preserved a corresponding drawing in water colou (...)
  • 90 In 1772, Frederick had gifted Voltaire a similar coffee and chocolate service with mythological sce (...)

49Van Loo’s Feast of Dido was also adapted for a set of eight teacups, four chocolate cups, and two large plates painted with mythological scenes, which were produced for Frederick by his new porcelain manufactory in December 1782.88 For this, the central group of the painting, comprising the figures of Dido, Aeneas, Ascanius, and the harpist, was distilled into a vignette, which may have looked a lot like Chodowiecki’s reduced composition on the snuffbox, and it was painted on a saucer in red grisaille (fig. 20). The corresponding cup depicted the Judgement of Paris.89 The intimate size of the service and its colour, ponceau, which was the same hue as the textile furnishings of the king’s private dining room, raises the question if the porcelain objects could have been used in that very space.90

Fig. 20. Saucer and cup, 1782, porcelain, painted in iron red, 7 × 13 cm. Location unknown. In: Georg Lentz, 1913, Berliner Porzellan. Die Manufaktur Friedrichs des Großen 1763–86, Berlin, R. Hobbing, Vol. 2, plate 152, ill. 718.

Fig. 20. Saucer and cup, 1782, porcelain, painted in iron red, 7 × 13 cm. Location unknown. In: Georg Lentz, 1913, Berliner Porzellan. Die Manufaktur Friedrichs des Großen 1763–86, Berlin, R. Hobbing, Vol. 2, plate 152, ill. 718.

Photo: Georg Lentz, 1913, Berliner Porzellan. Die Manufaktur Friedrichs des Großen 1763–86, Berlin, R. Hobbing, Vol. 2, plate 152, ill. 718.

Epilogue

50As fate would have it, the last known owner of Van Loo’s preparatory study for The Feast of Dido was the fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, who resold the canvas in 2001. Following the designer’s death, the remainder of his estate was sold at Christie’s Paris in late 2021, comprising, amongst other things, an old reproduction of Adolph von Menzel’s Dinner Party of Frederick II (1850), which he had requested from his parents as a Christmas gift at the age of seven. The reproduction had taken pride of place in Lagerfeld’s reconstruction of his childhood room in his house at Louveciennes. A chef d’œuvre of German historicist painting, Menzel’s canvas offered a romanticising representation of a dinner party at the palace of Sanssouci, at which Frederick and Voltaire are joined by other important members of the king’s cercle intime, such as the Marquis d’Argens and Count Francesco Algarotti (fig. 21).

Fig. 21. Adolph von Menzel, The Dinner Party of Frederick II, 1850, 60 × 50 cm. Colour reproduction by Adolph Otto Troitzsch, 1912. Berlin, Museum Europäischer Kulturen, D (33 R 195) 674/1972.

Fig. 21. Adolph von Menzel, The Dinner Party of Frederick II, 1850, 60 × 50 cm. Colour reproduction by Adolph Otto Troitzsch, 1912. Berlin, Museum Europäischer Kulturen, D (33 R 195) 674/1972.

Permalink: https://id.smb.museum/​object/​501928

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum Europäischer Kulturen / Christian Krug – CC By-NC-SA 4.0

  • 91 As quoted in Postrel 2013, p. 68.

51Lagerfeld, who famously fashioned his public persona on the eighteenth-century culture of galanterie and esprit, repeatedly expressed his particular fascination for the painting and the world it represented: ‘I decided that this elegant and refined scene represented the life that was worth living, a sort of ideal that I have since endeavoured to achieve,’ ‘a world of wit and erudite conversation, a word of light and luxury, choreographed manners and costume, a world of curiosity and a possibility of the superlative.’91 These comments show that the designer harboured a similar kind of longing as the one Frederick had felt for the world of Paris and Sceaux. More importantly for our purposes, they also reveal how successfully the king recreated the ‘feast of the Parisian gods’ and perpetuated the image of the roi philosophe, who was surrounded by illustrious men and conversation.

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Notes

1 Voltaire 1784, p. 62.

2 Seidel 1900b; Börsch-Supan 1988; Vogtherr 2005a; Windt 2009; Windt et al. 2015. Franziska Windt is currently preparing a second volume of the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation’s French paintings, which will include the paintings of Van Loo.

3 These figures are based on entries in a lost journal of Van Loo’s. Oulmont 1912, p. 144; Seidel 1900b, p. 105.

4 Börsch-Supan 1988, pp. 27–28; Vogtherr 2005, pp. 202, 205.

5 Kaiser and Luh 2009; Luh 2011; Biskup 2012; Pečar 2016.

6 Luh 2011, pp. 39–48, 186–89; Pečar 2016, pp. 22–23.

7 It has thus far been impossible to identify the painting described by Voltaire. Christoph M. Vogtherr, who first drew attention to this passage, has understandably questioned if it ever really existed: Vogtherr 2005, p. 210.

8 Baxandall 1972 and 1980.

9 The most well-known example of this is the Temple of Friendship at Potsdam (1768–70), which was designed after Voltaire’s Ode à l’amitié as a memorial to Frederick’s recently deceased sister, Wilhelmine. Buttlar and Köhler 2012, pp. 123–27.

10 Fumaroli 2001, p. 157.

11 Vogtherr 2005. Voltaire’s and the king’s relationship soured due to the former’s shady financial transactions and heavy polemics against the president of the Berlin Academy, Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis.

12 Giersberg 1998, pp. 55–88.

13 After a visit to Dresden, where Frederick William I and the young Frederick had experienced a table volante, August II of Saxony gifted the Prussian king a specimen in 1728. It appears that, after 1745, Frederick had a first Konfidenztafelzimmer with a mechanical table installed in his new apartment at the Berlin City Palace (first floor, south and Spree wings), which became the direct predecessor of the room at Potsdam. Graf 2012, pp. 17, 19.

14 Huth 1949, p. 112. Regrettably, Huth provides no source.

15 Luh 2011, p. 140.

16 Prominent examples include the Gallery Building at Herrenhausen (c. 1700), the Grand Gallery of the Palais Royal (1718), or the Hall of Victories at Schleissheim (1723/25). ‘Lass, Wir sind geläutert – Zur Darstellung des Aeneas in der Wand- und Deckenmalerei um 1700’. Lass 2018.

17 Bauer 2013.

18 Nicolas Lancret, The Embarkation for Cythera, Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, GK I 5606 : https://agorha.inha.fr/ark:/54721/76c01091-f93e-45fb-a09a-83ca96fd7be1.

19 Antoine Watteau, The Pilgrimage to Cythera, Musée du Louvre, INV 8525 : https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061995.

20 Börsch-Supan 1988, pp. 23–32. In the opening quotation, Voltaire even suggests that the king occasionally provided preparatory sketches for new paintings.

21 Börsch-Supan 1988, p. 27.

22 Börsch-Supan 1980, p. 142.

23 For a discussion of the relationship between the sociability of Frederick’s dinner table and art, see Vogtherr 2005. It is telling that the Konfidenztafelzimmer was accessed via the alcove of the king’s study-cum-bedroom, which housed the royal bed and two large cupboards with the king’s personal books.

24 Voltaire to Nicolas-Claude Thieriot, November 1750, Voltaire 1880, p. 208.

25 Voltaire to Marie-Louise Mignot (‘Madame Denis’), 13 October 1750, Voltaire 1880, p. 184.

26 Pečar 2016, chapter 2; Mervaud 1985.

27 The king’s private press Au donjon du Château printed his works in small editions, which were carefully distributed and reclaimed when their recipients left the realm. Indeed, after his departure from Prussia, Voltaire was temporarily detained by a royal agent at Frankfurt because he had failed to return a volume of the king’s Œuvres. Wehinger 2004, p. 149; Pečar 2016, pp. 83–85; Droysen 1904.

28 Recorded at the Neue Palais as early as 1772, Franziska Windt has identified a bill for two picture frames, which demonstrates that the paintings were originally commissioned for the dining room (Speise- und Audienzzimmer) at Sanssouci. The author thanks Mrs Windt for generously sharing her findings, which will be published in her forthcoming catalogue raisonné of French paintings.

29 Voltaire to Marie-Louise Mignot (‘Madame Denis’), 13 October 1750, Voltaire 1880, p. 184.

30 Frederick II 1846–56, vol. 7 (1847), p. 51: ‘Quiconque en Grèce avait des talents, était sûr de trouver des admirateurs et même des enthousiastes ; c’étaient ces puissants encouragements qui développaient les génies […] Bientôt après, Rome nous fournit un spectacle semblable : on y voit Cicéron, qui, par son esprit philosophique et par son éloquence, s’éleva au comble des honneurs ; […] Virgile et Horace furent honorés des suffrages de ce peuple-roi ; ils furent admis aux familiarités d’Auguste, et participèrent aux récompenses que ce tyran adroit répandait sur ceux qui, célébrant ses vertus, faisaient illusion sur ses vices.’

31 Hagemann 2009.

32 Pečar 2016, pp. 24–25. The project was delayed and Frederick’s preface was first published as part of the 1756 edition of the Henriade.

33 The military man and writer Charles-Joseph de Ligne (1735–1814) may have thought of Aeneas when he described Frederick as follows: ‘On ne s’apercevait pas qu’il fût, ainsi que les héros d’Homère, un peu babillard, mais sublime.’ Ligne 1860, vol. 2, p. 163.

34 Frederick II 1846–56, Avant-propos sur la Henriade de M. de Voltaire, vol. 8 (1848), p. 51.

35 Frederick II 1846–56, Éloge de Voltaire, vol. 7 (1847), pp. 65–66. The Éloge was read to the members of the Prussian Academy of Arts and Sciences on 26 November 1778 and represented an important example of the king’s public self-fashioning as patron of the letters and homme de lettres in his own right.

36 Witte 2011, pp. 28–39.

37 For a survey and facsimile of the Palladion, see Frederick II 1985, vols. I–II.

38 Ibid., vol. I, pp. 95–107.

39 Vogtherr 2004, pp. 77–81.

40 Rouillé 2011.

41 Frederick II 1985, vol. 1, p. 36.

42 Russo 2006, pp. 28–29, 31, 42.

43 Ibid., pp. 2, 10, especially chapter ‘Prologue: Boudoir and Tribune’.

44 Luh 2011, p. 156; Clark 2019, p. 110.

45 Tsien 2012, p. 70. Likewise, when Frederick bought the famous collection of antiquities amassed by Cardinal Melchior de Polignac, the gatekeeper of Voltaire’s temple of taste, he insinuated that it was an attempt to domesticate the sophisticated (French) culture that had produced the collection in the first place. Dostert 2016, p. 158.

46 Recently, Christopher Clark has suggested intriguingly that Frederick not only appreciated the fêtes galantes as a form of escapism but also as representations of moments of suspension which reflected Frederick’s own consciousness of time and history as cyclical and self-repeating (the ‘immensity of time’). Clark 2019, pp. 102, 108–109. For a discussion of Frederick’s ‘traditional’ cyclical conception of history in the context of emerging linear Enlightenment ideas of history as progress, see Schröder 2002, chapters B, C, D.

47 Luh 2011, p. 142.

48 Je goûte le plaisir de lui être utile dans ses études, et j’en prends de nouvelles forces pour diriger les miennes. J’apprends, en le corrigeant, à me corriger moi-même.’ Voltaire to Count d’Argental, 15 October 1750, Voltaire, 1880, no. 2135, p. 187.

49 Pečar 2016, chapters 3 and 4.

50 Frederick II 1751, p. xi.

51 Ibid., p. xiv.

52 Here, Frederick proceeds to mention the fifteenth-century myth that the Hohenzollerns were descended from the Roman family of the Colonna because their original coat-of-arms showed a column.

53 Frederick II 1751, pp. 1–2.

54 Clark 2019, pp. 108–09.

55 Hecht 2006, pp. 15–16, 27.

56 The development may have already begun under the ‘Great Elector’ himself. On the walls, four monumental paintings from the 1660s depicted his political and military triumphs, though it should be noted that the precise date of their installation in the Marble Hall remains unclear. Frederick also commissioned gilded stucco reliefs, which depicted the victories of the ‘Great Elector’. Windt suggests that Frederick may have modelled this space on Frederick I’s self-aggrandising décor at the Paradekammern of the Berlin City Palace. Windt 2009, pp. 3–5.

57 Duke Louis-Auguste (1670–1736) was the favourite son of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan. Duchess Louise-Bénédicte (1676–1753) was a princess of the blood from a cadet branch of the royal Bourbon dynasty.

58 The identities of the remaining characters are more complicated to establish. See Brême 2003, pp. 10–11.

59 As quoted in Brême 1997, p. 60. In particular, Dezallier d’Argenville referred to the painting as ‘repas que Didon donne à Ænée, pendant lequel ce Heros lui raconte ses avantures’, underscoring the extent to which contemporaries associated the subject with Aeneas’ story-telling rather than the banquet.

60 Unlike his uncle, who partly consulted Ottoman visual sources for the harem series produced for Madame de Pompadour, Amédée’s arbitrary use of à la turque elements largely reinforced contemporary ideas of the orient as a timelessly sumptuous space. Stein 1996, pp. 32–34.

61 De Troy’s painting was exhibited at the Salon of 1704 and hung in the ducal couple’s apartment at the Tuileries Palace, when the duke served as tutor to the young Louis (XV). Horace Walpole saw it at Sceaux during his visit in 1767. According to an undated inventory, presumably from the second half of the eighteenth century, the painting was recorded on the ground floor at Sceaux (Paris, Archives Nationales, 300 AP I 147).

62 Leribault 2002, pp. 96–104, 349–68; Du Bourg 2012, pp. 44–46, no. VII.

63 Williams 2014, pp. 141–42. The similarities are particularly obvious in the Sultana tapestries, which Amédée Van Loo designed in the early 1770s. Stein 1996.

64 Leribault 2002, p. 100.

65 Voltaire to the Duchess of Maine, 8 December 1750, Voltaire 1880, no. 2155, p. 210.

66 Windt 2009, unpaginated, paragraphs 21–30.

67 Voltaire delighted in pointing out that the Grand Condé’s spirit lived on in the duchess. See Couvreur 2003, pp. 239–40. Frederick also named his favourite horse after the Grand Condé.

68 Carlyle 1864, p. 258.

69 As quoted in Mortier 2003, p. 18.

70 Couvreur 2003, p. 246.

71 Reinhardt 2022, pp. 280–81.

72 Couvreur 2003, p. 236.

73 Voltaire 1752, Préface, p. iii; Shibuya 2014, pp. 49–50.

74 Couvreur 2003, pp. 238–41.

75 ‘Le roi de Prusse est de votre avis ; il trouve que Rome sauvée est ce que j’ai fait de plus fort.’ Voltaire to the Count d’Argental, Voltaire 1880, no. 2120, p. 172. Rome sauvée was not well received in France.

76 And to broadcast the king’s fame to France. Pečar 2016, pp. 22–24.

77 Horace Walpole to the Duchess de Choiseul, 1767, Walpole 1970, vol. 5, no. 25, p. 322.

78 Pečar 2016, pp. 24–25. The king’s dinner table also hosted other men, such as the Marquis d’Argens or Julien Offray de La Mettrie, who were victims of French censorship.

79 About the duchess’ double role as representative of the old and the new taste, see Couvreur 2003, pp. 244–48.

80 Voltaire to the Duchess of Maine, December 1751, as quoted in Couvreur 2003, p. 244. The duchess passed away in January 1753, before Voltaire’s return to France.

81 The project was never realised. Voltaire to Frederick II, Brussels, 4 or 5 June 1740, Frederick II 1846–56, vol. 21 (1853), p. 433.

82 For a survey of Frederick’s snuffbox collection, see Baer 1993.

83 Oettingen 1904, p. 5.

84 It is conceivable that Van Loo painted the Feast of Dido on the basis of a similar drawing of de Troy’s canvas.

85 Oettingen 1904, p. 6. Frederick commemorated Voltaire’s death by composing his Éloge de Voltaire for the Berlin Academy and by bestowing a bust of Voltaire by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, created in 1778, to the same institution.

86 Duchesne and Vigarello 1991, p. 121.

87 For the careful attention given to the symbolic meaning of decorative programme on snuffboxes, see Frederick’s correspondence with Countess de Camas: Countess de Camas to Frederick, 25 April 1761, and Frederick to Countess de Camas, 20 November 1762, Frederick II 1846–56, vol. 18 (1851), pp. 167, 172.

88 Lenz 1912, p. 58.

89 Until World War II, the manufactory’s archive also preserved a corresponding drawing in water colour, dated 11 December 1782. Lenz 1913, p. 58.

90 In 1772, Frederick had gifted Voltaire a similar coffee and chocolate service with mythological scenes, which prompted a witty back and forth about iconographic details of the painted décor, such as a laurel wreath, the lyre of Apollo, and the figure of the poet Arion riding a dolphin. As quoted in Lenz 1913, pp. 5758.

91 As quoted in Postrel 2013, p. 68.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. Frederick II’s private dining room (Konfidenztafelzimmer) at the Potsdam City Palace, destroyed in 1945. Photograph, 1912.
Crédits © BLDAM, Bildarchiv, Neg.-Nr. 22 f 19/1634.53
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 713k
Titre Fig. 2. Johann Michael Hoppenhaupt the Elder, Canapé from the Private Dining Room (with new textile covering), 1749, 110 × 127 × 68,5 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, IV 633.
Légende Today, the furniture is on display in the Oval Cabinet at the Neue Palais (see fig. 8).
Crédits © SPSG, Reto Pedrini
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 504k
Titre Fig. 3. Johann Friedrich Meyer, The Potsdam City Palace Seen from the Southwest, 1773, oil on canvas, 78 × 112 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, GK I 5751.
Crédits © SPSG, Gerhard Murza
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 614k
Titre Fig. 4. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Feast of Dido, 1750, oil on canvas, 127 × 159 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4197.
Crédits © SPSG, Daniel Lindner
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 622k
Titre Fig. 5a. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Feast of Dido, 1750, oil on canvas, 127 × 159 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4197. Detail.
Crédits © SPSG, Daniel Lindner
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 640k
Titre Fig. 5b. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Feast of Dido, 1750, oil on canvas, 127 × 159 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4197. Detail.
Crédits © SPSG, Daniel Lindner
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 691k
Titre Fig. 6. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Feast of Dido (preparatory study), c. 1750, oil on unlined canvas, 66 × 82 cm. Private collection.
Crédits © Christie’s Images / Bridgeman Images
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 51k
Titre Fig. 7. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Fête champêtre, 1750, oil on canvas, 68 × 106 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4198.
Crédits © SPSG, Daniel Lindner
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 501k
Titre Fig. 8. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, The Pilgrimage to Cythera, 1750, oil on canvas, 67.6 × 105.4 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 4199.
Crédits © SPSG, Daniel Lindner
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 421k
Titre Fig. 9. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, The School of Athens, 1749, oil on canvas, 144 × 225 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Neues Palais, GK I 5309.
Crédits © SPSG, Daniel Lindner
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 509k
Titre Fig. 10. Georg Friedrich Schmidt, SS. Peter and Anthony Fly to Rome on a Cock and a Pig (title vignette of Chant II of the Palladion, p. 39), 1750, etching. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – PK.
Légende Permalink: http://resolver.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/​SBB00007E6500010000
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 416k
Titre Fig. 11. The Oval Cabinet at the Neue Palais, Potsdam.
Crédits © SPSG, Wolfgang Pfauder
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 525k
Titre Fig. 12. ‘Munero’ and ‘Demonstro non habere’, in John Bulwer, Chirologia or The naturall language of the hand. Composed of the speaking Motions, and discoursing gestures thereof. Whereunto Is Added Chironomia [...], London, T. Harper, 1654, p. 155 (illustration A-Z).
Crédits © British Library Board (Thomason / E.1092[1], p. 155). Image produced by ProQuest as part of Early English Books Online (EEBO). www.proquest.com. Image published with permission of ProQuest. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-13.png
Fichier image/png, 267k
Titre Fig. 13. Pierre Charles Baquoy, after Nicolas Monsiau, Frederick II and Voltaire, c.1800, engraving, 48.5 × 37.5 cm. Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, GK II (10) 1413.
Crédits © SPSG, Daniel Lindner
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 446k
Titre Fig. 14. The Marble Hall at Potsdam City Palace, 1936. Photograph.
Crédits © SPSG
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 372k
Titre Fig. 15. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo, Apotheosis of the ‘Great Elector’ (ceiling painting in the Marble Hall at Potsdam City Palace), 1751. Photograph of 1943.
Crédits © SPSG, Peter Cürlis
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 493k
Titre Fig. 16. François de Troy, Feast of Dido and Aeneas, 1704, oil on canvas, 160.5 × 202.5 cm (without frame). Musée du Domaine Départemental de Sceaux, inv. 2008.2.1.
Crédits © CD92 / Musée du Domaine départemental de Sceaux. Photographe Pascal Lemaître
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 165k
Titre Fig. 17. Jean-François de Troy, The Sentencing of Aman, 1740, oil on canvas, 332 × 429 cm. Paris, Musée du Louvre, INV 8218.
Légende Permalink: https://collections.louvre.fr/​ark:/53355/​cl010061259
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 300k
Titre Fig. 18. Giovanni Paolo Panini, Feast under an Ionic Portico, c. 1720, oil on canvas, 242 × 244 cm. Paris, Musée du Louvre, INV 405.
Légende Permalink: https://collections.louvre.fr/​ark:/53355/​cl010060789
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 329k
Titre Fig. 19. Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki (after Amédée Van Loo), Aeneas at the Feast of Dido, 1777, pencil on paper, 21.5 × 26.9 cm. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Graphische Sammlung, Inv. Nr. C 1954/GVL 30/96.
Crédits © Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 778k
Titre Fig. 20. Saucer and cup, 1782, porcelain, painted in iron red, 7 × 13 cm. Location unknown. In: Georg Lentz, 1913, Berliner Porzellan. Die Manufaktur Friedrichs des Großen 1763–86, Berlin, R. Hobbing, Vol. 2, plate 152, ill. 718.
Crédits Photo: Georg Lentz, 1913, Berliner Porzellan. Die Manufaktur Friedrichs des Großen 1763–86, Berlin, R. Hobbing, Vol. 2, plate 152, ill. 718.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 762k
Titre Fig. 21. Adolph von Menzel, The Dinner Party of Frederick II, 1850, 60 × 50 cm. Colour reproduction by Adolph Otto Troitzsch, 1912. Berlin, Museum Europäischer Kulturen, D (33 R 195) 674/1972.
Légende Permalink: https://id.smb.museum/​object/​501928
URL http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/docannexe/image/25359/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 988k
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Référence électronique

Rahul Kulka, « Canvases in Conversation: Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo’s Paintings for the Private Dining Room of King Frederick II of Prussia »Bulletin du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles [En ligne], Articles et études, mis en ligne le 02 novembre 2022, consulté le 07 février 2023. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/25359 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/crcv.25359

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Rahul Kulka

Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg / Research Center Sanssouci, Potsdam
r.kulka[at]spsg.de

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