“ Always only to ask for the useful
is not fitting at all
for generous and free humans ”
(Aristotle , teacher of Alexander)
The Triumphs of Alexander
“ a Wonderful Ecstasy , a Dream ,
in which the Homerian Epoch
was evoked once more ”
(Oswald Spengler on the Alexander Campaign)
Ecstasylike beautiful then once more ,
2000 Years later
Charles Le Brun
1619 Paris 1690
The Triumphs (or The Battles or The Histories) of Alexander the Great
Set of the 5 (3 folded) sheet (69.6-72 × 90.4-159.3 cm [27⅜-28⅜ × 35⅝-62¾ in] on guards) printed from 15 (not 16!) plates + joined in etching with engraving by Girard Audran (4) + Gerard Edelinck. Paris 1672/78 (Audran) + c. 1671. Imperial folio (78 × 54.5 cm [30¾ × 21½ in]). Copy-specific 2 leaves black stamped text + contents, 1 white leaf.
Ruby cow-hide design binding over wooden boards
with 4 ornamental raised bands enclosed by lines, spread over lines on the covers
each with 4 large Bourbon fleurs-de-lis in the corners ,
two-piece artist & title stamp on the front and
large ligated R(oi)S(oleil) monogram
as together also brand of the Red Series here as centerpiece on the back cover, black back-plates, brown inner covers & fly-leaves, the front inner cover + fly-leaf of which
with text and title resp.
accompanied by Bourbon fleur-de-lis ,
red series and niemeyer fine arts resp. on the inner covers’ lower edge as well as JayAitchDesign on the lower edge of the back cover, all gilt tooled in 23.5 carat in English.
in co-operation with Lydia Beauvais
Chargée de mission (LE BRUN project), cabinet des dessins de Louvre
Charles Le Brun. First Painter to King Louis XIV
New York, Abrams, 1992
(as far as not stated otherwise quotations are from this source)
Charles LeBrun’s Triumphs of Alexander
The Art Bulletin XLI (1959), no. 3, 237 ff.
Wilhelm Weigand (ed.)
(The Court of Louis XIV
From the Memoirs of the Duke of Saint-Simon)
3rd edition. Leipsic, Insel-Verlag, 1925
E. Décultot, M. Espagne & M. Werner (eds.)
Johann Georg Wille (1715-1808). (Correspondence)
Tübingen, Niemeyer, 1999
AKL V (1992), Audran
“The work of A. comprises hardly more than 200 engravings, actually few
if there were not a number of extraordinary formats .
Irrespective of the efforts by Robert-Dumesnil, 1865 (for here his 57-60),
Meyer, 1878, Audin/Vial, 1918, and R.-A. Weigert, 1939,
there still is no serious catalog raisonné of A.”
Thieme-Becker (1908 ff.)
XXII (Le Brun) , II (Audran) & X (Edelinck)
R. Weigel’s Art Catalog
Sect. I (1838), 557
“ The famous Battles of Alexander the Great …
In 5 sheet in the largest oblong imp. fol. (joined together)
First impressions with – as here – the address of the Royal Printer Goyton . ”
Nagler (1835 ff.)
“ They consist of 13 large plates and are in first impressions
– as here – with the address of Goydon ”
“ … G. Audran has engraved masterly
and thereby contributed himself not a little to Le Brun’s fame ,
for Audran frequently improved the incorrectnesses of the drawing of the original ” (II)
II (Le Brun)
“ His Battles of Alexander raised him to the peak of fame ”
“ in two plates and in the first state
– as here – with Goyton’s name ”
“ … herein Edelink has exhausted his whole art ” (II)
4th ed., Leipsic 1888/90
The authorized grandiose edition of engravings
at request of Louis XIV of
Le Brun’s gigantic cycle of paintings on canvasses between 2.98-4.7 × 4.53-12.65 m (sic!)
(117⅜-185 × 178⅜-498 in) from the years 1661-1668 as one of those immortalizations of Louis XIV for which for his 1st minister Colbert “no expense was too large when the fame, la gloire, of the king was in question”. Here then the Sun King in the assumed character of “Alexander the Great as Master of the Battles”. Whose personal radiance could inspire the artists indeed. So the great Bernini creating the portrait bust – “Especially as portraitist (this) has been the most admired master of his time for the extraordinary ability to represent the individual of the person” (Thieme-Becker) – said 1665 on the spot “the king has the head of Alexander”. With the result that “The magnificent bust of the young king … represents the self-assured character of the sovereign in an incomparable manner: it is something like Jupiter that shows from the monarch’s serene features” (Weigand, pp. 59, 152, 43 resp.). And so then also in the present case
“ the final consensus was
that no one other than Le Brun
could have created The Battles .”
Those culminations of acting by a man whose name just is program by its own. “Alexandros … the ‘men protecting’, Greek male name”. Here then “the Great” (356-323 B.C.),
“ the greatest conqueror of all times, son of king Philip and Olympias … His first tutor was Leonidas … then from his 13th year on the famous philosopher Aristotle. To this the honor is due of having awakened in the impulsive boy the idea of greatness, that sublimity and rigor of thinking which ennobled his passions and gave his power moderation and consciousness. A. always showed his teacher the sincerest reverence; frequently he said his father he only owes his life, his teacher that he lives decently … Already in his lifetime A. was glorified by the fine arts as no hero of antiquity before him ”
(Meyer’s, op. cit., I, 316 ff.).
As it already was Le Brun’s belief
that no one other than Audran
(and Edelinck) would be able to master the absolute reproduction in copper .
Here then present on heavy laid paper in their
with the name of the royal printer Goyton
on all five sheets and that of Audran with exception of the final sheet of 1678
with still “Pintre” instead of “Peintre” .
And all this in correspondingly
uniform wonderful , still blackening quality of impression
of vibrant chiaroscuro
at simultaneously practically greatest freshness ,
and surrounding margins of 2.2-4 cm for above & below and 3-11 cm for the sides
as noted exactly in detail in each case below. The lateral margins of the three large-sized sheets thus most generously, that is with 6 and 9-11 cm resp. downright spectacular.
According to British Museum Goyton († 1714) was publisher and printer in Paris since the 1670s and
“ Perhaps the first such to be permitted
to add his name to the plates that he printed.
Employed to print the plates of the ‘Cabinet du Roi’ , which were not stored in the Imprimerie Royale but in the royal library; Goyton had to move in with his press and print them in the room next to the stores of morocco used for binding the volumes (see André Jammes, The Library, XX 1965, p.10).
Some ( !! ) of them carry his name in dotted letters . ”
The strange row of a varying number of dots following his name immediately or yet closely was deciphered by Ebert, Allgemeines Bibliographisches Lexikon (1821), 3232, as specification of the number of prints, 100 per dot as utterly unusual in the graphic arts, for which again and again the as old as but vaguely answerable question about the number of prints is discussed. Here then their number would be between 700 and 900. 700 each for Granicus & Arbela, 800 each for Babylon & Poros, 900 for the Tent of Darius.
With watermark J. Cusson (Auvergne, Thiers?), provable since the mid-17th century (“Nicolson, Cusson, Vimal, etc. … made sheets in very large sizes”, Carlo James, 1997), in combination with his little blossom close to Heawood 3295 (Paris, 17th century?) with the question mark already being done by the referred to Beaulieu sheets dating from since 1643. See also the referable Cusson pendant with heart instead of blossom with the van de Velde drawings in London & Rotterdam (each watermark 61 in Robinson) for partially secured events of 1673 (so London nos. 412/13). Otherwise with fleur-de-lis combination Heawood 3291/94 dating from the 18th century.
Beyond the stains expressly noted below in two cases, not impairing the pictorial effect by any means, however, only quite isolated tiny dirties of 340 years of age which to name pedantically would be downright impertinent in view of a really dreamlike general state.
The binding – on folds for plain comfortable display – follows the historic sequence. In parentheses Le Brun’s respective period of the painting’s creation as per Posner, not Gareau, and their sizes as well as the latter’s separate descriptions accompanied by splendid color illustrations of the oils.
Lyon 1640 – Paris 1703
1672 – 4 sheet on 3 plates in the same direction – 28⅛-28¼ × 55⅛ in (71.5-71.7 × 139.9 cm)
edition identifier: 700 impressions
margins: above & below 25-3.5 cm, sides 6 cm
(1662/65 – 185 × 476 in [4.70 × 12.09 m] – G. pp. 208-213)
“ Gir. Audran sculps. 1672. ”
(in the lower left edge of the image) & in the text field
“ ....... Graué par Gir. Audran sur le tableau de Mr. le Brun
premier Pintre (sic, not yet corrected instead of Peintre) du Roy GoyTon (dotted) /
Ce tableau est dans le Cabinet de sa Mate. il a 16 pieds de hault sur 30 pieds de long.
LA VERTV SVRMONTE TOVT OBSTACLE .
Alexandre ayant passé le Granique, attaque les Perses a forces inegales, /
et met en fuitte leur innombrable multitude
VIRTVS OMNI OBICE MAIOR
Alexander superato Granico, Persas imparibus copijs aggreditur, /
eorumque innumerabilem exercitum fundit
Æri incisus per Ger. Audran ex tabula Car. le Brun Reg. Pictor. Primarij ....... /
asseruatâ in Pinacothecâ Regiâ 16 pedes alta et 30 pedes lata. Goyton (dotted) ”
The first major battle of the Alexander Campaign .
“ Granicus, ancient name of a river in the landscape Troas (Troad) in north-western Asia Minor …
At the same … Alexander the Great won his first victory over the Persians
… not far from Priapos (now Karaboa) … Still in the river itself the murderous cavalry fight started ”
(Meyer’s, op. cit., VII, 616 + I, 317).
In which Alexander followed Thucydides’ war counsel:
“ He who attacks first will terrify the enemy .”
“ Memnon, the Rhodian general in the service of Darius, new (and last) king of Persia, (who should offer fierce resistance once more in Halicarnassus later in the year) was in command of the army that awaited Alexander … In the Passage of the Granicus, Le Brun thus wished to emphasize his style by adding the famous helmets adorned with feathers or with animals. In the centre is Alexander on his horse Bucephalus. He is recognizable by his white-plumed helmet. He raises his sword against Memnon, but at the same time a Persian has appeared behind him, brandishing a sword in both hands, intent on splitting open his head. A cavalryman in crimson has arrived just in time; he pushes away the warrior with his left hand and is about to kill him with a blow of his axe … It was Cleitus, the son of his childhood nurse … Further to the right, a helmeted Greek warrior carries one of the silver shields of Alexander’s special bodyguards, the ARGYRASPIDES, who were known by the name given to the shield … Beside Cleitus there is another helmeted Greek
blowing (already) a long trumpet , seemingly to announce victory .”
So that the canvas may tell the whole story.
“ It is also worth bearing in mind that Le Brun’s specific goal was
to portray Louis XIV in the role of victor through the depiction of a triumphant Alexander. ”
1674 – Printed from 4 plates in the same direction – 28⅛-28⅜ × 62⅝ in (71.3-72 × 159.2 cm)
edition identifier: 700 impressions
margins: above & below 2.3-2.5 cm, left 9 cm, right 11 cm
(C. 1666/68 – 185 × 498 in [4.70 × 12.65 m] – G. pp. 214-219)
“ Gir. Audran sculps. 1674. ”
(in the lower left edge of the image) & in the text field
“ ....... Graué par Gir. Audran sur le tableau de Mr. le Brun
premier Pintre (sic, still not yet corrected instead of Peintre) du Roy. /
....... ce tableau est dans le Cabinet de sa Mate. il a 16 piedz de hault sur 39. pi. 5. pou. de long.
LA VERTV EST DIGNE DE LEMPIRE DV MONDE .
Goyton (dotted) /
Alexandre apres plusieurs Victoires deffit Darius dans la bataille qu’il donna pres d’Arbelle
et ce dernier combat / ayant acheué de renuerser le throsne des Perses tout l’Orient fut soumis
a la puissance des Macedoniens
DIGNA ORBIS IMPERIO VIRTVS .
Post multas Victorias virtute sua partas vltimo ad Arbellam prælio Darium fugat Alexander eaque /
clade funditus euerso Persarum solio totus Oriens in potestatem Macedonici cessit imperij
Æri incisus per Ger. Audran ex tabula Car. le Brun Reg. Pictor. Primarij /
asseruatâ in Pinacothecâ Regiâ 16 pedes alta et 39 p. et 5. poll. lata. GoyTon (dotted) ....... ”
Below in the platemark right outside repeated in type: GOYTON
On the left in the white plate/paper margin at top and – somewhat more – below some light brown stains, two of which also in the outermost lower edge of the image.
The first of the two decisive battles in the conquest of Asia ,
here concerning the Persian , 5 years later at the Hydaspes – see below – the Indian campaign .
“ Only at Gaugamela, not far from Arbela, (Alexander) met the enemy in autumn 331. Oct. 1 it came to the decisive battle there. Already Parmenion’s flank was pierced, the Persians stood in the Macedonian camp, there A. gained, piercing with the phalanx the enemy’s center, the victory. In Arbela, up to where A. restlessly pursued the enemy with the cavalry, the royal treasure, all field equipment, and for the second time (after Issus, see below per Edelinck) the king’s arms fell into the victor’s hands. Darius himself escaped with 8,000 man to Ecbatana, while Ariobarzanes with 25,000 turned to Persis; the other Satraps dispersed or went over to A. The Persian empire was delivered the death-blow . Babylon surrendered … (see the following sheet) ”
(Meyer’s Convers. Lex., 4th ed., I, 318).
as whose son Alexander ultimately posed as, just as others positively “felt as such in a perfectly definite sense by the people” (Spengler).
1675 – Printed from 2 plates in reverse – 28 × 36½ in (71.2 × 92.7 cm)
edition identifier: 800 impressions
margins: above & below 2.3-3.5 cm, left 5 cm, right 3 cm
(1662/65 – 177⅛ × 278⅜ in [4.50 × 7.07 m] – G. pp. 202-207)
“ Gir. Audran sculps. / 1675. ”
(in the lower left edge of the image) & in the text field
“ ........ AINSY PAR LA VERTV SELEVENT LES HEROS .
Entréé Triomphante d’Alexandre dans Babilone au milieu des concerts de /
musique et des acclamations du Peuple. GoyTon (dotted)
Graué par Ger. Audran sur le tableau de Mr. le Brun
premier Pintre (sic, still not yet corrected instead of Peintre) du Roy
Ce tableau est dans le Cabinet de sa Mté. il la 16 piedz de hault sur 21. pi 5 pou. de long.
SIC VIRTVS EVEHIT ARDENS .
Alexander Babilonem sibi deditam triumphali curru sublimis inter GoyTon (dotted) /
Ciuium acclamationes, et Concentus ingreditur
........ (at the lower right corner of the subject)
Æri incisus per Ger. Audran ex tabula Car. le Brun Reg. Pictor. Primarij
asseruatâ in Pinacothecâ Regiâ 16 pedes alta et 21 p. et 5 poll lata. ”
The partially light brown stains on the back of the right half of the sheet showing through to the subject side only here and there in stipples.
After the surrender of the magnificent , the mighty city without a fight .
Alexander’s Triumphant Entry into Babylon ,
the “Gateway of the Gods … on both sides of the Euphrates … four times (larger) than London (1888)
and was enclosed by a wall 200 yards high and 50 yards thick
with 250 towers and 100 brazen gates” (Meyer’s, op. cit., II, 204).
Standing in silver plated two-wheeled triumph carriage. Lateral view with one of the two richly adorned elephants belonging to from the Darius booty of Arbella (see the previous sheet). In front treasure porters and events of any kind. Set back Babylon’s famous Hanging Gardens.
“ Representing the crowning moment of the Persian campaign ,
when the world conqueror received the homage of the ancient city ,
the painting manifests
the inevitable elevation of virtuous royalty, the triumphal apotheosis ”
(Posner, op. cit., 241 f.).
Nagler (II) providently points out that Le Brun might have used for this as for Edelinck’s sheet, see below, a third-hand design, namely
“ There exists an agate which comprises the two most beautiful representations , that is The Tent of Darius and Alexander’s Entry into Babylon. These representations (Le Brun) has kept almost without any modifications. The agate became known first in 1749 by an effective engraving by S. Kleiner. The engraving bears the inscription: Achates orientales ruber, insculptas referens icones praecip. Alexandri M. ducum et rerum gestarum. This stone Mariette (family of art dealers, publishers, and engravers in Paris, 17th/18th century) and others pronounced antique. However, some doubt the antiquity of the same. The present owner is not known to us. ”
1678 – Printed from 4 plates in the same direction – 28-28⅛ × 62¾ in (71-71.3 × 159.3 cm)
edition identifier: 800 impressions
margins: above & below 2.2-4 cm, sides 10-11 cm
(C. 1666/68 – 185 × 497⅝ in [4.70 × 12.64 m] – G. pp. 220-225)
“ Ger. Audran sculp. 1678. ”
(in the lower right edge of the image) & in the text field
“ Goyton (dotted, in reverse) /
Graué par Gir. Audran sur le tableau de Mr. le Brun premier Peintre du Roy. /
ce tableau est dans le Cabinet de sa Mte il a 16 piedz de hault sur 39. pi. 5. pou. de long.
LA VERTV PLAIST QVOY QVE VAINCVE
Alexandre n’est pas seulement touché de compassion en voyant la grandeur d’ame du Roy Porus qu’il a
vaincu, et / fait son prisonnier, mais il luy donne des marques honorables de son estime en le receuant au
nombre de ses amis, / et en luy donnant en suitte vn plus grand Royaume que celuy qu’il auoit perdu
SIC VIRTVS ET VICTA PLACET
Pori Regis victi, captique magnanimitatem non misericordia modo, sed honore prosequitur /
Alexander, Illumque in amicorum numerum recipit, mox donat ampliore regno /
Goyton (far right dotted in reverse) ........ (on the right edge)
Æri incisus per Ger. Audran ex tabula Car. le Brun Reg. Pictor. Primarij /
asseruatâ in Pinacothecâ Regiâ 16 pedes alta et 39 p. et 5. poll. lata. ”
The last forward major battle .
after Arbella – see above – the second one of the two dedicated to the conquest of Asia
as according to Posner
“ the probably first representation of the Porus subject in the history of art ”
the art-historically first depiction
of the world-historic decision to turn back .
Alexander to the defeated brave aged Porus :
“ How do you expect to be treated ? ”
“ As befits a king. ”
“ Moved by the dignity of these words, he made a friend of his enemy from this moment on.
He could afford to display such generosity , since
‘he was master of the world , just as the oracle of Jupiter Ammon had predicted’ …
In the background on the far right there is a golden statue of (Heracles). Le Brun has taken pains
to remind us, that the meeting between Alexander and Porus took place in the Indian camp,
for it is known that Eastern people had a custom of bringing images of (Heracles) to the battlefield
as a token of victory. Indian tents spread off into the distance. ”
(“The traditions of an Indian Heracles, that is of a H. who had advanced up to India,
bear the imprint of the Greek myth advanced thither later”, Meyer’s, op. cit., VIII, 397/II.)
“ Thirty days A. stayed at the Hydaspes with sacrifices and games , also founded two towns , Bucephala (for his personal horse fallen in the battle) … and Nicaea … Without resistance the army reached (according to Tsouras in July) the banks of the Hyphasis ” (Meyer’s, op. cit., I, 319).
Not without reason both the two civil scenes, the Visit in the Tent of Darius & the Entry into Babylon, appeared to Nagler, as quoted above, as the most beautiful pictures of the cycle. Nevertheless I do not hesitate to see in present work, constituting the final chord (see in this regard below yet), the by all means also pictorial culmination of the whole. The depiction of the victor’s turn, behind Alexander again Hephaestion, to the enemy lying before him wounded on a stretcher – a carriage coming from the right shall pick him up in a minute – breathes, supported by marvelous lighting also observed in the engraving, greatness of own style. Reflected by the set back landscape determining three quarters of the picture with its horizon bathed in wonderful light. Porus’ country will be bigger than ever before. His elephants lying around scattered have not died in vain.
“ Audran virtually painted with the needle and the chisel ,
and in his hand these instruments gained such an easiness
as can be achieved with the brush only .
His engravings have a charm , and a deliberation , which one cannot find in other works … Models of the best style , rich examples for every historical engraver .”
So Nagler 1835 in anticipation of Thieme-Becker 1908: “Gérard is the most famous member of this family of copper engravers ,
probably one of the greatest of all engravers
who have reproduced paintings. – Before his departure to Rome
– comparable to Cornelis Cort 100 years before: “All mentioned early works … barely foreshadow the excellent artist who in Italy short time later created his works exemplary for a whole generation of engravers … The sudden turn to the grandiose … ” , Thieme-Becker VII (1912), 475 ff. –
in 1666 few works of Gérard’s are worth mentioning … the(se) work(s are) broad, but yet far from the
pictorial and grandiose effect of the ‘Batailles d’Alexandre’ …
One can hardly imagine more beautiful engravings … ”
And 1992 in AKL
“ Without dispute they are A.s main works. The exactness of the drawing , the richness of the tones , achieved by a new , subtle mixed technique of etching and engraving just as the extraordinary size of the works , make them
Monuments of the History of Print .
They earned him legitimate fame and more than 12,000 livres. ”
Antwerp 1640 – Paris 1707
C. 1671 – Printed from 2 plates in reverse – 28⅜ × 35⅝ in (69.6 × 90.4 cm)
edition identifier: 900 impressions
margins: above & below 3.7-4 cm, left 7 cm, right 3.5 cm
(1661/62 – 117⅜ × 178⅜ in [2.98 × 4.53 m] – G. pp. 196-201)
“ C. le Brun Pinxit / G. Edelinck sculpsit
Il est d’vn Roy de ce vaincre soy mesme
Alexandre, ayant vaincu Darius prez la ville d’Isse entre dans vne tente ou estoient la Mere la femme et /
les filles de Darius, ou il donne vn exemple singulier de retenüe et de clemence GoyTon (dotted)
Graué par le Sr. Edelinck d’apres le tableau qu’en a faict Mr. le Brun premier peintre du Roy.
et que sa Maté. prenoit plaisir de luy voir peindre a fontainebleau en lannée 1661
Sui victoria indicat Regem
Alexander, Dario ad Issum victo tabernaculum Reginarum ingreditur, vbi singulare /
clementiæ ac continentiæ præbet exemplum /
GoyTon (dotted) ......... /
Æri incidit Gerardus Edelinck adtabulam Caroli le Brun Regij Pictoris primarij,
quem, illam pingentem Rex videre delectabatur apud fontem bellaquæum anno. 1661. ”
In the Morning after the Battle at Issus 333
Alexander pays a visit to the family of the fled Persian king Darius
“ Famous Main Sheet ”
“ … herein Edelink has exhausted his whole art ”
“ This painting , first in the series on Alexander ,
was the most famous during (Le Brun’s) lifetime …
it was on the strength of this painting
that Le Brun was nominated First Painter to Louis XIV. ”
Rendered the joint visit of Alexander and his confident Hephaestion,
whom the ladies confound with the king,
in the morning after the legendary-famous battle three/three/three ….
It is the modern Erzyn.
At this time still youthful-brisk the king took the mistake sovereignly by the way
with the words “for this man too is Alexander” (Quintus Curtius).
By the victor’s Alexander behavior towards the ladies as reported by the latter following old accounts, by his respect paid to them, his chivalrously self-controlled and by this royal attitude towards the virtuous beauty of the two daughters Le Brun quite complied with the expectations of his gallant court.
“ In the Grand Siècle the story was to be seen in a new light, and the pictorial accents which LeBrun gave to his picture were unique in the history of the subject … The dramatic emphasis of the picture is thus entirely on Alexander’s attitude toward the beauteous and despairing women, on his gesture of gallant gentleness … By illustrating this ‘honorable and princely’ action, as Plutarch calls it, LeBrun made his picture a lesson in formalized gallantry, in the ethic of royalty.
Alexander’s exemplary behavior on this occasion seems to have so impressed the seventeenth century Frenchman that Félibien, who discussed the painting at length in an essay published in 1663, could call the Macedonian’s action ‘une des plus Glorieuse qu’Alexandre ait jamais Faites’. It was glorious because it was possible only by ‘se Surmontant Soy-Même … , le Vainqueur de toutes les Nations’ ”
(Posner, op. cit., 240 f., noting with reference to Félibien that characteristically this essay Les reines de Perse aux pieds d’Alexandre was published three more times before the end of the century, then, in English-French version, in London 1703). – This then also the tenor of the sheet’s caption.
And this had happened before this visit :
“ Meanwhile the Persian king had raised 5-600,000 man, among which 100,000 well-armed Asian infantrymen and 30,000 Greek mercenaries. A. marched along the beach via Mallos and Issus to the town Myriandros; Darius however, instead of expecting A. in the wide plain of Sochoi advantageous for the cavalry, approached him through the Armenian mountain passes through which one expected Alexander’s advance and so arrived, without meeting the Macedonians, in their back in the narrow plain of Issus. A. immediately turned back and encountered some miles south-east of Issus, in the narrow, rough valley of the river Pinarus, the half a million Asians pressed together in a small spot. Recognizing the advantage of the moment A. attacked immediately: he himself turned onto the center of the Persian battle array where the grand king (meeting Alexander for the first time here) stood, and after a heated mêlée … this took to flight, to which gradually the rest of the army was carried away (November 333) … The complete Persian camp with enormous treasures fell into the hands of Alexander; even Darius’ mother Sisygambis, his wife Stateira, and his children were captured ”
(Meyer’s, op. cit., I, 317).
Doubtless the most famous teaching example
of wrong + right strategy .
This and a lot of fundamental things more the occupation with history, art + culture of the old may convey. In the long run tap-rooters are superior to flat-heads. And they are intellectually more agile, and thereby more healthy-long-lived, anyway. With reference to Le Brun then also Wille wrote to a collector already in 1756 “The kindnesses by this king
brought his mind into action , into happiness ;
He raised himself, so to speak, above himself” (op. cit., p. 152).
Characteristic then also that at all times Alexander the Great enjoyed the special devotion of successful business leaders and particularly Anglo-Saxon authors have got to the heart of Le Brun’s message actually coming as Les Batailles d’Alexandre long since and speak of
“ The Triumphs of Alexander ”.
For, so Donald Posner,
“ In the literature the paintings are variously called the History, Triumphs, or more frequently Battles of Alexander. However, it will become evident in the course of this article that Triumphs most properly expresses their content. ”
And, so Jeremy Block 2004/05, already Napoleon had wished to repeat explicitly these by marching against India.
At first Le Brun had conceived only three pictures: the crossing of the Granicus as dominant centerpiece, flanked by the smaller ones of the tent visit and the entry into Babylon. That the theme then actually
“ occupied LeBrun for eight years or more had not been anticipated by either LeBrun or Louis XIV … But the interests of historical completeness and accuracy, so important to LeBrun’s generation, probably led to the decision to expand the narrative of the Persian campaign by the addition of two pictures. As finally executed however, only one of the two, the Battle of Arbella, illustrated the Persian narrative. The other, the Defeat of Porus, represents the climax of the later campaign in India … The(se) two final paintings, almost identical in size, but larger than the others, appear as a separate, or second section of the series, reflecting their origin as later additions to it. ”
So Posner, pp. 239 and 243 f. resp., at the same time noting that instead of the Porus theme actually and also as more meaningful the Death of Darius was intended, for which there also is a drawing in the Louvre which most interestingly not just is of the Porus size, but foremost also shows figurative conformities up to the mounted Alexander seen from behind. The charm of the new object ultimately was to have not been recognized by the arts so far. Just as fifty years later the 25-year-old Ridinger helped the decision to turn back at the Hyphasis in fall the same year to its artistic debut by a large-sized yet unpublished drawing, after he had already appended to Le Brun’s Alexander campaign the so important stations of the Siege and Capture of Halicarnassus (334) and the First Passage of the Tigris (331).
But also an outward circumstance explains Le Brun’s turn to the Porus theme. For just at the time of the start of the two final paintings in December 1665 Racine’s second play was published: Alexandre le Grand. Its final scene closing just with the famous words between Alexander & Porus and
“ as a brilliant piece of monarchical propaganda, charged with courtly sentiment, it was immediately successful at court. For LeBrun it provided an obvious opportunity to demonstrate the ut pictura poesis concept, to compete with, or at least to compliment Racine’s verbal picture with his pictorial poem, and this within the framework of a five-part series which could even approximate the scope of a five-act drama …
The just and undeniable triumph of unlimited ambition through inherent , monarchical virtue –
this is the theme of LeBrun’s
Triumphs of Alexander ”
(Posner, op. cit., 243 f.).
“ (And so Alexander’s) grandiose conquests had the consequence that the Near East was opened for the Greek culture and merged with the Greek world, and that from this merge
the cultural period of Hellenism originated ”
so Meyer’s, op. cit., 319/II. Or in Heiner Borggrefe’s wording in the Brake/Antwerp exhibition catalog Hans Vredeman de Vries und die Renaissance im Norden (Munich 2002, cat. no. 146, p. 306) edited by him and others
“ So as Alexander the Great had justified his conquest of the Persians and Indians by stating that the civilization has to conquest the barbarity … ”
The latter not without a good dose of irony. For the termination of the Indian campaign at the Hyphasis in fall 326 forced by the own troops and finally accepted by Alexander is to be understood especially also as intellectual capitulation and therewith to be considered as an incredibly civilizing moment pure and simple. Its psychological greatness inspired sixty years later the just 25-year-old Ridinger to a drawing remaining unpublished as far ahead of his own time by which he refined the hitherto existing history painting from the depiction of heroic acts to the reflection on these two generations before Jacques Louis David. But this, however, was just not yet the view of Le Brun’s age. And thus this
“ has immortalized Alexander’s (triumphs) , and these have immortalized him ”
(Nagler II). But their and his actual immortality were only founded by Audran’s four works forming the graphic set in conjunction with that by Edelinck due to their ability to make the fame experienceable on a wider range. Published repeatedly they had become scarce only a hundred years later even in Paris, although it is said that in Le Brun’s bequest there still was quite a stock for the purpose of dedications. And so in a letter of 1762 Wille writes from Paris to the eldest (Johann Martin, 1738-1790) of the Swiss grand collectors Usteri then among other things:
“ The great battles of Alexander , after Le Brun , engraved by G. Audran ,
are always expensive ;
if the impressions … are splendid .”
And seven months later, on July 24, 1763: “Now, however, I have the pleasure to report to you
that finally I have been so lucky
to have got hold of the great battles of Alexander .
This set consists of 15 pieces (thus was not put together).
the impressions are of the finest ,
that is by the famous copper printer Goyton
whose name is punched on it so: Goyton
and so one must have them when they shall be good ”
(op. cit. pp. 283 + 302 f.).
And just so they are present here then .
But, mind you, joined together! For Wille’s continuation towards Usteri, one should own them not put together, is not to be observed as being against the spirit of the whole aiming at grandeur. In such state the beholder remains on the low of a work in creation, irritated over and above by partly sinuous terminations following the intrapictorial shapes up to a foot projecting out. Elucidating once more the very technical strain of a transfer into the copper. “… what time it has not taken to bring the drawings into copper! … One only considers: All drawings are engraved in copper through the mirror. You know what just this alone means”, so the expert Wille per other works and occasion (op. cit. p. 152).
The rarity & grandiosity of the Audran set under inclusion of the Edelinck sheet also Christian Ludwig Hagedorn, artistically versatile diplomat, brother of the poet, and since 1763 and 1764 resp. eventually Dresden Pope of Art, mentioned about the same time as Wille in his “Reflections on Painting” (p. 597) of 1762 by the words “Masterpieces of the chisel” which have become “extremely rare in any impressions”. How then just the present ones after 250 more years!
By the way not to be confounded with the small-sized repetition by Benoit I Audran (1661-1721), nephew + pupil of the great Girard, with all acknowledgement of assimilating drawing close pulled to pieces by J. Guibert in Thieme-Becker stating: “… it is sufficient to compare Gérard’s large engravings after Lebrun’s ‘les Batailles d’Alexandre’ with the same executed by Benoit. Lebrun’s large, somewhat theatrical, but very decorative painting, rendered so generously and painterly by Gérard, is quite petty and sweetish in Benoit’s rendering.” – The same should pertain to the smaller repetition of the set Guibert notes as executed “with success” per Benoit’s brother Jean as likewise pupil of the uncle. Also further epigones copied Girard’s masterpieces.
And this then the spiritus rector , Charles Le Brun
Grand Peintre du Grand Siècle
First Painter to Louis XIV
who ennobled him in December 1662 with the words here stamped in gold in the front inner cover :
“ We wished to bestow on Sieur LeBrun, our First Painter, a mark of the esteem that we hold for him and for the excellence of his works, which, it is universally acknowledged, outshine those of the famous painters of the last centuries. ”
On a most widely fanned out field of art he was indeed the pope of his country’s great century and its Sun King grown into a “world-historical power part” (Weigand), the latter remained obliged to him in also personal interest till the end. Already his father had raised the just 19-year-old by public proclamation to Painter of His Majesty Louis XIII. And the great Poussin, adored as model by the young man, uttered with presentiment on occasion of three works of his shown to him anonymously “If they were done by a young man, he will take his place among the great painters one of these days”. Nicolas Poussin, whose style and technique he studied on occasion of a common 3-years stay in Italy, was the only authority accepted by him as artistically superior. Both finally celebrities on own field. That convinced Italian, heroic landscapist, this Paris hub, the artistic authority pure and simple. With enormous diligence and great care in research. Ready and competent to meet in his person standards which to come up to it would have taken several otherwise. Means: great in thinking & doing. Furnished with the attraction of a magnet.
So banker Everhard Jabach II, hailing from Cologne and domiciled in Paris since 1638 and still in 1691 one of the “fort banquiers” there, insatiable collector-nimrod afflicted foremost from his father’s line, however, and himself afflicting for generations on, who in London 1650 on the sale of the art bequest of the executed Charles I routed whole royal dynasties to secure once and for all all works of Le Brun’s. Which were there, and which yet should come. And offered him just for the pure right to purchase 20 pistols (gold coin with a value of according to Meyer 1889 15.50 Mark) per day at complete freedom of creation. But Le Brun declined. “Fate had other things in store for the great master.” At least he painted, beside van Dyck, the family picture of the pester. “A first-rate work of art however is the much admired large family painting by the hand of Ch. Lebrun” (ADB XIII, 522), of which the great travelers up to Goethe thought of and which was sold at the 1836 sale to the Royal Museum Berlin.
More fortunate however was – at first – the no less extravagant Minister of Finance, Nicolas Fouquet (1615-1680). He dreamt of a new residence in Vaux near Melun. And he dreamt big. Too big also for just a First Painter. Required was competence for a Gesamtkunstwerk, a synthesis of the arts pure and simple. A superintendence from the works of art through the gardens up to the festivities. And there was only one. Le Brun was “the perfect artist to create all of these glorious and triumphant works”. With a performance compensated for in gold. Aside from “a luxurious apartment for (him) and his wife … a generous pension of 12,000 pounds in addition to regular payments for each work that he produced. Fouquet assigned him the task of decorating the Château Vaux-Le-Vicomte.” The opening gala in honor of Louis XIV August 17, 1661, was princely. Orchestrated by Le Brun. Closing with “a dazzling exhibition of fireworks (drawing) interlaced L’s for Louis in the night sky”. That was too much for this. Too royal, and what is more, even too expensive for this presently, who had started to rule himself only with Mazarin’s death March 9 that year. Only Queen Mother Anna, infanta of Austria, prevented Fouquet’s arrest yet the same night. For it would be “incorrect for a guest to arrest his host in his own home”. Louis made good some weeks later by the accusation of embezzlement and treacherous intentions alleged by Colbert. The insolent building owner died 19 years later in his cell in Pignerol. – Contrary to Gareau Weigand, too, (this by the way with 1686 as Fouquet’s year of death) Meyer VI (1889), 469, sees the occasion less prosaic, rather the visit should have lulled the suspected into a false sense of security. At any rate the former defended himself “with extraordinary skill and knew to present himself as ‘booty of Mr. Colbert’” (Weigand 56).
“ Ironically it was at Vaux that Louis XIV first became aware of Le Brun’s incredible genius. After Fouquet’s arrest (Posner: perhaps already before this?), the king immediately took Le Brun into his own exclusive service. Le Brun had already laid the groundwork for the style that would become the inspiration for the future palace of the Sun King at Versailles, the style we know today as Louis XIV … It was the great century of art. ”
Represented by Molière, who had contributed a piece to the gala at Vaux, Racine, Lafontaine, who immortalized Le Brun’s Vaux orchestration, Corneille, and – exactly Le Brun. The latter since 1661 in the function of First Painter, since 1664 also officially and already in-between ennobled, see above.
“ L.s bearing is not limited to his performance as ingenious decorator and ‘grand peintre du grand siècle’, but also rests in the universal personality ruling and determining all fields of the arts and crafts, to which the art of that epoch imparts its grandiose homogeneousness and downright stamps L. as the creator of the style Louis XIV ”
“ Between 1662 and 1668 Le Brun rose to the pinnacle of his glory … It was during this period that he (at the royal suggestion at Fontainebleau in 1661) dedicated a series of works to the history of Alexander the Great, and he did not miss the opportunity to make a stronger connection between the magnificence of Alexander and that of the great King … ‘In all of Le Brun’s works, there is none more vast or more expressive.’ It is in The Battles that we see the purest expression of Le Brun’s own style ”
(so in 1992 once more Michel Gareau, as also for the following).
“ Sir ,
you are truly fortunate ,
to be able to wield your brush
to produce such a beautiful expression of the glories of Heaven .”
So the prior Jean-Jacques Olier de Verneuil (1608-1657; founder of the Society of Saint-Sulpice with the still existing seminary, laid 1649 the foundation-stone for Église Saint-Sulpice), admiring the progress of his order. Rendered stamped here in the preliminaries. He could have meant
of the triumphs of Alexander
just the same.
Transferred to the global economic events of our days with their conquests reaching into the excessive still 2300 years later they prove to be of downright youthful encouragement for that which made up the century of Louis XIV: triomphe et gloire .
Both perceived as unity and lived as the way of seeing oneself. Outside + at home. – “For it stands to reason,
since the decoration of a home has a profound effect
on those who live there ;
it influences their feelings ,
and their relationships both with others and with themselves .
In short , it is a question of state of mind
and Le Brun was able to get inside the minds of the great personalities of his century.” And “by the fact that in Le Brun’s time a painter had to be a great artist if he wished to be a very good decorator”, so Le Brun fulfilled, as illustrated by the above example of Vaux, this expectation in final singularity. For he felt and thought big. Just as then also his style of living was big. Due to earnings
“ making him probably the richest painter in seventeenth century Europe. He owned luxurious residences in Paris and Versailles. He lived in his own private estate at Montmorency where he was honoured with private visits (by princely visitors). ‘They were surprised – so a report in the Mercure Galant of June 1679, one year after the completion of the engraved Triumph set – to see so many waterways, fountains, waterfalls, grottos, and most of all the great canal in front of the facade of his home next to the gardens.’ There are also accounts ‘of a happy family life and a perfect marriage’. ”
The orchestration of the own life as the way to see himself .
Could anyone else but Le Brun celebrate the battles, more correctly, the triumphs of Alexander? Another one but the at first still young, then before long so great Audran, expressly requested by Le Brun and called back to Paris in 1670 only thanks to Colbert’s assistance (first installment for the Batailles in August), why, also but Edelinck, adequately transfer these masterpieces into copper? We agree and believe no. And bestowed on
this set in this copy of final beauty
in such a way then an only appropriate design binding within the red series here , standing for mostly unique copies , partly downright predestined pour meublement.
Just as the present one .
And so one must have it
And it may be indeed that on the basis of rich catalog material here not only we have to go back to 1912 to encounter in the von Seydlitz/Främbs stock a however neither joined nor bound, though comparable copy, qualified as
“ Splendid first impressions of the famous decorative set
with Pintre instead of Peintre. Of best preservation with margin ”
(Boerner CIX, 35, besides the Edelinck sheet erroneously as from three plates).
In such a manner then the dreamlike present one as a copy of the century. In its artistic as preserved perfection , in its exemplarity for
“ the splendid cultural epoch of Louis XIV ”
(Leporini) , representative in “a new era of monumentalism” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Nov. 16, 2007) for
“ The experience of beauty, which coincides with the activity in a well-defined part of the brain, the orbital flaps … I always was of the opinion that one of the oldest functions of art actually represents the expansion of one of the brain’s main functions, namely that of the acquisition of knowledge. Plato, Kant, and Schopenhauer – many have thought so and expressed themselves on this extensively in their writings ”
(Semir Zeki, holder of the newly created first chair for Neuroesthetics at the University College London, in Splendours and Miseries of the Brain, 2008, quoted from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of July 2, 2008, per “[Does Beauty change our Brain? … When we occupy ourselves with colors and forms and search for ideals the brain works masterly]”.
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