Charles Le Brun : décorateur de fêtes

Work published with the scientific and financial support of the CRCV.

Gaëlle Lafage, Charles Le Brun : décorateur de fêtes, Presses universitaires de Rennes, “Art et société” Collection, May 2015, 322 p., 97 black & white illustrations, 18 colour plates, €24 (ISBN: 978-2-7535-4014-9).


Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), First Painter to King Louis XIV, is famous for his great palace decorations, in particular, those he carried out at Versailles. This book, focusing on his decorations for celebrations and ceremonies, highlights a part of his work that is still relatively unknown. These extraordinary creations of the “Grand Siècle” brought together all the arts in skilfully staged productions. For several hours, the buildings and gardens would be transformed by lavish sets designed specially for the occasion, bringing together paintings, sculptures, tapestries and large structures, such as triumphal arches. Destroyed at the end of the events for which they were made, these works have, until now, received little attention. By analysing contemporary sources and images of the decorations, we can not only reconstruct these works, but also place them in their original context. The creation of these works, their design and construction have been examined, redrawing the relationships Le Brun forged with statesmen (the king, Séguier, Fouquet and Colbert), with men of letters, and with his principal partners, most notably the Gobelins Tapestry Manufactory. One of Le Brun’s idiosyncrasies in this area was his decision to organise the celebrations and ceremonies himself, possibly the only painter at this time to do so. These forgotten works thus complete the portrait of one of the greatest French artists of the 17th century. More than any other work, the decorations mounted by Le Brun provide the most accurate image of his research and his tastes. In fact, the study of these celebrations and their reception provides us with a better understanding of these exceptional creations, while at the same time ensuring they continue to receive the attention they deserve.

Gaëlle Lafage has a doctorate in the History of Art from the université Paris-Sorbonne and has been awarded a research grant by the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles (2014).

To order the book

Presses universitaires de Rennes


See also the corpus “Sources des fêtes et des cérémonies décorées par Charles Le Brun (1660-1687)” compiled by Gaëlle Lafage and found under our heading “Corpus raisonnés” (in French).

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Château de Versailles
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