Large painting in Compigné representing the Palais Royal


France, between 1763 and 1781
Attributed to Thomas Compigné
Pewter, gold and gouache
Inscription “View of the palais Royal executed sur le tour” at the bottom


Similar examples:
–  Thomas Compigné, Vue du Palais Royal, Louis XVI period, 9 inches x 12,5 inches, private collection
–  Thomas Compigné, Vue du Palais Royal, Louis XVI period, 9 inches x 12,5 inches, private collection
–  Thomas Compigné, Vue du Palais Royal, époque Louis XVI, 9,5 inches x 12,5 inches, private collection
–  Thomas Compigné, Vue du Palais Royal, vers 1775, 9 inches x 12,5 inches, private collection
–  Thomas Compigné, Vue du Palais Royal, vers 1775, 9 inches x 12,5 inches, private collection

Close examples:
–  Mathieu-Guillaume Cramer, Thomas Compigné, Small oval table with a Compigné plate representing a view of the Palais Royal, circa. 1780, Ephrusi Villa and garden Rothschild
–  Thomas Compigné, View of the Palais Royal, circa. 1775, 4 inches diameter, private collection

This exceptionally large Compigné painting, stamped with pewter leaf and enhanced with gold and gouache, represents a view from the gardens of the Palais Royal. In the foreground, several parallel alleys shut by latticework frame a wider alley leading to a circular pond in the center of which gushes a large spurt of water.
The central alley is extending to the Cour d’Honneur of the Palais Royal, which entrance is delimited by a barrier. Two green carpets framed by trees skillfully trimmed into a ball shape extend in front of the façade of the palace. The latter, constituting the background of the composition, accurately reproduces the somewhat heterogeneous elevation of the building.
The central facade of the 18th century, now gone, with its two levels of elevation and three bays, is thus topped by a roof punctuated with oculi. Preceded by the main courtyard, it is flanked on the right by a main building with a high roof and on the left by buildings with mansard roofs, which are also in the continuity of other buildings at right angles adorned with balconies on the second floor. On the left, high roofs can be seen in the background, matching the Opera’s and the one above the staircase. Another set of buildings also close the composition on the right. Following fires and changes of use, the elevation here shown has undergone several alterations since the end of the 18th century and is therefore quite different from the one that can be seen today. It corresponds to the Palais Royal as it was in the second third of the 18th century. The numerous ramblers evoke the success of the gardens. Opened to the public, they were a very popular stroll at the time. The whole composition is underlined by a frame of green scrolls on a cream background, encircled by white scrolls on a green background with pewter borders.

Thomas Chomping
Thomas Compigni probably arrived from Italy around 1750, and later on took the name Compigné when he settled in the shop Roi David, rue Greneta, in Paris. As a tabletier, he specialized in the manufacture and sale of boxes, knitting sets, draughts and chess sets, snuffboxes and other cane handles of blond tortoiseshell inlaid with gold. Renowned for the quality of his objects, he passed on to posterity through the production of precious paintings which technique remains unknown to that day. In 1773, he presented two views of the Château de Saint-Hubert to the King and obtained the title of “tabletier privilégié du Roi” under Louis XV and Louis XVI. His themes of predilection were most often views of towns, monuments, and châteaux in the extension of park or landscape perspective. The ensembles were almost always animated by small characters.

The Palais Royal
From the house that Richelieu had built near the Louvre to the present-day Palais Royal, the history of this building can be seen as a never-ending construction site.
In 1624, Richelieu bought the Hôtel de Rambouillet, located on the north of the Louvre. It had the advantage of possessing a vast plot of land. In 1628, he entrusted the architect Jacques Lemercier with the management of important works. Named Palais-Cardinal at the time, it was then given to King Louis XIII in 1636, time in which it took the name of Palais Royal. Having served as a residence for the regent Anne d’Autriche (1601-1666) and the young Louis XIV as a child during the Fronde period, it then passed into the ownership of Philippe d’Orléans in 1692 and became the Orléans’ residence. The Régence era was the golden age of the Palais Royal which became from 1715 to 1723 the heart of the political and artistic life of the kingdom. The regent Philippe d’Orléans, Louis XIV’s nephew, lived there and had the interior decoration of the palace transformed by his first architect, Gilles-Marie Oppenordt, one of the main creators of the Rocaille style. At the time, the elevations were anything but homogenous. To unify this disparate ensemble was therefore Louis-Philippe d’Orléans’ (1725-1785) main wish. It is with this objective in mind that Pierre Contant d’Ivry (1698-1777) doubled the depth of the east wing of the palace on the garden side and distributed the apartments of the duchess in the west wing. Following the fire that destroyed the Opera on April 6, 1763, the architect also designed a vestibule leading to a grand staircase and a new Opera. The latter burned again in 1770 and 1781 before being rebuilt at the west of the Palais Royal in 1785, where the Comédie-Française is now located.
The troubled and hectic image of the Palais Royal is linked to the image of Louis XVI’s cousin, Louis-Philippe Joseph d’Orléans (1747-1793), Duc de Chartres and then Duc d’Orléans, who took in 1792 the title of Philippe Égalité. At the end of the Old Regime, he decided to carry out important works, modifying the Palais Royal for a long time. Being very indebted, he began in 1780 to speculate on real estate by launching the construction of buildings by Victor-Louis around the garden, with the idea of renting out the first floors to shopkeepers and making the Palais Royal the center of attraction for the whole Paris. As an exceptional place, protected by rules that only the status of its owner could allow, the police were not allowed to enter. Fashion merchants, cafés, print stores, bookshops, etc. shared the 88 shops, while the arcades sheltered a crowd where prostitutes, gamblers and strollers blended.
The Palais Royal was one of the main stages of the French Revolution. It became a state estate after the execution of Philippe-Égalité at the end of November 1793 but was given back to the Orléans family in 1815. Important works were then entrusted to the architect Fontaine, who modified the main courtyard and the Montpensier wing.
During the Second Empire (1853-1870), the palace became “royal” again and welcomed King Jerome of Westphalia (Napoleon I’s brother and Napoleon III’s uncle) and his son Jerome Napoleon, who, with his wife Clotilde of Savoy, had the Montpensier wing completely renovated. After the fall of the Empire, the building became a state property once again and sheltered many institutions, some of which are still present today. The Palais Royal thus still houses the Council of State, the Constitutional Council and the Ministry of Culture.

A detailed description of the Palais Royal
The architecture of the Palais Royal is complex, and this view allows one to see the building as it was in the second half of the 18th century, before the launching of the constructions decided by the Duc de Chartres in 1780.
Opened to the public by the regent’s son, the gardens were designed by Le Nôtre in 1674 and restored by his nephew Claude Desgot in 1730. The numerous figures walking around in this view illustrate the success of the place at the time. The Orléans apanage being closed to the royal police, various illicit activities often took place in the gardens: gallantry and political agitation began at this time.
The facade visible on this Compigné matches the one that could be seen in that period. On both sides of the central part, which dates from the middle of the 18th century, one can see buildings built in the 17th century and doubled towards the west in the 18th century. Higher roofs allow one to distinguish the location of the staircase and the Opera. Indeed, following the fire that destroyed the latter on April 6, 1763, Contant d’Ivry drew up plans for a vestibule leading to a grand staircase housed in an oval cage illuminated by a zenithal daylight built in 1765-1768 (still in place today), which can be seen here, overlooking the building with its large oculi. The high four-sided roof of the new Opera can also be seen. It burned down again in 1770 and 1781, before being rebuilt west of the Palais Royal in 1785, where the current Comédie- Française is now located. All these elements being considered, one can assume that this Compigné could be dated between 1765, date of the beginning of the construction of the new staircase, and 1780, when the fire of the Opéra occurred.

Anita Semail, « ces délicats chefs-d’œuvre de la tabletterie au XVIIIe siècle : Les Compigné et leurs créateurs », Plaisir de France n° 427, March 1975.
Ouvrage collectif, Compigné, peintre et tabletier du Roy, catalogue d’exposition, Grasse, Villa- Musée Jean-Honoré Fragonard, June-July 1991.

Good overall condition

Additional information

Dimensions 32 × 23 cm