France, second half of the 18th century
By Thomas Compigné
Pewter, gold and gouache
This small medallion in embossed pewter plates enhanced with gold on a tortoiseshell background representing a view of the château de Versailles. On the inferior part is inscripted: Vue du château de Versailles, prise de l’avenue de Paris, exécutée sur le Tour, Par Compigné, Tabletier du Roi.
The château de Versailles is represented from the place of Arms and two successive courts, the court of the ministers and the royal court delimited each by a grid open in its centre with large gates and ending in the axis on the marble court, can be distinguished.
From each side, the architecture of the castle is represented as it was in the second half of the 18th century and has reached us almost identically, to the exception of few elements added in the 19th century.
Thus, at the foreground two buildings on high stone bases corresponding to the ministers’ aisle flank the ministers’ court.
In the prolongation of the North aisle of the ministers (on the right), the royal chapel, which rooftop goes beyond the rest of the building, stands out from the gouache sky with pink and blue tints.
A second grid delimits the second court, called royal court. It concentrates the most ancient parts of the castle dating back to the Louis XIII period, centred on which has become, under Louis XIV, the King’s bedroom, corresponding to the first floor of the central main building, marked by the presence of a balcony.
Flanking the marble court, a succession of buildings with distinct rooftops ends at the level of the grid by two hight pavilions with perfectly symmetrical ordinance of columns with side cut bases.
The scene is animated by characters wandering on the place of Arms and the ministers’ court as wells as knights and carrjages.
 “View of the château de Versailles, taken from the avenue of Paris, executed on the lathe, by Compigné, ivory turner of the King”
Paintings in Compigné
Of great preciousity and variety of materials, the paintings in Compigné were made according to a mysterious process starting from a sheet of tortoiseshell or cardboard to which a pewter or gold leaf was applied. The surface could then be decorated with gold, silver, gouache and coloured varnishes. These “miniatures”, known today under the name of Compigné, had a great success in the 1760s.The small format, characteristic of this production, required to work in extreme precision, probably with the help of a magnifying glass, to develop the perfection of these technical details and colours.
Arrived from Italy, probably around 1750, Thomas Compigni took the name Compigné when he settled under the sign of Roi David, rue Greneta, in Paris. As an ivory turner, he specialised 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 whose technique remains mysterious today. 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 are most often view of towns, monuments and castles from the perspective of parks or landscapes animated by small characters.
Jean-Marie Bruson, Françoise Reynaud, Philippe Sorel, Rosine Trogan et Jean-Pierre Willesme, De la place Louis XV à la place de la Concorde, exhibition catalogue, Paris, Musée Carnavalet, 1982.
Anita Semail, « ces délicats chefs-d’œuvre de la tabletterie au XVIIIe siècle: Les Compigné et leurs créateurs », Plaisir de France n° 427, mars 1975, pl. 2.
Ouvrage collectif, Compigné, peintre et tabletier du Roy, exhibition catalogue, Grasse, Villa-Musée Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Juin-Juillet 1991.
 his title means that Compigné was an officer of the house of the King. As an ivory turner, he carried out his duties all year round, producing furniture for the Crown.