Rectangular painting in Compigné representing a view of the Palais Bourbon

France, second half of the 18th century
Thomas Compigné
Inscription at the bottom “View of the Palais Bourbon, executed on the tour by Compigné, tabletier du Roy”
Pewter, gold, silver and watercolor
Frame in carved and gilt wood, Louis XVI period


France, second half of the 18th century
Thomas Compigné
Inscription at the bottom “View of the Palais Bourbon, executed on the tour by Compigné, tabletier du Roy”
Pewter, gold, silver and watercolor
Frame in carved and gilt wood, Louis XVI period

This small rectangular painting, in embossed pewter foil, enhanced with gold, silver and watercolor, representing a view of the Palais Bourbon, which today holds the National assembly. On the foreground, the Seine is embellished with barks, which preceded the riverfront overlooked by a garden composed of beddings, which continues on the central part and thus forms an axis slightly off centered of the composition. On each side, the two “Italian” frontages, on the same level, of the Palais Bourbon on the left and the Hôtel de Lassay on the right, anticipating the multiple courts, arranged in the years preceding this work of Compigné. Indeed, if the Palais Bourbon as well as the Hôtel de Lassay were built between 1722 and 1728, aisles were added on the demand of the Prince Louis-Joseph de Bourbon-Condé from 1768 around the court of the Palais Bourbon, continuing to the West behind the Hôtel de Lassay with small apartments, extremities of which, in hemicycle, were clearly visible on the right side of the Compigné.
At the background, the neighborhood of Saint-Germain’s plain, is still little constructed but we can clearly distinguish the gold outline, characteristic of the dome of the Invalides, built between 1671 and 1706 by the architect Liberal Bruant, and on the right the buildings of the École Militaire then in construction (1751-1780).
The overall of the composition is animated by small characters navigating on boats, wandering around the quais de Seine or the gardens, others passing by the courts of the private mansions. All the subtility of Compigné’s technique is deployed here, associating to the polychromy of the watercolor a subtle work of micro-engraving of the pewter plate, which underlines almost each detail of the elevation of the palaces, walls and boats or the shimmering effects of the Seine. The ensemble is then enhanced with gold and silver, thus adding refinement and preciosity of the composition.
The work of Compigné is continued by a watercolored framework with gilt and green interlacing foliaged motifs, punctuated by cartouche in the angles, then underlined by red and gilt threads on a guilloche background. On the inferior part of this red thread, an inscription in gold letters precise the subject: “View of the Palais Bourbon, executed on the tour by Compigné, tabletier du Roy”. The composition is ended by a gilt wood frame adorned with a beaded and heart stripes frieze. Handwritten inscriptions at the verso, dating probably to the 18th century, complete the overall:

View of the Palais Bourbon at Paris
by Compigné, tabletier du Roi Louis XV
gouache on a lead sheet passed on the tour
On the foreground, the Seine extends from left to right, carrying carriages and boats, the Palace currently affected to the Deputy chambers. Behind on the right, the Invalides and the École militaire”
Lower, another inscription more recent precise: “This view of the Palais Bourbon exists at the musée Carnavalet rue de Sévigné à Paris but non polychromous or enhanced with gouache”.

The Palais Bourbon and the Hôtel de Lassay
The Palais Bourbon and the Hôtel de Lassay were edified simultaneously, from 1722 to 1728 on the fields acquired by the Duchess of Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Nantes, legitimized daughter of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan, who married Louis III of Bourbon-Condé, Duke of Bourbonnais and sixth Prince of Condé in 1720 and from whom she transferred a part to her lover, the Marquis de Lassay. Taking the “Italian” architectural party, the two buildings were built on ground-floor between the court and the garden.
After the death of the Duchess, the palace was acquired by Louis XV who surrender it in 1764 to the Prince of Condé. The latter have to Antoine Matthieu Le Carpentier, and then to Claude Billard de Bélisard the extensive expansion work: the Honor court was surrounded by extended buildings on the West side to the Hôtel de Lassay, which was bought in 1768 by the heirs of the Marquis.
The small appartements leaning against the sheds and stables were built in 1771 et 1772 for Louise-Adelaïde, one of the daughters of the Prince of Condé. After her visit in 1784, Mrs of Oberkirch said about those: “It’s a jewel, Mr. The Prince of Condé made it the most beautiful trinket of the world.” The palace has then an extensive shape in the style of the Grand Trianon at Versailles and close to the Hôtel de Lassay, built simultaneously and to which it would be sooner attached by a gallery. It stayed in the hands of the princes of Condé, Dukes of Bourbonnais until the French Revolution. Under the Restoration, the Prince of Condé wanted to take over his property. He got the possession of the Hôtel de Lassay but was obliged to rent the palace transformed in a hemicyclic of the Deputy chambers “by a lease of 3 years”. The government became definitely owner of the Palais Bourbon in 1827 and of the Hôtel de Lassay in 1843.

Paintings in Compigné
Of great preciosity 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 colored 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 colors.

Thomas Compigné
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 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 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[1]” 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.

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.
Ouvrage collectif, Compigné, peintre et tabletier du Roy, catalogue d’exposition., Grasse, Villa-Musée Jean-Honoré Fragonard, juin-juillet 1991.

[1] his title means that Compigné was an officer of the house of the King. As a ivory turner, he carried out his duties all year round, producing furniture for the Crown.

Good overall condition

Additional information

Dimensions 30,5 × 23,5 cm