Migliara Giovanni, Louis XIV Visiting La Vallière – Interior of a Cloister – View of a Cloister
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1,821 - 1,825; oil on canvas mounted on panel
cm. 29 x 21
Signed bottom right: "Migliara"
Inventory: AH01501AFC
Provenance: Alessandria, Margherita Micheletti (in 1985)

A considerable number of preparatory drawings for the work under examination here, in the Musei Civici, Alessandria, enable us to identify the subject without a shadow of doubt as Louis XIV Visiting Duchess La Vallière in the Convent at Chaillot. La Vallière, sister–in–law and concubine of Louis XIV, took refuge in the convent at Chaillot, Paris, to escape the vicious gossip at court. She was taken from there by the king’s emissary, Prime Minister Colbert, who conducted her back to the palace. This episode occurred before the duchess decided to withdraw from the world to the Carmelite convent in Rue St Jacques, in 1676, where she died after losing the king’s favour.

This story lent itself to a romanticised evocation of a historical fact in the manner of French troubadour painting, a cross between history painting inspired by the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and a genre scene. Fleury Richard, the main exponent of troubadour painting, had addressed this subject in La Vallière the Carmelite (Moscow, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts), which was shown in the Paris Salon in 1806. This use of the same theme is not an isolated episode, since Migliara repeatedly borrowed precise elements from Richard’s works, which were very popular in Lyon artistic circles at the time and from which he drew many themes and even models destined to become typical of his own production.

In this painting Migliara’s experience in the theatre contributes to the reconstruction of the scene. In the preparatory studies it was set in one of the spaces between the exedras and the perimeter wall of San Lorenzo in Milan, though this was later replaced by an interior that was more austere but congenial to the story, characterised by Lombard aechitectural motifs, the addition of a staircase and the entrance arch in the background. Thanks to this variation the sudden appearance of the king becomes an actual coup de scène: the back lit profile of Louis XIV emerges from the background, since in this romanticised version of the story he goes to the convent in person, forcing La Vallière to seek refuge with the nuns.

This subject inspired costumes for many Milanese fancy–dress parties, but also became popular through performances of a play that was repeatedly staged between 1820 and 1827. It was perhaps the world of the theatre, in which Migliara continued to be interested even after abandoning his youthful work as a set designer, that gave him many ideas for the theme that he addressed in miniatures and in the three different versions of paintings shown at the Esposizione di Belle Arti dell’Accademia di Brera between 1821 and 1823. The Interior of a Cloister with Louis XIV at the Feet of La Vallière, 1821, was followed by The Withdrawal of Duchess La Vallière, 1824, and  Louis XIV Visiting La Vallière, 1833.

The episode depicted in this work in the Collection seems the same as that of the 1833 painting, now lost, which was commissioned by Señor Montenegro the Spanish Consul in Genoa. However, stylistically it closely resembles the works from the early 1820s, and particularly The Withdrawal of Duchess La Vallière, 1825,  (Berlin, National Galerie).

From November 2011, the work has been on view at the Gallerie d’Italia in Milan.

Sources:Archivio Storico Intesa Sanpaolo, Patrimonio archivistico Cariplo, Opere d'arte. Atti d'acquisto ex Cariplo. Fald. 2/3, pratica no. 879 R/695


Tesori d'arte delle banche lombarde, Associazione Bancaria Italiana, Milano, 1995, p. 300, n. 576;
Paola Zatti, Giovanni Migliara, Veduta di un chiostro, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 169, pp. 263-264, ill. ;
Elena Lissoni, in Fernando Mazzocca, a cura di, Da Canova a Boccioni. Le collezioni della Fondazione Cariplo e di Intesa Sanpaolo, Skira, Milano, 2011, n. III.26, p. 186, ill.

Elena Lissoni
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