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After Pierre Mignard (1612-95)

Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine, Duchess of Orléans, with her son Philippe, later Regent of France, and daughter, Elizabeth, later Duchess of Lorraine c. 1678-88

Oil on canvas | 204.4 x 171.0 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 404410

Queen's Presence Chamber, Windsor Castle

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  • Elisabeth-Charlotte, Duchess of Orléans (1652-1722), was the daughter of Charles Louis, Count Palatine and Charlotte of Hesse-Kassel. She was brought up by her aunt, Duchess Sophie of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (Electress of Hanover and mother of George I). In 1671 Elisabeth-Charlotte became the second wife of Louis XIV's brother, Philippe d'Orléans (1640-1701); she converted to Catholicism upon her marriage. She quickly became a popular figure at the court of Louis XIV, known for her love of the hunt, her lack of affectation and her directness. Her copious and candid correspondence has provided subsequent historians with a vivid picture of ancien regime court life. She was variously known as 'Liselotte', 'La Palatina' or simply 'Madame', her honorific title.

    Her two surviving children, Philippe, duc de Chartres (1674-1723) and Elisabeth Charlotte, duchesse de Lorraine (1676-1744), both depicted here, each went on to play significant roles in French political life. After a succession of unexpected deaths in the immediate line of succession, Philippe ruled France as Regent during the minority of his second cousin, Louis XV (1710-1774), between 1715-1723. The younger Elisabeth-Charlotte married Leopold, duc de Lorraine in 1698 and had five surviving children; she became the grandmother of several major European royals, including the later French queen Marie Antoinette (1755-1793).

    Mignard combines elements of formality and tenderness in this family group portrait. The two-year old Elisabeth-Charlotte lolls against her mother, clutching a rose presumably just passed to her from the vase of flowers on the table above; the Duchess, meanwhile, fondly clasps her daughter's wrist and gestures towards her as she looks out at the viewer. The gesture is mirrored by the five-year-old Philippe, who thereby remains harmoniously connected to the rest of his family, while otherwise standing apart as the son and heir. Though still in his child-skirts, this future Regent of France already holds himself with the courtly elegance taught by the dancing master, and he points not (like his mother) at his sister, but at the sword on the cushion at his feet. It is still too big for him, but the ready weapon promises future military prowess, even while the book carefully arranged underneath it – and the other carelessly abandoned on the floor – indicate the learning and scholarship that will, theoretically, support and temper his martial enthusiasm.

    Mignard paints this former German princess and her young children in full French court fashion. 'Madame' appears in Lyons silk woven with gold thread, and her children's white aprons – worn to protect the clothes below – are, impractically, bordered with elaborate lace. However, the artist may have taken artistic licence to better emphasise the dynastic message of his portrait, as with the subtle, but pointed, fleurs-de-lys on the sitter's cloak: Liselotte was renowned both for her preference for all things German and disdain for the pretensions of Versailles.

    This portrait is a version of Mignard's original painting (now in a private collection) which is signed and dated to 1678. The Royal Collection work was purchased by George IV in 1828, along with a group of other French royal portraits (see RCINs 404490 and 400966) as an autograph work depicting Philippe d'Orléans' first wife, Henriette-Anne Stuart (1644-1670), the youngest daughter of Charles I and Henrietta Maria. This identification persisted into the later nineteenth century, but the portrait's connection with Liselotte is not now in doubt.

    Provenance

    Purchased by George IV on 18 July 1828 from M. de la Hante of Paris as part of a group of four French paintings (402759, 404108, 404410 and 404490) costing £180 in total.

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    204.4 x 171.0 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    234.2 x 201.9 x 10.0 cm (frame, external)

  • Category
    Object type(s)
  • Alternative title(s)

    Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine, Duchess of Orléans, (1652-1722), with her son Philippe, (1674-1723), when Duke of Chartres, and daughter, Elizabeth, (1676-1729), when Mademoiselle de Chartres.

    Liselotte (1652-1722), with two of her children.

    Henrietta of France and her two daughters, previously identified as