Princess Helene of Mecklenburg’s reception in Fontainebleau

Princess Helene of Mecklenburg’s reception in Fontainebleau - château de Fontainebleau - © RMN Grand Palais

Clément Boulanger (1805-1842)
1837
Oil on canvas
H. 33 cm;L. 46 cm
Fontainebleau, National Museum of the Château, F 2475 C

On the 29th of May 1837, at about 7.30 p.m., Princess Helene of Mecklenburg-Schwerin’s carriage, pulled by eight horses harnessed in gold and silver, stopped at the bottom of the horseshoe staircase whose ‘landing, laden with people, unfurled its vast stone steps and the austere magnificence of its balconies with royal majesty’ (Le Journal des débats, 31 May 1837). Here, Clément Boulanger depicts the princess at the foot of the stairs, just out of her carriage, on the arm of the Duke of Nemours, preparing to climb the steps that still separate her from her new family. 

A student of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Clément Boulanger, a history painter who won a second class medal at the Salon of 1827, was chosen in 1837 to produce drawings for the wedding album. This small painting, perhaps based on one of these drawings, illustrates the painter’s interest in architecture. Seen from the south of the courtyard, the western facade showcases its various pavilions under a golden light at the end of the day, which illuminates the plastered rubble stones of the Organ Pavilion, the large brick chimneys of the central pavilion and up to the real tennis court facade. The towering structure of the castle contrasts with the multitude of small silhouettes, executed with a very free-form touch, which occupy the staircase steps and are reminiscent of the style of Eugène Lami. You can only just make out King Louis-Philippe, who has come down a step to welcome his daughter-in-law, recognisable by his large rice straw hat.

Exhibitions
2018-2019, Château de Fontainebleau, Louis-Philippe à Fontainebleau. The King and History.

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