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Engraving for the King: The Historical Collections of the Louvre Chalcographie

Founded in 1797 under the Directory, the Louvre Chalcographie holds over 14,000 engraved copperplates, used to make prints, and has the mission of disseminating the image of the museum’s masterpieces through the art of engraving.

This institution, which is part of the Musée du Louvre, arose from the merging of three collections of engraved plates, established from the second half of the 18th century: the Cabinet du Roi, including nearly 1,000 plates commissioned by Colbert to illustrate the greatness of Louis XIV’s reign; the Menus-Plaisirs collections, which spread the image of great court ceremonies and public festivities of the 18th century; and the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture’s collection, comprising pieces submitted by engravers upon their admission, and engraved plates acquired by the institution in the second half of the 18th century to develop its editorial collection.

This exhibition presents preparatory drawings, engraved copperplates, and prints made from them. It aims to trace the history of the three royal collections that each contributed in their own way to the dissemination of the king’s image. It also showcases the copperplates which, regarded until recently as mere tools for printing, are at the core of an engraver’s profession.

Graver pour le roi. Collection de la Chalcographie du Louvre is organized in a particular context: starting in 2020, the Chalcographie will not be allowed to print from plates dated prior to 1848, matrices that played a fundamental role in the circulation of the King Louis XIV's image.
Relevant research areas: Western Europe, Baroque, 18th Century, Engraving, Etching

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