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Discovered at TEFAF, A Sculpture of King Louis XIV’s First Surgeon Returns to Versailles

Follow the journey of this masterful bust by French sculptor Girardon from its acquisition at TEFAF to its homecoming at Versailles
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The grandeur of the Palace of Versailles and its story of absolute power is known by many worldwide. One could easily forget that shortly after the French Revolution, many works of art, furniture, and other contents of the royal palace had been either removed or sold. Laurent Salomé, director of the National Museum of the Palace of Versailles, sees it as an important task to “recreate” Versailles, presenting the palace as it was before this moment in history. Through the museum’s acquisition policy, they acquire objects related to Versailles. Ideally, these works hit very close to home. “Almost every day we hear about something in relation to Versailles, but when you acquire an object that you know comes from here, you’re improving the level of truth.” Through the acquisition of objects, the museum highlights the various stories that have taken place in Versailles—which is not only a monument, royal palace, and museum, but was also a home to many throughout its history.
Versailles Stuart Lochhead Sculpture Museum Stories | TEFAF | The European Fine Art Foundation
The Bust of Georges Mareschal (circa 1700-10) presented during TEFAF Maastricht 2020 by Stuart Lochhead Sculpture. Courtesy: Stuart Lochhead Sculpture.
“We had no idea [the sculpture] was going to appear at TEFAF. Seeing it in the real was one of those surprises you have at TEFAF. We had to react very quickly.” — Laurent Salomé

The acquisition of a bust presented at TEFAF Maastricht tells the story of one of Versailles’ former inhabitants, Georges Mareschal (1658-1736). Mareschal was an important figure at the court of Louis XIV as the king’s first surgeon, who remained at the king’s side until his death in 1715. Mareschal was portrayed by François Girardon, who Alexandre Maral—curator at Versailles and expert on the French artist—calls “one of the greatest sculptors of Louis XIV’s reign.” The sculpture remained in possession of the sitter’s descendants and had not been seen in public since the early twentieth century when it was last exhibited. Maral knew of its existence through a black-and-white photograph, and it was a surprise to both him and Salomé to find it while at TEFAF Maastricht in 2020, where it was presented by Stuart Lochhead Sculpture. “We had no idea [the sculpture] was going to appear at TEFAF. Seeing it in the real was one of those surprises you have at TEFAF. We had to react very quickly.”

See how the bust by François Girardon returned to its home in the galleries of Versailles in the latest video from TEFAF’s Museum Stories series.

Versailles Stuart Lochhead Sculpture Museum Stories | TEFAF | The European Fine Art Foundation
Alexandre Maral, Laurent Salomé, and Stuart Lochhead in front of the Bust of Georges Mareschal (circa 1700-10) by François Girardon. The sculpture is presented in one of the galleries telling the story of King Louis XVI’s life at the National Museum of the Palace of Versailles.
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