Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, Count of Toulouse

Louis Alexandre de Bourbon is the last of the illegitimate children of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan. He purchased the Hôtel de la Vrillière with its collection of paintings in 1713, and commissioned Robert de Cotte, leading architect for the king, to renovate the Galerie Dorée. He also furnished his residence with tapestries (Vertumnus and Pomona, Les Triomphes Marins) which he had received from his mother, to whom he was very close, as well as commissioning a thermometer-barometer pair from the cabinetmaker Boulle.

Louis Alexandre de Bourbon

Born in Versailles on 6 June 1678, acknowledged as legitimate and granted the title of Count of Toulouse on 22 November 1681.
Appointed Admiral of France on 23 November 1683
Governor of Guyenne (January 1689)
March-April 1691 Took part in the siege of Mons
1691 Madame de Montespan leaves the court
25 May – 30 June 1692 Siege of Namur
2 February 1693 Knight of the Order of the King
28 August 1693 Commander in Chief of the Toulouse-Cavalerie regiment
5 May 1694 Ranked after the princes of the blood and before the duke-peers
3 August 1697 Lieutenant General of the Royal Armies
15 December 1698 Duke and Peer of Penthièvre
June-August 1702 Campaign of Sicily (Messina and Palermo)
24-25 August 1704 Battle of Malaga
1705 Decorated by Philip V of Spain (his nephew) with the Order of the Golden Fleece
1706 Acquisition of Rambouillet
27 May 1707 Death of Madame de Montespan
1713 Purchased the Hôtel La Vrillière
March 1714 Grand Huntsman of France (succeeding the Duke de La Rochefoucauld)
2 February 1723 Married Marie-Victoire de Noailles
16 November 1725 Birth of the Duke de Penthièvre
1 December 1737 Died in Rambouillet

Vertumnus & Pomona, Earth

The story of this tapestry is somewhat mysterious. It was part of a cycle devoted to the four elements commissioned by Madame de Montespan in XXXX to depict her with Louis XIV and their two sons. Air is devoted to the King in the guise of Jupiter, Fire to the Duke du Maine, Water to the Count of Toulouse as Neptune and Earth to Madame de Montespan as Cybele. Air and Fire belong to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Water has disappeared.

A few years later, for reasons unknown, the central roundel which was meant to represent Madame de Montespan, and the upper roundel which probably illustrated Earth, were cut out. They were replaced by Vertumnus and Pomona, and by the three lilies and the bend sinister that are the arms of the Count of Toulouse.

The roundel of Vertumnus and Pomona is a copy of a painting at the Château de Fontenay in Normandy, which disappeared during the Second World War. This painting of unknown author depicted Mademoiselle de Blois as Pomona, a young nymph of great beauty and goddess of fruit, and the Count of Toulouse as the god Vertumnus disguised as a woman. It was twin to a canvas by François de Troy (1691) who had painted the Duke du Maine and Mademoiselle de Nantes in the guise of Paris and Venus.

On the tapestry, the Count of Toulouse is the robed personage on the left (Vertumnus).

Vertumne & Pomone


Les triomphes marins

This set of four wall hangings represents the triumph of Venus, Venus and Anchises, Venus giving arms to Aeneas, and Venus guiding Aeneas while Eurus destroys the Trojan fleet. They were woven in Béhagle's Parisian workshop around 1697.

Venus is depicted before a “chimerical palace, worthy of the grand finale of a Lulli opera, its columns gloriously encrusted with shells and coral”. As Charissa Bremer-David correctly notes, the full set is an allegory to Madame de Montespan represented in the guise of Venus. In the first tapestry, Venus appears alone in her chariot drawn by two seahorses, and preceded by Tritons. In the next, Venus is represented in full glory at the feet of Anchises. The two final tapestries evoke passages from the Aeneid. Venus returns to her son Aeneas his arms forged by Vulcan. Venus saves her son from the shipwreck caused when Juno in her anger unleashes Eurus, the storm wind. This story can be viewed as a parallel to that of Athénaïs de Montespan (1640-1707), who was mistress to King Louis XIV from 1667 to 1683. Her son, Louis-Alexandre, Count of Toulouse (1678-1737), received honours and commissions thanks to her.

The Count of Toulouse is shown in the guise of Aeneas.

The Vassé panels

The Count of Toulouse renovated the residence between 1714 and 1719. The Galerie Dorée was adorned with panels of sculpted wood depicting hunting and marine themes.

The galerie dorée

The fireplace

The fireback represents the attributes of the Count of Toulouse.

The fireback


The barometer and thermometer

This barometer and thermometer set in marquetry and gilded bronze is by cabinetmaker André-Charles Boulle (around 1720) and Gilles-Marie Oppenord. They are decorated with lobsters, a ship's anchor and blowing wind (Eurus).

They form a set with the grandfather clock which is today conserved at the Louvre.


[1] Danièle Véron-Denise, « Vertumne et Pomone à la Banque de France ; nouvelles précisions sur une tenture brodée du comte de Toulouse », in Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire de l’Art français, Année 2005, 2006, pp. 83-100.

[2] http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/199708

[3] http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/199707

[4] Véron-Denise, op. cit.

[5] Aeneid, Book 1, v. 384-388

[6] Roger-Armand Weigert, “La tenture des triomphes marins d’après Jean I Bérain”, in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, pp. 329-334

[7]Acknowledged as legitimate on 22 November 1681 and named Count of Toulouse, Admiral of France (23 November 1683), Knight of the Order of the King (Saint Michael and the Holy Spirit) on 2 February 1693, first in rank after the princes of the blood (before the duke-peers) by declaration of 5 May 1694, Lieutenant General of the royal armies, 3 August 1697.

[8] http://www.louvre.fr/oeuvre-notices/regulateur

Updated on: 06/12/2018 10:34