A military history of the late 17th century and the early 18th century
The painting is a group portrait of the Capitaine-lieutenant of the Grenadiers à cheval, Mr. Jean-François de Creil and his fellow officers. De Creil was awarded the commandeur of the St. Louis in March 1737; perhaps, to commemorate such an occasion, Parrocel was commissioned the painting which was destined to decorate the Grande salle à manger of the Petits Appartements at Château de Fontainebleau as a pendant to Carle Van Loo’s Halte de Chasse . The Halt de Grenadiers (2,10 x 2,49 m) was first exhibited on August 18, 1737 at the Paris Salon; in December of same year, Parrocel received 3000 liveres payment for the service rendered. As Michael Levy, in his Art and architecture of the Eighteenth Century in France (1972) notes: ”Pictures like the Halt de Grenadiers are more genre than military in their atmosphere: convincing in detail and with lively color, they are powered also by the painter’s interest less in battle as such than in horses…” (p. 27). The Halt de Grenadiers is a splendid rococo piece which may be admired solely for its decorative elegance and rich color. The canvas teems with minutely described detail; we can say that Parrocel was a reporter of a very carefully observed event. The scene shows the Capitaine-lieutenant de Creil and his officers and troopers halting to an improvised banquet before the city of Philippsbourg, which is visible in the distant haze. The scene is set before a vast landscape bathed in warm atmospheric light, carefully controlled and alternately concealing and revealing various elements in the composition… Rather than a halt the scene could just as well represent a military fête galante. By the eighteenth century such open tables had become a means of displaying the hospitality of the senior officers, and getting to know the character and opinion of subordinates in a relaxed atmosphere, and also nurture them in nuts and bolts of the military trade. Although many art critics do see the splendidly drawn white horse under the musketeer on the right, the central message of the Halt de Grenadiers is just this – to show preeminence of and the loyalty to the military career and the king. Note: Individual portraits are superlatively rendered and show that Parrocel could have made a name for himself in this genre if he had turned his full attention to it. Colonel Mac Carthy, conservateur of the Musee de l'Armee, identified all the persons in the painting in his article “Tableau de Parrocel: Une Halte de la maison du roy” (1921).
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