Portrait of Chevalier Jean-Jacques d'Erlach, colonel of the Swiss Guards regiment (1674 - 1742)
Canvas in a carved and gilded wooden frame from the Louis XV period.
194 x 130 cm
The model is known to us thanks to an old version-
The model is known to us thanks to an old version kept in the collection of the Erlach family, in Bern, reproduced in P. de Vallières, Honneur et Fidélité, Histoire des Suisses au service étranger, 1940. The model seems to be "younger" than in our painting, but the pose and posture are the same. Jean-Jacques d'Erlach entered the Guards regiment as a cadet in 1693. He took part in the battle of Nerwinde, where his brother was killed, and served at the siege of Charleroi. He commanded the Compiègne camp in 1698, the Flanders army in 1702-1703-1704 and distinguished himself in many other campaigns. He was made brigadier of the king's armies in 1719 and became captain of the grenadiers of his regiment the same year. In 1734, he was appointed Marshal of the Camp, and in 1735, he was employed in this capacity in the Army of the Rhine. In 1736 he succeeded Jean Victor, baron de Besenval as colonel of the Swiss Guards regiment, the most prestigious regiment of the French monarchy. Lieutenant-General in 1738, he was made Commander of the Order of Saint Louis in 1739, Grand Cross in 1741; he died a few months later on November 4, 1742 and was buried in Saint-Eustache in Paris. Our painting is therefore to be placed between these two dates.
The 17th century saw the creation, in France, of one of the most prestigious orders of merit in Europe and undoubtedly the most popular and prized of the monarchic period. It was Louis XIV who instituted the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis with the edict of 5 April 1693. This was the first French order of merit, offering for the first time the possibility for an officer of non-noble origin to acquire a knighthood in combat. The original statutes made this perfectly clear: "only officers (still from our troops) will be received into this Order and virtue, merit and services rendered with distinction in our armies will be the only qualifications for entry. The new order aroused great fervor in the army and had a very stimulating effect. As Voltaire wrote so well, this decoration was "more sought after than fortune". Each year, a general assembly, preceded by a mass, was to bring together all the members of the Order on Saint Louis Day. The assembly elected for one year a council, composed of six knights, four commanders and two grand crosses, in charge of the administration of the Order. A clerk, a treasurer and a bailiff, chosen from among the senior officials of the Secretariats of War and the Navy and placed at the disposal of the council, were responsible for the day-to-day management of the Order. These officials were entitled to the Knight's Cross of Saint-Louis and the title of officer. The First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte later declared: "Louis XIV would never have been able to fight with advantage against the united Europe, during the War of the Spanish Succession, if he had not had at his disposal the coin of the Cross of Saint Louis. And in creating his Legion of Honor, Napoleon was inspired in many ways by the Order created by Louis XIV. (from: Royal and Military Order of Saint Louis, available on the website: http://www.
We thank the CNPHDHS for its help in the description
description of this portrait.