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Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, 'The Great Condé'

Attributed to Louis Elle Ferdinand
Mid 17th Century
Oil on canvas
48 in x 60 in
122 cm x 152 cm
About the Piece

This painting is believed to be a portrait of Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé (1621-1686), also known as Le Grand Condé. The Great Condé was an important military commander and a favorite of Louis XIV.

The Prince de Condé was heavily involved in the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Dynastic territorial ambitions, religious tensions between Protestants and Catholics, and other factors brought Europe into an extended conflict which would result in heavy loss of life and destruction of entire regions. Holy Roman Emperors, including Ferdinand I, Maximillian II, Rudolf II and Matthias, had avoided war in the years leading up to 1618 by allowing different Christian faiths to spread without restraint inside the Empire. However, Matthias' successor, Ferdinand II, was a staunch Catholic who wanted to impose religious uniformity on his lands. This made him highly unpopular in Protestant Bohemia. The population's sentiments notwithstanding, the added insult of the nobility's rejection of Ferdinand, who had been elected Bohemian Crown Prince in 1617, triggered the Thirty Years' War.

In 1643, the Prince de Condé defeated the Spanish army at the Battle of Rocroi. This would lead to important negotiations and in turn to a series of treaties that would end the long war. In 1645, Condé defeated the Bavarian army at the second Battle of Nördlingen. Later, in 1648, the French army, led by Turenne and Condé, won another important battle at Zusmarshausen and Lens.

16th Century Lithuanian Coat of Arms
16th century Lithuanian coat of arms.
The painting depicts the sitter in half armor with the accoutrements of his position as a military commander. What appears to be an abbreviated, diminished and reversed Lithuanian coat of arms is shown in the background. This may be a reference to Condé's entertaining the idea of having himself elected King of Poland or the desire of his close relative, Polish Queen Ludwicka Maria Gonzaga, for the Prince's son to become heir to the Polish throne. Despite his determined measures and the support of Louis XIV, Condé was unsuccessful in becoming king of Poland and his son did not become heir to the throne.

Detail of Louis II de Bourbon, Known as Le Grand Condé, before the Battlefield at Rocroi by Juste d’Egmont (1601-1674), Musée de l’Armée.
Detail of Louis II de Bourbon, Known as Le Grand Condé, before the Battlefield at Rocroi by Juste d’Egmont (1601-1674), Musée de l’Armée.
Many of the portraits of Louis II are of the prince later in life. Louis II de Bourbon, Known as Le Grand Condé, before the Battlefield at Rocroi by Juste d’Egmont (1601-1674) (shown at left) depicts a much younger prince, around 24 years of age. The statue of Condé at the Prince's Chateau de Chantilly is also of a younger man.

Head of statue of the Great Condé at Chantilly
Head of statue of the Great Condé at Chantilly.Photo: Chateau de Chantilly

As one of history's greatest military commanders, the Prince de Condé helped France replace Spain as the dominant military force in Europe.

Sources: Wikipedia and Web Gallery of Art

Related Items: Documents signed by Maximillian II and Ferdinand II are part of our documents collection.

Detail Images

Detail of Face

Detail of Arm and Hat

Detail of Coat of Arms

Detail of Sash

Detail of Lace

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