The painting of three French little princes


 In 1985, the late Italian chess historian Adriano Chicco sent some reproductions of a picture belonging to the Galleria del Costume of the Pitti Palace in Florence. In the period January-April, the Galleria mounted an exhibition of the costumes of little princes, and there was a painting, made by an unknown artist, of three grandsons of king Louis XIV of France.

 From left to right Louis, duke of Burgundy (1682-1712), Charles, duke of Berry (1686-1714) and Philip, duke of Anjou, the later Filips V of Spain (1683-1746).

 The painting can be dated 1688-1690, says the catalogue of the exhibition. For three reasons. One: the two standing boys are dressed after the fashion of the late 17th c. Two: in 1692, Louis was honoured with a decoration of the Order of the Holy Spirit, the most important French knighthood. As we have to do with an official portrait, it is unlikely he would not have pinned it up. Three: Louis wears children's clothes, which means that he must be younger than ten years old, for a ten years old boy has the clothes of adults.

 The princes are playing International Draughts, in spite of the fact the painter put the black pieces on the white squares and the white pieces and the dark squares. Usually artists are not interested in a true-to-nature reproduction of a board game, and the white pieces come out with more relief on the dark squares and the black ones on the white squares.