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Arrival of the Turkish Embassy led by Mehemet Effendi at the Tuileries Gardens, March 21, 1721
© Palace of Versailles, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Christophe Fouin
Publication date: October 2020
University of Evry-Val d'Essonne
A masterful testimony
Landed in France in November 1720, Ambassador Yirmisekiz Mehemet Effendi (1670-1732) entered the capital on March 8. Unlike the canvas produced by Pierre-Denis Martin, the work produced by Charles Parrocel is not the result of an official order. In 1739, it was purchased for 3,000 livres by the administration of the King's Buildings and joined the personal collection of Louis XV.
An enlargement of the frame is necessary for its presentation in the apartments of the Palace of Versailles, opposite a painting by Adam-François Van der Meulen. They are exhibited on the landing of the Escalier des Ambassadeurs, but they were never woven by the Gobelins factory.
An extraordinary entry
On this canvas, the Turkish diplomatic procession enters the Tuileries Garden via the esplanade of the swing bridge (future Place Louis XV and current Place de la Concorde). The delegation presents itself in front of the large octagonal basin opening onto the perspective of the Grande Allée designed by the gardener André Le Nôtre in the 17th century.e century. In the distance, the Ambassador can see the facade of the Tuileries Palace where the King and the Regent await him. Several sculptures have been installed in the gardens since the Court's return to Paris after the death of Louis XIV. Thus, three sculpted groups appear from left to right: Mercury by Antoine Coysevox, Seine and Marne by Nicolas Coustou and The Tiber by Pierre Bourdict. In the background, the painter also depicts the buildings on rue Saint-Honoré and the dome of Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption church. Crowds gather on the upper terraces and one of the two horseshoe-shaped ramps. To better observe the scene, various spectators are perched in the trees.
The delegation is colorful, with luxurious and shimmering fabrics. A powerful guard of honor is formed by the troops of the King's Military Household. The quality of the representation of the soldiers and the horses shows that the artist has a perfect command of the military register, followed by paintings dedicated to Louis XV's gunshots. In the foreground, the light horses of the king’s guard face the regiment of the French Guard, several ordinance flags fluttering in the wind. To the left of the artwork, Ambassador Effendi wears a dark blue caftan lined with sable, a distinct color from the green version of Martin's painting. Covered in a white turban, the emissary of Sultan Ahmet III is protected by many Turkish and French servants, on foot and on horseback. On his right, he is escorted by the Prince of Lambesc and on his left by Nicolas-François Rémond, introducer of the ambassadors to the King of France. Finally, he is predeceased by his son Mehemet Saïd Pasha, wearing a red caftan. Mounted on a mare whose bridle is adorned with gold and precious stones, the latter holds the letter that the Grand Seigneur de la Sublime carries to the young French sovereign.
The Turqueries show
Coming from a great family of painters, whose father already represented the deeds of arms of Louis XIV, Charles Parrocel (1688-1752), also wielded the brush as a tool of artistic expression. Initially a resident of the king at the Académie de France in Rome, he returned to Paris at the beginning of 1721, during the visit of the Turkish ambassador. Proof that "turqueries" were fashionable at the start of the 18th centurye century, this painting is complementary to that produced by Pierre-Denis Martin, pupil of Parrocel father, with the diplomatic convoy of the Turkish embassy crossing the Seine after his interview with Louis XV on March 21, 1721. The action represented by Parrocel fils takes place the same day, shortly before noon, when the ambassador enters the Tuileries walls. With such a level of detail, it is likely that the painter will attend the event, sketch on the spot, and then begin his subject quickly.
Four years after the trip of Tsar Peter Ier, this great Turkish embassy underlines the place that France still holds on the international scene, despite the setbacks of the last conflicts of the reign of Louis XIV. Even if he is not of age, the young Louis XV is keen to mark his rank by impressing the host who came to compliment him. In his memoirs, the Duke of Saint-Simon was seduced by the circuit taken on March 21: “We strongly approved the path that this ambassador took, especially that of the Tuileries garden, with all that martial air of this many of the finest troops, and for having sent it back by the Quai des Tuileries and by that of the Theatins, which are the places where Paris seems best. "
By its staging and its extremely rare character, this stay arouses the curiosity of Parisians. The subjects of the King of France are captivated by this colorful and picturesque suite. The same year, the publication of the famous Persian letters de Montesquieu confirms the fashion for exoticism that permeated the early XVIIIe century. In the days following the interview, the ambassador increased his number of visits, met the regent Philippe of Orléans and stayed for five days in Versailles. According to Effendi's relation (Paradise for infidels), this trip skilfully negotiated by the Marquis de Bonnac, French Ambassador to Constantinople, should "strengthen the close and ancient friendship of the two Empires". It is a question of renewing the capitulations which guarantee to the two States rights and privileges since the alliance forged between Francis Ier and Suleiman the Magnificent at the beginning of the XVIe century. The exercise was successful and in 1742, it was Mehemet Saïd Pasha who succeeded his father with a second embassy.
- Tuileries Palace
- Louis XV
- Saint-Simon (Louis de Rouvroy)
- Montesquieu (Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède and)
- Mehmed Efendi
Visitors to Versailles: Travelers, princes, ambassadors (1682-1789), Paris, Gallimard, 2017.
Lucien BÉLY, Spies and ambassadors in the time of Louis XIV, Paris, Fayard, 1990.
Lucien BÉLY, International relations in Europe: 17th-18th centuries, Paris, University Press of France, 1992.
Mehmed EFENDI, Paradise for infidels: An Ottoman Ambassador to France under the Regency, Paris, La Découverte, 2004.
Fatma MÜGE GÖÇEK, East Encounters West: France and the Ottoman Empire in the Eighteenth Century, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1987.
Jean-François SOLNON, The Ottoman Empire and Europe, Paris, Tempus, 2017.
Stéphane YERASIMOS, Explorers of Modernity: The Ottoman Ambassadors in Europe, Genesis, Social Sciences and History, n ° 35, 1999, p. 65-82.
To cite this article
Stéphane BLOND, "Turkish Ambassador Mehemet Effendi at the Tuileries Gardens"