Apollon distribue des récompenses aux sciences et aux arts, et Minerve couronne le génie de la France
Pierre Mignard, the chief rival of Charles Le Brun, had to wait until the death of Le Brun’s protector Colbert in 1683 before he too could paint at Versailles. In 1685, he was chosen to decorate the ceiling of the Petite Galerie, situated above the vestibule of the Ambassadors’ Staircase. The room was part of the king’s private apartments and home to a great number of famous works of art (most of which are now in the Louvre). As the centerpiece of the vault, Mignard painted this mythological composition celebrating the royal patronage of arts and sciences. The “genius of France” is represented with the traits of Louis XIV’s then 3-year-old grandson, the duke of Burgundy.
The Petite Galerie and its decor were destroyed in the middle of the eighteenth century, around the same time as the Ambassadors’ Staircase.