A painting by François-Jean Garneray depicts the famous playwright and the Sun King at the same table, surrounded by memories of absolute monarchy.
François-Jean Garneray (or Garnerey, 1755-1837), Molière honoré par Louis XIV (Molière honored by Louis XIV), oil on panel, signed and dated 1824, 56 x 72.2 cm (22 x 28.4 in.).
In her Memoirs, Madame Campan, Marie-Antoinette’s first lady-in-waiting, tells a delightful story that supposedly took place during the reign of Louis XIV. Hearing that Molière, in the position of Valet of the King's Chamber and Keeper of the Royal Carpets, Tapestries and Upholstery, was being shunned by the other officers of the court, who refused to share their meals with an actor, Louis XIV invited him to his table. François-Jean Garneray’s work illustrated this episode—with some liberties. Painted in 1824, it was wisely preempted by the Réunion des musées nationaux (a French cultural umbrella organization) on behalf of the Comédie-Française for €75,000. The day’s other highlight included Marie-Antoinette’s shoe, which an international bidder bought for €43,750. This royal memento came down to us through the descendants of Charles Gilbert de Lachapelle, whose wife, Marie Émilie, born Leschevin, was a close friend of Madame Campan’s. Another item owned by Marie-Antoinette, this one before she became queen, fetched €27,500: a leather-covered, iron-girded wardrobe trunk in wood dating from 1770-1774.