RIGAUD, Hyacinthe
(b. 1659, Perpignan, d. 1743, Paris)

Portrait of Phillippe de Courcillon

Oil on canvas, 162 x 150 cm
Musée National du Château, Versailles

In this extraordinary portrait of Phillippe de Courcillon, Marquis de Dangeaua, a theatrical influence is evident. An enormous black wig frames the hard oval face, below which flows a stream of brocade, gold and finery in improbable folds created by a pose that outlandishly aggrandizes the sitter.

Wigs played an important role in 17th-century portraits. The exact origin of this accessory is not clean, but they were certainly widespread in distinguished circles by 1620-30. Wigs lent faces - and therefore all portraits - a similar impact because of a similar framework of ringlets and curls. Whether bald or not, people choose the colour of their hair according to the attire to be worn and the event to be attended. Louis XIV and all French princes were highly attentive to such points.