Circle of Jean Chaufourier
Paris 1675-Saint Germain-en-Laye 1757
General view of the Abbey of Port Royal-des-Champs, near Marly, France

PROVENANCE: Anonymous sale, Christies London, 2 December 1969, lot 282 (650 gns) to Manners as French School, early 18th Century.


465 x 555 mm. (18 x 21 in.)

The abbey was established in 1204, but became famous when its discipline was reformed in 1609 by the abbess Marie Angelique Arnauld (1591-1661). The Arnauld family became its patrons and the convents subsequent history was directed by descendants of this family. In 1625 most of the nuns moved to a new Port-Royal in Paris, which subsequently became Port-Royale de Paris, while the older one was known as Port-Royal des Champs. This latter view is represented in the present picture.

At this site several schools were founded, which became known as the Les Petites-Ecoles de Port-Royal. These schools became famous for the high quality of the education they gave. Playwright Jean Racine was a product of this education. In 1634 Jean du Vergier de Hauranne, Abb de Saint-Cyan became the spiritual director of the convent, he was a companion of Jansenius and the implementer of Jansenism in France. From this point onwards the convents and schools of Port-Royal became intimately associated with this school of theology.

The atmosphere of serious study and the Jansenist piety attracted a number of prominent cultural figures to the movement. The Jesuits on the other hand enjoyed predominance in political and theological power in France and Europe and had a personal confessor to the King. As a result of the Jesuit attacks on Jansenism the schools of Port-Royal were regarded as tainted with heresy. Louis XIV wanting peace in the church the elementary schools were forcibly closed by bull in 1660 following the formulary controversy. In 1661 the monastery was forbidden to accept novices, heralding its eventual dissolution. The convent itself was abolished by a bull from Pope Clement XI in 1708, the remaining nuns forcibly removed in 1709, most of the buildings themselves were razed in 1710.

It is interesting to see a similar view in an engraving [Figure 1] attributed to Louise-Magdeleine Horthemels (1686-1767), sometimes known as Louise Madeleine Cochin. Originally the family were followers of the Dutch Roman Ca