He worked in Rome, Turin, Paris and numerous other French cities but towards the end of his life he also spent several years in London, where he executed portraits of Prime Minister Robert Walpole and Frederick and Augusta, Prince and Princess of Wales, to name but a few.
It was, however, in Paris in 1723 that he created one of his most familiar images: a full-figure portrait of Louis XV as King of France and Navarra. The original belongs to the palace of Versailles and another version hangs in the Louvre.
The positive reaction to the portrait of the monarch in his full regalia motivated van Loo to create a number of further copies, the earliest of which also dates from 1723.
A smaller Louis
An example sold at Sotheby’s in London in December 2009 was a full-length version. There were numerous somewhat smaller, three-quarter portraits of Louis. One belongs to the Royal Collection in London; another came up for sale at Schloss Ahlden (25% buyer’s premium) near Hanover on September 8-10 with a guide of €45,000-90,000.
In this 4ft 5in x 3ft 4in (1.34m x 99cm) version the focus shifted slightly in comparison to the larger portraits to emphasise the king’s role as commander-in-chief. His helmet is visible, but the crown and sceptre no longer are.
The auction house provided no information about the provenance of this work, which was housed in its original gilt frame, surmounted by the crowned coat-of arms of France, but plenty of bidders had no doubts about its authenticity and drove the price to €160,000 (£137,930). The top price of the sale, it was bid by an international collector.