The Lorraine Museum (Musée Lorrain) is a regional museum located in two buildings just a short walk north of Place Stanislas in Nancy. The first of these buildings is the former palace of the Dukes of Lorraine, which now houses a large collection of paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, scientific instruments and elements of architecture, all having to do with the history of the duchy from the Middle Ages to the 18th century.
One of the many paintings on display in the museum is this portrait of the last Duke of Lorraine, Stanislas Leszczynski. After the death of Duke Stanislas in 1766, the duchy passed by inheritance to his son-in-law, King Louis XV of France, who promptly absorbed it into his kingdom. (The technical term for this is escheatment — which has nothing to do with cheating, despite the similar spelling.)
During his reign, Stanislas seems to have stayed in the ducal palace in Nancy occasionally, but his main residence was the larger and more impressive Château de Lunéville, some thirty km to the southeast.
(I’ve never been to Lunéville, but I have read that the palace there was badly damaged by a fire in 2003. It has since been rebuilt, at least in part, and is now open to the public whenever the corona situation permits.)
Since Stanislas didn’t actually have to govern his duchy (his situation as a puppet ruler relieved him of that responsibility), he was free to beautify the city of Nancy, patronize the arts and sciences, and play a modest role in the intellectual life of the Enlightenment era.
All you loyal readers of my post on Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Montmorency might recall that Rousseau once wrote an essay called Considérations sur le Gouvernement de Pologne (Considerations on the Government of Poland). A banner with a quotation from this essay was hanging from a streetlight in Montmorency when I was there, and I took a photo of it for my blog.
Sometime after my visit to Montmorency I somehow got the erroneous idea that Rousseau’s essay on the government of Poland was the result of a request by Stanislas Leszczynski, asking for recommendations for a new Polish constitution. I was convinced I had read this on various websites, but can’t find any of them at the moment, so perhaps it was just a misunderstanding on my part.
This idea is certainly erroneous because Leszczynski died in 1766, but Rousseau didn’t start writing his essay on Poland until around 1770, at the request of a Polish republican politician named Michał Wielhorski. The essay was only published after Rousseau’s death in 1778.
Leszczynski knew and disliked Rousseau, and disagreed with him on a number of philosophical issues. The two of them aired their disagreements in articles published in the 1750s, but these disagreements were more about the nature of man and society, not about the Polish constitution.
My photos in this post are from 2015. I revised the text in 2022.
See more posts on Nancy, France.