A Glimpse of Sun for the French Winter

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 18, 2009

From the website of Versailles:

Louis XIV: The Man and the King
Château de Versailles, 20 October 2009 — 7 February 2010

Curated by Nicolas Milovanovic and Alexandre Maral

For the first time, a major exhibition is devoted to Louis XIV, the king’s personality, his personal tastes. This exhibition, Louis XIV: The Man and the King, brings together more than 300 exceptional works coming from collections all over the world and never shown together before. Paintings, sculptures, objets d’art and furniture will be exhibited. These masterpieces, some of which have never been presented in France since the days of the Ancien Régime, will enable visitors to get to know the famous monarch better in both his personal tastes and through his public image.

The King’s Public Image

The richness of the image of Louis XIV has no precedent in history: Louis XIV is the Sun King, i.e. Apollo as the sun god. Fashioned by the king himself and his counsellors, this image constantly evolved to convey emblematic figures of the royal power: the king of war leading his troops, the patron king and protector of the arts, the very Christian king and Defender of the Church, the king of glory, an image constructed for posterity. This visible glory, given mythical proportions, which was constructed during his lifetime, took shape thanks to the excellence of the artists chosen, such as Bernini, Girardon, Rigaud, Cucci, Gole, Van der Meulen and Coysevox who set out to sublimate the royal portrait, which the exhibition allows the visitors to rediscover.

The King’s Taste

He saw himself as a king who was the protector of the arts and a collector, competing with other sovereigns of Europe who were also genuine connoisseurs. Benefiting from the example of Mazarin, Louis XIV formed his taste in direct contact with artists, and through the personal relations that he established with them: Le Brun and Mignard in painting, Le Vau and Hardouin-Mansart in architecture, Le Nôtre in the art of gardens, Lully in music, and Molière in theatre. By assembling the works appreciated by the king, a genuine portrait emerges of a passionate lover of the arts and a man of good taste through the jewels, cameos, medals, miniatures and objets d’art, as well as the paintings and sculptures that he loved to surround himself within the Petit Appartement in Versailles.

Accompanying the show is a tapestry exhibition, Royal Pomp, Louis XIV’s Tapestry Collection, at the Gobelins Gallery in Paris.

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Reviews and notices of the exhibition can be found at Newsweek, the Telegraph, and The New York Times. The catalogue, Louis XIV, l’homme et le roi (Skira-Flammarion, 2009; ISBN: 9782081228108) is available through Michael Shamansky’s artbooks.com.

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