Marble Medallion profile of Louis XIV

 

AN IMPORTANT MARBLE MEDALLION PROFILE OF LOUIS XIV REPRESENTED AS ALEXANDER THE GREAT



FRANCE

 

18TH CENTURY

 

 

 

Painted wood frame imitating Red Languedoc marble or Incarnat Turquin marble

 

 

Dimensions (without frame) : Diameter : 25.6 inches


 

 

Our white marble medallion depicts a finely carved portrait bust of the King Louis XIV (1638-1715), young, in profile facing right, dressed in the Roman Emperor style. The shape of the face is perfectly executed and reveals the strength of the youth. His long curling hair spreads out over his shoulders and his head is covered with a laurel crown in the great tradition of the Roman Emperors. The proud and noble appareance of the King is surrounded by a painted wood frame imitating Red Languedoc marble or Incarnat Turquin marble.

 

The artist wanted to represent here Louis XIV the Great as a strong, powerful and glorious man, wanting to establish his power over the world as was the famous king of Macedonia, Alexander the Great. The latter is one of the most famous figures of the Antiquity and one of the  biggest conquerors of history. Therefore he was an ideal for the monarch. In December 1665, Racine gave a performance Alexandre Le Grand dedicated to the king where he associated the role and the personality of Alexander to the Louis XIV. From 1660, Charles le Brun painted Les reines de Perse aux pieds d’Alexandre in Fontainebleau in the presence of the king and from 1665, he executed gigantic paintings depicting battles of Alexander.

 

So it is not surprising that Louis XIV, another glorious conqueror, identified with this symbolic figure and asked to one of his official sculptors to immortalize him under the personification of Alexander the Great, taking an active role in the wide promotion of the global royal image.

 

To spread through the world, he asked Colbert, his Prime Minister, to organize a centralized and institutionalized system for the design, realization and the distributon of his royal image. So, was set up a methodical and permanent propaganda campaign Louis-quatorzienne from 1662 with any first Works of the « Petite Académie » or « Académie des Inscriptions et des Médailles » founded in 1663 with for mission to develop medals in the effigy of the king.

 

The same year, he bought l’hôtel des Gobelins to establish a tapestry Manufacture where were gathered artists mainly Flemish, Italian and French.

In December 1667, letters patent established in Gobelins the Manufacture Royale des Meubles de la Couronne. The Academy of Painting and Sculpture was founded in 1648 and became in 1663 a Royal institution with a monopolistic vocation.

Under the protection of the king, which acts in real patron, the artists are the servants of an imposed style destinated to celebrate his glory. Some artists were asked to come through the borders for their knowledge and their expertise but mainly to spread the image of the king worldwide. France was conquering the supremacy on the European and world stage.

So to proclaim the matchless if not divine greatness of the monarch through the arts joined this logic.

 

The most famous sculptors of the time, namely Antoine Coysevox (1640-1720), François Girardon (1628-1715), Jean-Louis Lemoyne (1665-1755) or Pierre Puget (1620-1694) will play a crucial role in the service of the power.

They were responsible for several studios consisted of numerous artists with the objective to represent the king einther in bust, in medallion, in full-length or on horseback and spread his image worldwide. The traditional image of the king depicted in majesty, war king and in Roman emperor was very common but the representation of the king, Young, under the personification of Alexander the Great is unique and exceptional.

 

We don’t know of any other portrait approaching our medallion. It is not signed like the great majority of the sculptures from this period.

By the shape of his face and by his great quality of execution we could attributed this work to the sculptor, François Girardon or to François Fontelle, the specialist of king medallions.

 

 

 

Bibliography :

 

Gérard SABATIER, « La gloire du roi. Iconographie de Louis XIV de 1661 à 1672 », in Histoire, économie et société, 2000, volume 19, number 19-4, pp. 527-560.