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Title: Louis XIV dressed in the Roman style, crowned with Victory in front of a view of the town of Maestricht in 1673.
Author : MIGNARD Pierre (1612 - 1695)
Creation date : 1673
Dimensions: Height 311 - Width 304
Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas
Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website
Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Daniel Arnaudet
Picture reference: 85-002073 / MV2156
Louis XIV dressed in the Roman style, crowned with Victory in front of a view of the town of Maestricht in 1673.
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Daniel Arnaudet
Publication date: May 2014
The Dutch War (1672-1678) led by Louis XIV against the United Provinces (the present-day Netherlands) is due to several causes, but the main one is economic. Became over the XVIIe century a leading commercial power, the country competes, abusively according to the absolute French king and his ministers, France on the main European markets. In addition, this Calvinist republic where reigns a great freedom of expression represents a kind of "negation of the French monarchical absolutism" (R. Finally, irritated by some pamphlets and mocking engravings about it and published in Amsterdam, Louis XIV does not can no longer bear the arrogance of this tiny state which dares to shade its sun.
The war which began in 1672 was to be prepared in people's minds by an intense campaign of engraved propaganda (especially by the burin of Jean Lepautre), while the first French victories (the crossing of the Rhine, the capture of Utrecht) will be object of countless figurative celebrations (medals, prints, tapestries, paintings…). But after these initial successes largely magnified by words and images, the war turned out to be more difficult than expected with the unexpected defense of the country which opened its dikes and thus transformed its cities into islands difficult to access by French troops.
In June 1673, the siege and then the capture of Maestricht, whose military operations took place in the presence of Louis XIV, celebrated by this painting as well as by numerous representations commissioned by French monarchical propaganda, did not however change the overall physiognomy of the military power relations, and it was not until 1678 that the Treaty of Nijmegen, which put an end to the war, was finally signed. The war which was not to last has stalled and has further angered many of Europe's crowned heads.
Louis XIV, in the center and in the foreground of the painting, on a prancing bay horse, is dressed in the Roman style. Above him, in the heavens, Victory will crown him with two laurel branches, a symbol of his military glory. The winged deity holds in his left hand, floating above the monarch, a standard in the radiant sun, a symbolic attribute widely associated with the French king. The latter, the supple and natural port, rides a fiery horse, a leopard skin as a saddle.
In his right hand, Louis XIV holds the command staff entirely fleurdelisé, while in his left hand is slipped a harness with gold links. The red of the harness extends the cape of the flying monarch and recalls the royal colors. Behind the king appear his troops and the fortified city of Maestricht, capital of Limburg, which he has just captured in just thirteen days, to the amazement of the whole of Europe. Bathed in bright light, the majestic Louis XIV stands out against a dark background which perfectly showcases the war king, his power and his glory.
The horse has therefore been for many centuries a means for men to display their power and domination. Louis XIV will take this association a little further and, through a rich program of equestrian statues bearing his effigy, will impose the image of a king cavalier, victorious and absolute.
Pierre Mignard's painting participates in this policy of affirming the divine origin of power and the principle of its domination over peoples. The very large-format work plays on the same monumentality as the equestrian statues in bronze or in stone which, in the second part of the reign of the Sun King, will flourish in the center of the royal squares of major French cities.
The painting skillfully mixes the images of the warlord, the Roman emperor and the sovereign prince whom Louis XIV embodied by naturally dominating his steed, as he defeated his enemies. Alone, the haughty bearing looking at his subjects without arrogance, the fiery monarch wants to be the sole architect of a victory, however largely obtained thanks to the strategic innovations of Vauban. The royal propaganda is displayed unvarnished in this luminous and skilfully realistic picture, and helps to give Louis XIV, an excellent rider, the image of a monarch at the height of his power and glory.
- Louis XIV
- absolute monarchy
- Great Century
- equestrian portrait
- Holland War
- United Provinces
Daniel ROCHE, The Power and the Glory. History of equestrian culture, 16th-19th century, Paris, Fayard, 2011.
Joël CORNETTE, The King of War. Essay on Sovereignty in Grand Siècle France, Paris, Payot, 1993.
Nicolas CHAUDUN and alii, The Horse in Art, Paris, Citadelles & Mazenod, 2008.
To cite this article
Pascal DUPUY, "Louis XIV crowned by Victory"