The Gilt of the Sun: Louis XIV

A Baroque Paper Doll by David Claudon



King Louis XIV, the Sun King (1638-1715), ruled France at the same time of his English counterpart, Charles II. He began his 72-year reign at the age of 5 upon the death of his father. However, it was not until the age of 22 in 1661 that he assumed control of the country. One of his most notable contributions was the extensive renovation to his hunting lodge at Versailles, which began about 1668. Eventually the estate included extensive gardens, lakes, fountains, statuary, buildings--even a zoo.

During his reign Louis was patron to the arts: theatre (Moliere and Racine), music (Lully), sculpture (Girardon and Coysevox), painting (LeBrun and Rigaud), tapestries (LeBrun), architecture, and the sciences.

For an extensive listing of paintings of Louis XIV, check here.




The figure of the king at left is based on a portrait created by Charles Le Brun, approximately 1660 and the costume is suggested from one of LeBrun's Gobelin tapestries, dealing with the life of Louis, Louis XIV visiting the Gobelins Manufactory, (dated approximately 1729).

Louis' armor is based on a 1668 painting.


Seen in the background is tapesty by LeBrun from Gobelins, showing Versailles.








The Sun King and Ballet

Louis XIV and the French Influence describes the beginning of Louis' facination with the image of Apollo, god of the sun:

When Louis XIV was crowned his interest in dancing was strongly supported and encouraged by Italian-born Cardinal Mazarin, (formerly Mazarini), who assisted Louis XIV. The young king made his ballet debut as a boy, but it was in 1653 as a teenager that he accomplished his most memorable feat as a dancer. He performed a series of dances in Le Ballet de la Nuit and for his final piece he appeared as Apollo, god of the sun. Wearing a fancy golden Roman-cut corselet and a kilt of golden rays he came to be known as the Sun King.

The sun's ray are worn on his head, around his neck and waist. Apollo's face appears on his corselet. For the costume, Louis wore a special blonde wig.

Louis established the Académie Royale de Dance in 1661 in Paris

At the right, in another intrepretation of the Apollo costume, Louis wears a skirt and long waisted tunic with sun motif, ribbons and flowers, while carrying the symbol of Apollo, the lyre.

A typical ballet costume from the 1660s is shown here.




Continuing the Mythology of Apollo

Louis apparently loved paintings with mythological themes.

In 1670, painter Jean Nocret painted Louis and his family as Olympian gods. Louis, wears a sun-gold gown open to the waist and crowned with a laurel wreath, symbol of Apollo.

The right costume derives from a 1678 painting shows Louis dressed as a Roman emperor.




The Ultimate Sun King

In 1701, Hyacinethe Rigand painted what has become the ultimate icon of the 62 year-old pleasure-loving king in his coronation robes. He wears white trunk hose from the previous time-period, an ermine lined robe of blue velvet with gold fleurs-de-lis of the house of Bourbon. At his side is the sword of Charlemagne. On his chest he wears the chains of the Order of the Holy Ghost and the Golden Fleece.

The painting was intended as a gift for his grandson who had just become Philip V of Spain, but the king was so taken with the portrait he commissioned a second version. Both versions ultimately remained in France.




Queen Marie-Therese and the Grand Dauphin

Louis married Queen Marie-Therese was the daughter of King Phillip of Spain in 1660.

Here Marie-Therese is shown in approximately 1666 with The
Grand Dauphin, Louis de Viennois (1661-1711), who predeceased his father before being able to inherit the throne. She wears an elaborately bejeweled black and white bodice and hoop underskirt. The black and white patterned overskirt with train has a brocade lining. Feathered picadils (tabs) adorn the sleeves and bodice. On her blonde hair she wears a similarly bejeweled cap with pearls and veil. She carries a black mask (often worn by upperclass women of the period). The Grand Dauphin






  During Louis XVI's rule, Moliere was writing some of his best work in Paris and Samuel Pepys was keeping a diary of Restoration England. To learn more click on the pictures.  





This page was created by C. David Claudon, September 15, 2006. Last update September 15, 2006 .

To obtain these prints at 300 dpi, contact me

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