Portrait of Louis XIV

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Portrait of Louis XIV
French: Portrait de Louis XIV en costume de sacre
Louis XIV of France.jpg
ArtistHyacinthe Rigaud
Year1701 (1701)
Mediumoil on canvas
Dimensions277 cm × 194 cm (109 in × 76 in)
LocationMusée du Louvre, Paris
AccessionINV 7492

Portrait of Louis XIV in Coronation Robes was painted in 1701 by the French painter Hyacinthe Rigaud after being commissioned by the king who wanted to satisfy the desire of his grandson, Philip V, for a portrait of him. Louis XIV kept it hanging at Versailles. This portrait has become the "official portrait" of Louis XIV.


On the death of King Charles II of Spain on 18 November 1700, Spain was beset by the dynastic ambitions of other European powers, resulting in a succession war. The Spanish king's will ruled out any idea of sharing and placed Philip, Duke of Anjou, second son of the Grand Dauphin and grand-son of Louis XIV at the forefront of legitimate contenders for the crown. The future king of Spain, eager to take with him the image of his grandfather, convinced Louis XIV to order Hyacinthe Rigaud to paint what would become the absolute image of royal power and the reference picture for generations to come:

His reputation [Rigaud] is come to the king, by the portrait he had done of my lord, commander outside the headquarters of Philipsburg, he had the honor in 1700, to be appointed by His Majesty to paint Philippe V, King of Spain, his grandson a few days before his departure to take possession of their kingdoms. This work gave rise to the king of Spain's request to the king, his grandfather, giving it as his portrait painted by the same hand; that His Majesty granted him. Rigaud had the honor to start the following year; and being completed, the monarch found the resemblance so perfect and so beautifully decorated, he ordered him to make a copy of the same size, to send to the King of Spain, instead of original. His Most Christian Majesty is painted foot, clad in royal apparel. This table is ten feet and a half high; it is located in Versailles, in the throne room, and the king of Spain in the office of Her Majesty.[1]

Spoke Hyacinthe Rigaud, through a friend, in the autobiography he sent to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III in 1716.[2][3] These statements are corroborated by the mention of the corresponding payment in the books of accounts of the artist, in 1701: "The King and the King of Spain, and a copy of Kings's portrait of the same size as the original for his Catholic Majesty, all 12,000 pounds ", the price of three pictures.[4] The same payment is charged to royal buildings accounts on September 16, 1702: "Two large portraits of King Length, with sketching small portraits of such as also the length portrait of the king of Spain."[5]


It seems that Philip V had obtained satisfaction through the intercession of Madame de Maintenon, who in a letter to the Duke of Noailles, dated March 11, 1701 wrote:

"I am working to send him the portrait which he has ordered me to make him do. Here are two after-dinners that I return from Saint-Cyr to oblige the King to be painted. Gout came to our rescue. Without it we will not have held him for three or four hours"[6]

The day before, the Marquis de Dangeau left in his journal testimony corroborating the statements of Mme de Maintenon, describing the beginning of the Louis XIV painting, painted in privacy and designed to be embedded later into the final composition, : {{quote|"Thursday 10 [March 1701] at Versailles - The King's gout continues, he was painted after dinner by Rigaud to send his portrait to the King of Spain to whom he promised him [...].[7] "The next day, the work actually continued:" Friday 11 at Versailles - The King's gout grew a little, and on leaving the sermon, where he was carried, he was carried back to Madame de Maintenon's, where Rigaud worked on his portrait.."}} On September 3, 1703, in a touching letter he wrote to the Marquise, Philip V in turn confessed:

Thank you for the care you took to get me the portrait of the king, I look forward...[8]

The size and complexity of the composition justified the expectations of the sponsors and the time spent by the artist to complete his work. All the evidence is that Rigaud painted from life while completing the portrait, which never did get sent to Spain.

Thursday, January 19, 1702, Rigaud is seeking a new session, wrote the Marquis de Dangeau:

"the King, who had no advice to keep, had the patience to be painted at Madame de Maintenon's by Rigaud; he sends this portrait to the King of Spain, who had urged on ".

"The portrait of the King has been exhibited in the great apartment of Versailles; It is full with the royal habit. This work is by M. Rigaud. Never has a portrait been better painted, nor more resembling; The whole court saw it and everyone admired it. A work must be very beautiful and perfect to attract general applause in a place where good taste reigns and where one is not lavish of praise. His Majesty has promised his portrait to the King of Spain, wants to keep his word by giving him the original, and Mr. Rigaud must make a copy that is desired by the entire Court ."[9]

Louis XIV, King of France, study of Hyacinthe Rigaud from which he made Portrait of Louis XIV (1701 Condé museum.

The director of the King's Buildings ordered from the painter's studio a number of copies (in various forms for European courts or provincial royal dispensaries, such as that commissioned by François Stiémart, for example) or engravings, proved by a payment order dated September 16, 1702: "To Sieur Rigaud, ordinary painter of the King, for two large portraits of the King in full, with the sketch in small of the said portraits, as also of the full-length portrait of the King of Spain he made during the current year, 10,000 livres".[10]

Pierre Drevet was appointed to carry out the engravings and receives "perfect payment of five thousand livres for the engraving [ sic ] he made of the portrait at the foot of the King Louis XIV, according to M. Rigaud, during 1714-1715."[11] To do this, Drevet been assisted by a drawing executed by the young Jean-Marc Nattier and to who the director of buildings records payment, on August 20, 1713:

to the Sr Nattier the young, painter, for the drawing of a portrait of the king after Rigaud, which he copied to serve as a model for engraving during 1713, [...] 500 livres


Drevet owes a great deal to Nattier's work, which has recreated Rigaud's painting to its smallest details, to the projected dimensions of an etching. However, it extended the marble gallery in the background slightly, a variation followed by the engraver. There is no doubt that Rigaud himself supervised Nattier's work, since the drawing was intended for his friend Prevet, and Marc's father, Natier Mariette considers the work of Drevet as "what [the artist] has made more considerable" and that she " engraved by order of his very Christian Majesty and Estre put in his Cabinet."[12] In 1733, he noted the rarity in a letter to Gabburri: "For my part I can encourage you to acquire a portrait of the reigning king and the queen, but the one engraved by Drevet is very difficult to have, and I have it Seen for sale at more than eight livres. I can have it for a discreet price but I have to give me time."[13]


Signed and dated, "Painted by Hyacinthe Rigaud in 1701" on the base of the column supporting the goddess of Justice, and with Themis holding a set of scales in her hand, this vast portrait is that of an aging (63 years old) King, having reached the summit of his glory.

Rigaud executed the face on a small rectangular canvas subsequently sewn in small dots onto a larger canvas painted with the figure and background.[14] This original, now in the Louvre 3, from the crown collections,[15] has a replica (now shown in the Apollo Room of the Palace of Versailles ), also signed although of slightly different dimensions than the original.[16][17] One can also find a copy at the Hotel Negresco. The king is depicted standing upright, three quarters to the left, his head low and his feet in view, a pose calculated to presenting the greater part of his person. The king occupies the central space of the painting whose composition is constructed from vertical lines (column, king, throne) and a pyramid in which the sovereign inscribes, which creates an elevated space. The drama of the scene is accentuated by a heavy draped curtain which traditionally means that the king does not appear but appears. A large marble pillar, traditional evocation of power since the Renaissance (as a stability symbol, the world axis that unites the earthly and heavenly powers) holds the composition left. The massive barrel rests on a stylobate whose two visible sides are decorated with reliefs depicting two royal virtues: The allegories of Justice (front) and strength (left, very difficult to see).[18]

Stood before a throne upholstered in blue and embroidered with fleur de lys placed high up on a platform and under a purple (the color of power and wealth since antiquity) silk canopy, the king embodies the majesty of choice because he need not bear regalia (he is uncrowned, the hand of justice posed on a stool covered with a blue fleur de lys drapery, scepter of his grandfather Henry IV held upside down as a cane), except to the sword of Charlemagne whose sole custody is visible.[19] Wearing this sword with the coronation mantle is an obvious incongruity.[20] The monarch is clothed in a leonine wig and court garments ( lace shirt and cuffs, brocade rhingraves, red - heeled shoes adorned with diamond buckles, and silk stockings held by garters ) wears the necklace of the Order the Holy Spirit and the royal coat pinned high on the shoulder to highlight the former sword dancer and his thin legs as Louis XIV had insisted that his features be "true" [21][22]


A copy of this portrait, made by Pierre Legendre, is in the library of the Palais Rohan in Strasbourg, opposite the portrait of Louis XV, also in costume sacre. 23 Another copy is present at the Paris Observatory, between portraits of Giovanni Domenico Cassini and Urbain Le Verrier.


  1. ^ Lucien Bély, Dictionnaire Louis XIV, Robert Laffont, 2015, p. 103
  2. ^ van Hulst, Hendrick (1716). Abrégé de la Vie de Hyacinthe Rigaud.
  3. ^ Charles-Philippe de Chennevières-Pointel, 1854 & p. 118.
  4. ^ Joseph Roman, 1919 & p. 83.
  5. ^ a b Jules Guiffrey, 1881 & p. 693.
  6. ^ Théophile Lavallée, Correspondance générale de madame de Maintenon publiée pour la première fois sur les autographes et les manuscrits authentiques […], Paris, Charpentier, 1866, vol. IV, p. 416. Autographe du cabinet de M. le duc de Cambacérès.
  7. ^ Journal du marquis de Dangeau, publié en entier pour la première fois par MM. Soulié, Dussieux, de Chennevières, Mantz, de Montaiglon avec les additions inédites du Duc de Saint-Simon, t. VIII, 1701-1702, Paris, 1856, p. 51.
  8. ^ Lavallée, p. 443-444. Manuscrit des Dames de Saint-Cyr.
  9. ^ Mercure de France, 1702, p. 302-303.
  10. ^ Guiffrey, 1896, IV, p. 827
  11. ^ Guiffrey, 1896, V, p. 876, 16 février 1716.
  12. ^ Pierre-Jean Mariette, Notes manuscrites sur les peintres et les graveurs, 1740-1770, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, cabinet des Estampes, Ya2 4, VII, f° 11.
  13. ^ Raccolta di lettere sulla pittura, scultura ed architettura scritte da’piu celebri personaggi dei secoli XV, XVI, XVII, 1822, II, p. 398.
  14. ^ «Louis XIV en costume du sacre - 1701 », étude de Janine Vittori, Conseillère Pédagogique Départementale Arts visuels Haute-Corse, mars 2010
  15. ^ Fernand Engerand 1901, p. 463.
  16. ^ Joseph Roman 1919, p. 83.
  17. ^ laire Constans, Musée National du château de Versailles : Les peintures, Paris, RMN, 1995, II, p. 757, no 4269.
  18. ^ Mathieu da Vinha, Raphaël Masson, Versailles Pour les Nuls, First Éditions, 2011, p. 187
  19. ^ Peter Burke, Louis XIV : les stratégies de la gloire, Éditions du Seuil, 1995, p. 190
  20. ^ Hervé Pinoteau, «Insignes et vêtements royaux», Bulletin du centre de recherche du château de Versailles, no 2, décembre 2005, p. 21
  21. ^ Myriam Tsikounas, « De la gloire à l'émotion, Louis XIV en costume de sacre par Hyacinthe Rigaud », Sociétés & Représentations, vol. 26, no 2, 2008, p. 57 (DOI 10.3917/sr.026.0057).
  22. ^ Étude d'un tableau : Louis XIV en costume de sacre [archive].


  • Charles-Philippe de Chennevières-Pointel, Louis Étienne Dussieux, Paul Mantz, Anatole de Montaiglon, Eudore Soulié, Mémoires inédits sur la vie et les ouvrages des membres de l’Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, publiés d’après les manuscrits conservés à l’école impériale des beaux-arts, vol. II, Paris, Société de l'histoire de l'art français, 1854
  • Antoine Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville, Abrégé de la vie des plus fameux peintres, avec leurs portraits gravés en taille-douce, les indications de leurs principaux ouvrages, Quelques réflexions sur leurs Caractères, et la manière de connoître les dessins des grands maîtres, vol. IV, Paris, De Bure, 1745
  • Fernand Engerand, Inventaires des collections de la couronne. Inventaire des tableaux commandés et achetés par la direction des bâtiments du roi (1709-1792), vol. I, 1901, 463-464, 561, 620 p.
  • Jules Guiffrey, Comptes des Bâtiments du Roi sous le règne de Louis XIV, 1664-1715, vol. V, Paris, 1881, 693, 697, 789, 876 p.
  • Charles Maumené, Louis d'Harcourt, Iconographie des rois de France, vol. V, Paris, Colin, 1931, 91-95 p.
  • Anatole de Montaiglon, Procès-verbaux de l’Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (1648-1793) publiés par Anatole de Montaiglon d’après les registres originaux conservés à l’École des Beaux-Arts de Paris, Paris, Société de l’Histoire de l’art français, 1875-1892
  • Stéphan Perreau, Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743), le peintre des rois, Montpellier, Nouvelles Presses du Languedoc, 2004
  • Myriam Tsikounas, « De la gloire à l'émotion, Louis XIV en costume de sacre par Hyacinthe Rigaud. », Sociétés & Représentations, 2/2008 (no 26), p. 57-70
  • Joseph Roman, Le livre de raison du peintre Hyacinthe Rigaud, Paris, Laurens, 1919

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