Equestrian statue of Louis XIV (Bernini)

The Equestrian Statue of King Louis XIV is a sculpture designed and partially executed by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was originally brought to France to design a new facade of the Louvre, a portrait bust, and an equestrian statue. Bernini first discussed the project while in France in the mid-1660s, but it did not start until later in the decade, when back in Rome. It was not completed until 1684 and then shipped to Paris in 1685. Louis XIV of France was extremely unhappy with the end result and had it placed in a corner of the gardens of the royal palace at Versailles. Soon after, the sculpture was modified by François Girardon and altered into an equestrian sculpture of the ancient Roman hero Marcus Curtius.[1]

Equestrian Statue of King Louis XIV
ArtistGian Lorenzo Bernini
Year1665–84 (1665–84)
SubjectLouis XIV of France
LocationPalace of Versailles, Versailles
Coordinates48°48′15.8″N 2°7′23.3″E / 48.804389°N 2.123139°E / 48.804389; 2.123139
Preceded byThe Vision of Constantine (Bernini)
Followed byBust of Gabriele Fonseca

History Edit

Invitation Edit

For much of the 17th century, Bernini was regarded as the premier artist of the era, serving as the primary source of artistic works commissioned by Pope Urban VIII. As a result, Louis XIV invited him to come to France to work in the name of the French monarchy. Bernini accepted this invitation, traveling to Paris to construct an equestrian statue and a portrait bust, as well as a new façade of the Louvre.[2]

Bernini in France Edit

The day after his arrival in Paris on June 3, 1665, Bernini concluded that the work that had been already done on the Louvre by Louis Le Vau, a French Classical Baroque architect who had been hired by Louis XIV, was inadequate, deciding instead to create his own designs, citing his own observations of palaces throughout his career. Bernini would eventually propose to abandon Le Vau’s ongoing project, instead insisting that he would provide the design details himself.[3]

Bernini's first concept for the planned east façade, which placed a heavy emphasis on curved wings in the Italian style, was almost immediately rejected.[4] Jean-Baptiste Colbert also stated that Bernini's plans to place the king's own room in the outwardly protruding central pavilion would be a noisy location due to its close proximity to the nearby street and foot traffic.[4] Following the rejection of the first draft, Bernini sent in a second draft which too was rejected by Colbert, though unlike the first and the third drafts an image does not appear to have survived.[4] The third and final draft, which had eliminated the curved wings that Bernini initially envisioned, was praised by Louis, who had held a formal ceremony to lay the cornerstone of the new facade.[4] However, as soon as Bernini left France to return to Rome, Louis ordered the construction to stop.[5]

Construction and creation Edit

Bernini followed French tradition creating equestrian statues of French kings in their own residences, with notable examples by Francois Mansart, Charles Perrault, and Pierre Cottard.[6] Despite tradition, Bernini was the first in France to design an equestrian statue to be freestanding with a rearing horse rather than attached to building. The precedent for this was Pietro Tacca's sculpture of Philip IV in the garden of Buen Retiro (1642) in Madrid which had been considered to be the first equestrian monument displaying a rearing rider since antiquity.[6] This emulation reflected the Franco-Spanish rivalry during the reign of King Louis XIV.[6]

In many images that capture the likeness of Louis XIV, the principal component was the metaphor of Louis’ reign, the sun, which conforms to the tradition of the oriens augusti, or “the rising of the august one”, a term that identifies a ruler with the sun.[7] The sun was also one of many symbols for Pope Urban VIII, Bernini’s greatest patron. In his time serving Urban VIII, Bernini was involved in the design of a frescoed vault within the Barberini Palace in Rome in which Divine Wisdom appears with the symbol of the sun on her breast.[7]

Transportation and arrival in France Edit

In the fall of 1684, the statue was shipped from Civitavecchia, Italy by boat. In March 1685, the Statue arrived in Paris. The statue was then shipped to Versailles during August and September, arriving at the palace on October 1, 1685. By the ninth, the statue was placed in the orangerie, in one of the galleries there.[8]

Reception Edit

On 14 November 1685, Louis XIV saw the statue for the first time in the orangerie, Marquis de Dangeau recorded that the king had resolved to remove the statue from the grounds and to destroy it. The statue, however, was not destroyed, but moved to another location on the main axis of the Orangerie, south of the pool. In September 1686, Bernini’s statue was displaced by Domenico Guidi’s La Renommee de Louis XIV. The statue was moved to a location on the far side of the newly constructed Neptune Basin, the most northern point on the north-south axis of the Garden. It was placed on a high pedestal. This location was not one of obscurity, but of prominence.[9]

In 1702, after the transformation from Louis XIV to Marcus Curtius, the Roman hero, the statue was moved to the end of the Lake of the Swiss Guards. The Statue was positioned near the pool, which symbolizes the abyss that Marcus Curtius throws himself into. Rather than being immediately rejected, the statue was placed in several areas of prominence over a 16-year period, before finally being placed on the far side of The Lake of the Swiss Guard at the opposite end of the palace grounds from the Basin of Neptune.[9]

Orangerie at Versailles with the Lake of the Swiss Guards. Bernini's sculpture was placed at the very far end of the lake.

Upon viewing the completed equestrian statue, Louis XIV had declared it to be an abomination and ordered it to be destroyed; however, he was later convinced by his courtiers to have it moved to a remote location within the palace grounds.[10] As a result, it was placed at the end of the Lake of the Swiss Guards, completely separating the statue and the main palace grounds.[10]

In spite of Louis's public rejection of the equestrian statue, its form inspired future royal portraits of the king, including a marble creation by Antoine Coysevox depicting Louis XIV on horseback which sits in the Salon of War at Versailles, making corrections to facial characteristics created by Bernini which the French king interpreted as a slight against him, creating a more somber expression and raising the forehead to a more 'suitable' height.[11]

After Bernini's visit Edit

Following the failure of Bernini's stay in Paris, French attitudes toward Italian culture changed, a shift in attitude that for the first time since the Renaissance recognized that a national self-consciousness and self confidence north of the Alps had developed, an attitude that developed as a result of the rejection of the Italian Baroque and the popularization of French classicism, resulting in Bernini's redesign of the Louvre never rising above its foundations.[12]

Culmination of themes in Bernini's work Edit

The Vision of Constantine Edit

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Costantino, 1670, 02

In his process to construct the equestrian statue, Bernini referred back to one of his earlier works, the Vision of the Emperor Constantine, which began construction in 1654 and was completed in late 1669.

The equestrian statue of Louis XIV was designed with his earlier work on the equestrian monument of the emperor Constantine in Rome in mind, with both horses striking similar poses and neither riders holding reins or stirrups. Whereas Constantine's gestures were raised above him to convey the vision of the Holy Cross and God above him, the Sun King’s gestures are grounded to convey his mundane and non-divine power in an act that Bernini termed as an ‘act of majesty and command'.[6]

Unlike the statue of Constantine, the statue of Louis XIV had been carved from a single block of stone, to be 'the largest ever seen in Rome," according to early biographers.[13]

Bust of Louis XIV Edit

Château de Versailles, salon de Diane, buste de Louis XIV, Bernin (1665) 03

In addition to the equestrian statue, Louis XIV commissioned Bernini to sculpt a portrait bust of himself. The bust was modeled on another Bernini had made ten years prior of Francesco d’Este, the Duke of Modena. Both include many similar features, including the lance jabot, the shoulder clad in armor, and a cloak that appears to be floating in the wind.[4] The most notable similarity between the two busts is the use of drapery to 'conceal' the lower torso. Both of these busts, along with the Louis XIV equestrian statue are examples of the ways in which Bernini depicts power in the context of seventeenth-century absolute monarchies.

A detail of Louis’s bust comes from an anecdote recorded by Domenico Bernini and was summarized by the historian Cecil Gould,

“One of the visitors at this early stage [July 22] was the Marquis de Bellefonds, who said he would have liked to see some hair on the King’s forehead… Bernini’s comment on this occasion was that painters had the advantage over sculptors in being able… to depict hair on a forehead without obscuring it. This thought fired Bernini to attempt the impossible. A week after Bellefonds’ visit Chantelou noticed that Bernini had in fact added a lock of hair onto the forehead of the bust… The addition of this lock, of which Bernini was very proud, could only be achieved by cutting back all the upper part of the forehead except for the curl itself. This was later to be criticized adversely, and it did in fact falsify the shape of the King’s forehead.”[14]

The anecdote points out that Bernini was more concerned with the technical side of the bust rather than carving with accuracy to the king’s likeness. The alteration resulted in a change in brow shape that was considered to be ‘unflattering’.

Later changes Edit

Recutting Edit

In 1687, Francois Girardon was tasked with amending Berini's sculpture.[9] When recut by Girardon the equestrian statue was re-purposed to depict Marcus Curtius, an ancient Roman hero. In his story, an abyss appeared in the middle of the Roman forum that only the sacrifice of Rome's greatest possession would close. As a result Curtius determined that Rome's most prized possession with the bravery of its soldiers and hurled himself into the abyss while riding his horse, closing it.[15]

Girardon, the director of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, and the governor of all royal commissions of sculpture,[16] carved the head and the horse’s support, adding a helmet and flames while changing the face. This narrative was viewed as better fitting the contortions of the horse, which did not depict a high level of horsemanship.[17] Bernini had opted for movement instead of poise which was not well received by Louis XIV[9]

Two major elements were changed; the flowing hair at the back of Louis XIV’s head was converted into the casque of a crested helmet and the flags were converted into a mass of flames at the horse’s feet.[15]

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ Wittkower 1955, p. 293.
  2. ^ Zarucchi, Jeanne (Winter 2006). "Berenini and Louis XIV: A Duel of Egos". Source: Notes in the History of Art. 25 (2): 32–38. doi:10.1086/sou.25.2.23208102. JSTOR 23208102. S2CID 191405674.
  3. ^ Lavin, Irving (2017). "The Art of Gianlorenzo Bernini" (PDF). The Pindar Press. 1: 533–534.
  4. ^ a b c d e Zarucchi, Jeanne (Winter 2006). "Bernini and Louis XIV: A Duel of Egos". Source: Notes in the History of Art. 25 (2): 33. doi:10.1086/sou.25.2.23208102. JSTOR 23208102. S2CID 191405674.
  5. ^ Zarucchi, Jeanne (Winter 2006). "Bernini and Louis XIV: A Duel of Egos". Source: Notes in the History of Art. 25 (2): 34. doi:10.1086/sou.25.2.23208102. JSTOR 23208102. S2CID 191405674.
  6. ^ a b c d Lavin, Irving (2017). "The Art of Gianlorenzo Bernini" (PDF). The Pindar Press. 1: 575.
  7. ^ a b Lavin, Irving (2017). "The Art of Gianlorenzo Bernini" (PDF). The Pindar Press. 1: 526.
  8. ^ "Argos. Statue base, 1st cent. A.D.". Brill Scholarly Editions. doi:10.1163/1874-6772_seg_a60_346.
  9. ^ a b c d Berger, Robert W. (1981). "Bernini's Louis XIV Equestrian: A Closer Examination of Its Fortunes at Versailles". The Art Bulletin. 63 (2): 232–248. doi:10.2307/3050114. ISSN 0004-3079. JSTOR 3050114.
  10. ^ a b Zarucchi, Jeanne (Winter 2006). "Bernini and Louis XIV: A Duel of Egos". Source: Notes in the History of Art. 25 (2): 37–38. doi:10.1086/sou.25.2.23208102. JSTOR 23208102. S2CID 191405674.
  11. ^ Zarucchi, Jeanne (Winter 2006). "Bernini and Louis XIV: A Duel of Egos". Source: Notes in the History of Art. 25 (2): 38. doi:10.1086/sou.25.2.23208102. JSTOR 23208102. S2CID 191405674.
  12. ^ Lavin, Irving (2007). "The Art of Gianlorenzo Bernini" (PDF). The Pindar Press. 1: 525.
  13. ^ Lavin, Irving (2007). "The Art of Gianlorenzo Bernini" (PDF). The Pindar Press. 1: 592.
  14. ^ Zarucchi, Jeanne (Winter 2006). "Bernini and Louis XIV: A Duel of Egos". Source: Notes in the History of Art. 25 (2): 35. doi:10.1086/sou.25.2.23208102. JSTOR 23208102. S2CID 191405674.
  15. ^ a b Lavin, Irving (2007). "The Art of Gianlorenzo Bernini" (PDF). The Pindar Press. 1: 582.
  16. ^ Opdycke, Leonard (1956). "An Equestrian Statuette of Louis XIV". Annual Report (Fogg Art Museum) (1956/1957): 36–44. ISSN 0362-7861. JSTOR 4301291.
  17. ^ P., R. (1925). "Equestrian Statue of Louis Xiv Given". Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts of the City of Detroit. 6 (7): 78–79. doi:10.1086/BULLDETINST41500298. ISSN 0899-0271. JSTOR 41500298. S2CID 222810151.
  • Baldinucci, Filippo (2006) [1682]. The Life of Bernini. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 9780271730769.
  • Bernini, Domenico (2011) [1713]. The Life of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Trans. and ed. by Franco Mormando. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 9780271037486.
  • Hibbard, Howard (1990). Bernini. London: Penguin. ISBN 9780140135985.
  • Avery, Charles (1997). Bernini: Genius of the Baroque. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 9780500286333.
  • Wittkower, Rudolf (1955). Gian Lorenzo Bernini: The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 9780714837154.
  • Scribner, Charles (1991). Gianlorenzo Bernini. New York: H.N. Abrams, Publishers. ISBN 9780810931114.
  • Mormando, Franco (2011). Bernini: His Life and His Rome. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226538525.
  • Gould, Cecil (1982). Bernini in France: An Episode in Seventeenth-Century History. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691039947.*A transitory star: the late Bernini and his reception. Berlin ; Boston: De Gruyter. 2015. ISBN 9783110360080.
  • Wittkower, Rudolf (1951). Bernini's bust of Louis XIV. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Lavin, Irving (2007). "The Art of Gianlorenzo Bernini" (PDF). The Pindar Press. 1 – via Institute for Advanced Study.
  • Zarucchi, Jeanne (Winter 2006). "Bernini and Louis XIV: A Duel of Egos". Source: Notes in the History of Art. 25 (2): 32–38. doi:10.1086/sou.25.2.23208102. JSTOR 23208102. S2CID 191405674.

External links Edit