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Title: Louis XIV crushing the Fronde
Author : GUERIN Gilles (1611 - 1678)
Creation date : 1653
Dimensions: Height 53.5 cm - Width 33 cm
Technique and other indications: terracotta
Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website
Contact copyright: © RMN - Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Picture reference: 07-503361 / R.F. 4742
Louis XIV crushing the Fronde
© RMN - Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Publication date: September 2015
Academy Inspector Deputy Academic Director
Exit the Slingshot
On March 27, 1653, the City of Paris signed a contract with sculptor Gilles Guérin for the construction of a full-length statue of young Louis XIV intended to illustrate, in white marble, his victory over the Fronde. This was inaugurated on June 23, 1654 in the courtyard of a town hall restored after the degradation of the Fronde.
Gilles Guérin is, at that time, a confirmed Parisian artist who enjoys the status of ordinary sculptor of the King. His conventional but precise and very technical style makes him an appreciated sculptor.
The year of the statue's inauguration is also the year of the king's coronation. The pedestrian statue of Louis XIV therefore fits into a context of monarchical celebration, in which also participates the ballet of Wedding of Peleus and Thetis of Isaac de Benserade, given at court that same year 1654 and featuring Apollo (the king) slaying Python (disorder, discord).
The royal triumph over discord
The contract of March 27, 1653 provided that the king would be "dressed in the antique style as a victorious Caesar with a Roman-style mantle strewn with lilies, his teste crowned with laurel, holding in his right hand a specter of the same marble with which he shows that he had defeated the Mutiny, trampling underfoot a figure representing the Rebellion of suitable size and naturalness of a strong young man with a scowl in the face, armed with a javelin and a crest in teste to which there is a cat figure, treading on a broken yoke ”. Gilles Guérin therefore followed this order very closely, allowing himself to replace the cat on the crest, symbol of betrayal and disagreement, by a rat, symbol of evil and diabolical division. The scepter is also replaced by a hand of justice in the preparatory model, while the marble statue respects the order in this respect. For the rest, fidelity confers scruple.
The pedestrian statue therefore represents a charismatic 15-year-old teenager, camped in the Roman style, with breastplate with lambrequins and laurel wreath. The hair loose and natural, the king holds in his right hand a hand of justice, while his left hand keeps the hilt of his sword stowed in the scabbard - the fight is over but the king remains vigilant, his duty being to protect the kingdom. The allegory of the rebellion is on the ground, the head held down by the royal foot. Its defeat is at the same time an indisputable submission which makes any struggle futile. The royal symbolism is interwoven with the ancient heritage (the fleurs-de-lis are present on the festoons of the breastplate as on the long cape), thus simultaneously referring to legitimacy (lily), to sovereignty (scepter, hand of justice ) and victory (laurel, sword).
Gilles Guérin places his work in a tradition. Artistic borrowings are indeed numerous, from the statue of Henri IV due to Nicolas Cordier (Saint-Jean-de-Lateran basilica, in Rome) to that of Louis XIII, which was at the Château de Richelieu.
A work of circumstance
By ordering this work, the aldermen of Paris participate in the monarchical statuary propaganda program. They also undoubtedly seek to build an image of fidelity in the aftermath of the troubles of the Fronde which deeply divided the Parisian political scene from 1648 to 1652. What better proof of loyalty than this offering erected in the heart of the main city of the kingdom, which opened to the king on October 21, 1652?
Besides, iconographic works celebrating Louis XIV's victory over the Fronde are not numerous, as if the king had wanted to plunge into oblivion this "infantile disease of absolutism" (D. Richet) which, for him, had , force of traumatic experience.
In 1687, welcomed at the town hall, Louis XIV demanded the removal of the statue, considering that its theme no longer corresponded to the political appeasement of Paris. The king is said to have exclaimed: "Take off this figure, it is no longer in season. This gesture clearly testifies to the political dimension of royal statuary, and therefore to its possible discrepancy with a royal will which may have evolved. If it was necessary to recall in 1654 the poison of discord and the king's triumph over the forces of rebellion, this message is no longer appropriate in 1687, when France is engaged in a policy of greatness in Europe. which arouses the discontent of many countries (the League of Augsburg is formed in 1686) and requires the Parisians to ally themselves, the main providers of funds for which the war monarchy is still eager. A pedestrian statue made by Antoine Coysevox therefore replaces that of 1654, insisting on the king's pacifying virtues.
Ironically, the Condé family, whose most illustrious representatives had rebelled before coming to resipiscence, recovered the statue from the town hall and placed it in their Château de Chantilly, where it can still be seen. today.
- absolute monarchy
- Louis XIV
BURKE Peter, Louis XIV: the strategies of glory, Paris, Le Seuil, 1995 CORNETTE Joël, The War King: An Essay on Sovereignty in France in the Grand Siècle, Paris, Payot, coll. "Historical Library", 1993. MARIN Louis, The King's Portrait, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, coll. "Le Sens commun", 1981.MILOVANOVIC Nicolas, MARAL Alexandre (dir.), Louis XIV: the man and the king, cat. exp. (Versailles, 2009-2010), Paris, Skira-Flammarion / Versailles, Palace of Versailles, 2009.
To cite this article
Jean HUBAC, "Louis XIV and the Fronde"