When his great-grandfather died in 1715, Louis XV became king of France at the age of five. Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” had been the most powerful monarch of Europe during much of his long reign. He crafted for himself a persona of majesty and glory embodying the French nation and culture, an image reflected in the art of his court. For the sake of stability after his succession, the child-king is linked with the authority of his ancestors in this studio replica of his coronation portrait (the original is in the palace at Versailles) by his predecessor’s official portraitist. Rigaud makes him seem more mature than his age would suggest. The young monarch is endowed with majesty by his gesture, the sumptuous fabrics, and the regalia of his illustrious forebears. He holds the scepter of rule in his right hand and wears the insignia of the Order of the Holy Spirit on his chest. At his side are the French royal crown, the “Hand of Justice” that had belonged to Charles V, and the sword of Charlemagne, which can be seen today in the Louvre. The pose is also intended to evoke the grandeur of Louis XIV; the exposure of one stockinged leg, gracefully turned, was invented for the deceased king, who prided himself on his participation in the court ballets of Versailles.
tags: power, identity, symbolism, communication, family, persuasion, children, textiles
Purchased with funds from the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest)