Friday, August 28, 2009

Military Iconography and Louis XVI

Monsieur Buvat de Virginy gives a fresh interpretation. To quote:
For many, Louis XVI does not often conjure up much in the way of martial prowess or skill. However, like his famed Bourbon predecessors Henri IV and Louis XIV, he used military allegory and iconography to strengthen the image of kingship embodied by Versailles. As an absolute monarch from 1774 to 1789 and even during his rule as a constitutional sovereign from 1789 to 1792, representations and allegories of the king with military themes were used to reinforce manifestations of the royal power and control. In the wake of France’s victory in the American War of Independence, the image of royal authority under Louis XVI was strengthened not only through martial prowess on the battlefield and high seas, but also within the context of absolutist Bourbon imagery, royal commissions and architecture....

Unveiled in 1777, the white marble portrait of the king by Lucas combines military allegory with that of French prosperity and wealth. The king, dressed as a Roman emperor complete with a cuirass or classical breastplate, sword, and laurel crown, rests his right hand on a horn of abundance. Defaced during the Revolution, it is conjectured that the left hand originally brandished a scepter. In this example from the early part of the king’s reign, the use of such martial iconography is readily apparent and follows the tradition of Bourbon absolutist imagery while incorporating the commemoration of his perceived enlightened acts as king.


M Buvat de Virginy said...

Thank you for including this, I'm honored !

It's my first post and became a little long-winded (I had to cut down a paper I had written on the same subject which became difficult as I was flooded by all my research and couldn't decide what to include and what to cut !). Also had some trouble in including images.

I'm not sure where to suggest this, but have you ever considered a post reviewing the 2001 Eric Rohmer film "l'Anglaise et le duc" or The Lady and the Duke as it was marketed in the States ? It's a fascinating film, a little slow at times, but the political views it explores are revolutionary in terms of how the events of 1789 are presented. It's about Grace Elliot, a royalist Englishwoman living in Paris from 1790 to 1793, and her tempestuous relationship with a former lover, the duc d'Orleans. Very controversial in France !

I'd also love to see your comments on Louis XV. Although I can see where his frequent infidelities might get him a bad reputation, he was much more complex than many historians make him out to be. As early as the 1730s, when he was really able to take charge, he was already initiating reforms to tax previously privileged social groups.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, I have seen that film and will do a post on it, at your request, Monsieur.

I have never done a post directly about Louis XV, although I have done posts about everyone in his family. I'll certainly think about writing one. I would love for you to do one, and then I could link to it!