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4 / Ceremony and Society

Louis XIV
Louis XIV
Artist / Origin Hyacinthe Rigaud (French, 1659–1743)
Region: Europe
Date 1701
Material Oil on canvas
Medium: Painting
Dimensions H: 9 ft. 1 in. (2.77 m.), W: 6 ft. 4 4/5 in. (1.94 m.)
Location Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
Credit Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Bridgeman Art Library

expert perspective

Patrick HuntDirector of the Stanford Alpine Archaeology Project

Louis XIV

» Hyacinthe Rigaud (French, 1659–1743)

expert perspective

Patrick Hunt Patrick Hunt Director of the Stanford Alpine Archaeology Project

There is a famous portrait of Louis Quatorze—Le Roi Soleil, the Sun King, Louis XIV—by the court portraitist at the time, Hyacinthe Rigaud, where he shows Louis XIV in a majestic statement of historic power. And the king is also surrounded by the trappings of history with friezes of classical culture and pedestals with columns, an evocation that the king sees himself perhaps as a sum re-manifestation of a Roman emperor.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this portrait is where the king’s hand rests—on the pommel of a sword. If you look closely at the sword, you see it’s Joyeuse, the sword of Charlemagne. This is the sword that is used in coronations of French kings from hundreds of years previously. You could not be a king of France without this sword as part of that ceremony. And it’s also reputedly a holy sword. It’s a sword which had divine aura around it as being a sword of Christendom, almost a sacred sword. So there is no accident that Joyeuse, the sword of Charlemagne is in that picture fastened to Louis XIV.” 

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