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Louis XIV Picture Analysis

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Louis XIV (1638-1715) Although Louis XIV, also known as Louis the Great, brought death and destruction through his wars, there are many positive aspects of his reign, such as the creation of Versailles and the building of France’s national army

He did what had never been done before. He changed the lifestyle and the attitude of France by creating one of the most powerful monarchies ever to be built and at the same time, reassured all the nobility and other wealthy groups.

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The first half of the 17th Century was full of unrest and constant warfare, with France emerging as the largest military power in Europe showing its might politically and militarily. Under King Louis XIV, absolute power was the order of the day, with full power residing in the king

Without limitations on his power, King Louis ostensibly had to declare that he was in fact ‘the state.’ His authority was said to come directly from God, and he was to rule by divine right. The notion of this divine was to allow him to quash any emerging rebellions and establish legitimacy for his monarchy (Levey 34). Recognizing the power of propaganda, the king’s advisors went on initiating vast large-scale initiatives such as the expansion of the Versailles hunting lodge into a mirrored palace. To reinforce his image as the Sun King and linking his rule to Imperial Rome, art with classical Baroque elements became central to his government. One of the painters lucky enough to gain employment in his court was Hyacinthe Rigaud.

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This great wig made hats and collars superfluous. Men always carried a hat, usually under the arm, but rarely wore it. Some wigs were dusted with power to make them white, but most were worn in natural colors (Tortora 154). Another key feature of Baroque age is the red-heeled shoes, the king’s signature. He is wearing the square-toed shoes with the red tongue, the red sole and the red heel. The tongue is turned back to show the lining collar of red (Brown 136). Unlike in earlier periods, the size of the tongue seems more reasonable. These red heels became one of the most popular and predominant trends in Europe. The cravat is also a significant factor of Baroque style. The relatively huge collar in the earlier period was replaced with the cravat, a separate necktie from the shirt. With the advent of the justaucorps, the style of cravat became more sophisticated. It was tied around the throat in a bow and hung down in folds over the chest. The neck cravat was fringed or lace-trimmed (Yarwood 162). The Sun King is wearing a delicate lace cravat.

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In a word, Rigaud’s portrait, originally commissioned as a gift for Louis’ grandson, Philip V of Spain, was so well received that Louis ultimately chose to keep it and sent a copy in its place. Rigaud so successfully captured power of Louis XIV that the image was placed over the throne and in the king’s absence, the painting served as his proxy and courtiers were forbidden to turn their backs on the painting.

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Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume: From Ancient Mesopotamia through the Twentieth Century. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Tortora, Phyllis G., and Sara B. Marcketti. Survey of Historic Costume. Sixth edition. New York: Fairchild Books, 2015.

Brown, Susan, ed. Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style. New York: DK Publishing, 2012.

Yarwood, Doreen. European Costume: 4000 Years of Fashion, 1982

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