Louis XIV as the Rising Sun

Up until this past weekend, my favorite portrait of Louis XIV was this infamous portrait by Rigaud (1701):

One of the reasons I love this portrait is because it captures the ostentatious, over-the-top personality of the absolute monarch. With all of that ermine fur, there is no question that this guy is a big spender. And how many people at age sixty-three have enough self-confidence to show off their legs (while wearing high-heels?). You have to admit, Louis Quatorze had guts.

Anyhow, while doing research this past weekend, I came across a new favorite depiction of Louis XIV. I present to you the king, costumed in his role as Apollo, the “Rising Sun” (part of the court ballet Royal Ballet of the Night (c. 1650, see here for more information)):

I knew that Louis XIV performed in ballets, but I didn’t realize that any extant depictions of the costumed monarch existed. Don’t you love his peacock-feathered skirt? And the wavy, golden sun rays that extend from everywhere (even his shoe buckles!)? It’s no wonder that Louis XIV was given this role in the ballet, since he continually compared himself to Apollo and even called himself the “Sun King.”

I know that Louis XIV was a incredibly selfish person that did a lot of horrible things to upkeep his vanity and image. But I have to admit, I think this guy is absolutely fascinating. Who can’t be fascinated with someone who wears outfits like this?

  • e says:

    Wow, talk about a flamboyant man.

    What I think is interesting (after doing a simple google search on Louis XIV), there are a lot of paintings that seem to showcase his legs!

    He must have had a lot of confidence in those legs. It appears to me they were his favorite feature!

  • Kiersten says:

    I love this depiction! Thanks for sharing it.

  • heidenkind says:

    I do like that portrait. But I'm a big portrait person. 🙂

    I remember coming across that portrait of him as Apollo once while I was in grad school, but I didn't know he was dressing for a ballet! How cute is that?

  • Fred says:

    As a young man Louis was a great dancer. You certainly knows the film "Le roi danse" (2000) by Gérard Corbiau. Not a terrific film but something anyway

  • M says:

    I actually am not familiar with "Le roi danse" film, Fred. I just read a couple of mixed reviews, but I'm still quite curious to see the film. I'm always intrigued by films that revolve around Louis XIV and the French court. Thanks for mentioning it (and thanks for your comment – I don't believe you have commented on my blog before).

    I have heard that Louis was a great dancer. It would have been fun to see him perform.

  • Fred says:

    Yes this was my first time on your blog. I think the film can be easily found on http://www.amazon.com

    Soon ending in Versailles, there's an important exhibition, the first one one ever done, about Louis and his image as king, man, chief of war, artist… The catalogue of the exhibition worth it



    Rigaud's has always been my favorite as well. God, that ermine robe, it's divine… Lauren

  • M says:

    That exhibition looks really interesting, Fred! Thanks for the link. I'm surprised that this is the first Versailles exhibition to focus on Louis' image as king, man, warrior, etc. How fascinating. I wish I could go to Paris before the show closes on Feb. 7th.

    Thanks for your comment, Lauren (I think you are new to my blog as well – welcome!). Isn't that ermine robe great? It looks so cozy. I also love the fleur-de-lis symbols that cover the other side of the robe. There's no question that Louis is the king of France with those fleur-de-lis symbols, and the ermine just underlines that he is a WEALTHY king of France.

  • Hels says:

    I think Louis had a problem. He needed to control the nobility closely and did that best at the palace at Versailles. But once the French nobility had taken up residence there, the nobles really had to participate in every over-the-top ceremony and festival that Louis and his designers could think of.

    The partying must have been exhausting. Poor souls.

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This blog focuses on making Western art history accessible and interesting to all types of audiences: art historians, students, and anyone else who is curious about art. Alberti’s Window is maintained by Monica Bowen, an art historian and professor.