Louis XIV protector of the Arts and Sciences

Louis XIV protector of the Arts and Sciences

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Title: Allegory to Louis XIV, protector of the Arts and Sciences.

Author : GARNIER Jean (1632 - 1705)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 163 - Width 204

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage place: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Daniel Arnaudet / Hervé Lewandowski

Picture reference: 89-000968 / MV2184

Allegory to Louis XIV, protector of the Arts and Sciences.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Daniel Arnaudet / Hervé Lewandowski

Publication date: April 2013

Historical context

King of war, king of the sun, Louis XIV also wants to be the protector of the arts and sciences. Especially since the young monarch, born in 1638, of the union of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, has a pronounced taste for the arts. From the start of his personal reign in 1661, Louis XIV paid particular attention to the arts - he organized parties, musical and dancing shows, assembled a vast collection of paintings - but also to artists.

This declared taste quickly turned into an institutional organization with a takeover and an extension of already existing organizations which soon became the cornerstone of the artistic policy desired by the king. The brilliant artistic and cultural policy of the “century of Louis XIV” was then launched.

Image Analysis

Jean Garnier (1632-1705) was admitted to the Royal Academy in 1670 as a painter of still lifes. For his reception piece, he chose to paint a portrait of Louis XIV in a medallion surrounded by a bass and a viol top, a violin, a guitar, a court musette, a score, scientific instruments, a globe and books. Each of these assembled patterns represents an attribute of the arts and sciences. To these symbols the painter also associated fruits arranged in the foreground, while in the background stand out columns. Finally, to the left of the portrait of the king which dominates the entire composition, there is the bust of Athena, tutelary deity of the arts.


The juxtaposition of musical instruments and fruits gives the painting its allegorical meaning. By this, the painter signifies the abundance of the kingdom and "the harmony or the perfect agreements which are found in the government of the State", as already indicated at the time Guillet de Saint-Georges, first historiographer of the Academy. The painting takes up an ancient tradition which, since the Italian Renaissance, has mixed objects of everyday life in allegorical paintings of famous figures, thus giving the portrait an intimate character.

If the musical instruments take a considerable part in the symbolic grammar of the painting, because of the attention paid to them by Louis XIV - himself a gifted musician in particular for the guitar -, Garnier did not forget the objects referring to the science. We thus find, in addition to a pile of books, symbols of knowledge and wisdom, other objects that evoke knowledge of the Universe, a compass emblem of exact sciences and mathematical rigor, as well as a celestial globe. The latter can also evoke music which is based on the harmony of the heavens, or even, by its spherical shape, the absolute power of the monarch. The painter gave Louis's face an air of grandeur and noble pride, of gravity and attention which summed up his qualities in a "mirror of the prince": in the image of François Ier, this young warrior king in breastplate is also a sovereign friend of the arts.

  • Louis XIV
  • allegory
  • music
  • French Academy in Rome
  • Acadamy of Arts
  • Great Century


Chantal GRELL and Benoît PELLISTRANDI (dir.), The Courts of France and Spain in the 17th century, Madrid, Casa de Velasquez, 2007.

Jacqueline LICHTENSTEIN and Christian MICHEL (dir.), Lectures from the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, National School of Fine Arts in Paris, 2008.

Michel FARE, The Grand Siècle of still life in France: the 17th century, Friborg-Paris, Office du Livre-Société Française du Livre, 1974.

To cite this article

Pascal DUPUY, "Louis XIV protector of the Arts and Sciences"


  • Academy of Fine Arts: Created in 1816 by the union of the Academy of Painting and Sculpture, founded in 1648, the Academy of Music, founded in 1669 and the Academy of Architecture, founded in 1671. Institution which brings together artists distinguished by an assembly of peers and usually working for the crown. It defines the rules of art and good taste, trains artists, organizes exhibitions.

  • Video: Royal Serenade in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles


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