Louis le Grand
This most majestic of all royal portraits aims to capture not only the likeness of a man but the essence of a monarchy. It presents the 63-year-old king standing proudly before his throne and displaying the insignia of royal power: scepter, sword, crown, hand of justice. The marble column, featuring an allegory of Justice in relief, symbolizes might and legitimacy, while the opulent fabrics bedecked with fleurs-de-lys convey France’s wealth and elegance.
Court portraitist Hyacinthe Rigaud painted this work in 1701, following the accession of Louis XIV’s grandson Philippe to the Spanish throne. Initially intended to be sent to Madrid, the much-admired painting remained at Versailles, where it was displayed in the Apollo or Throne Room. (Today, the original hangs in the Louvre and a replica, also signed Rigaud, can be seen in Versailles.) To ensure wider circulation of the image, the king himself later commissioned this meticulous reproduction by Pierre Drevet, one of the foremost portrait engravers of the time.