King Louis XIV, one of France's greatest monarchs, sits confidently astride a prancing steed in this bronze equestrian statue. The extraordinary work is a reduction of the portrait of the Sun King by François Girardon, one of the most noted and influential sculptors of the period. Looking back to the great masterpieces of antiquity, Girardon took his inspiration from the seminal ancient Roman marble of Marcus Aurelius, now in the Musei Capitoline (Rome). Louis XIV is thus portrayed here as a conquering Roman hero, his costume adorned with many neoclassical motifs, hand outstretched in a gesture of command. The result is an imposing royal portrait of power and absolute authority that pays homage to one of the most important sovereigns in French history.
It was in 1685, at the very height of his rule, when Louis XIV commissioned the monumental bronze of himself from the great Girardon. As sculptor to the king, Girardon was a key figure in the decoration of the gardens at the Château de Versailles, and he was later commissioned to complete several important royal projects, this equestrian sculpture included. The bronze was erected in the Place Louis-le-Grand (now the Place Vêndome) in 1699, but was regrettably destroyed less than a century later during the French Revolution in 1792. One small section of the original does remain — the left foot of the king, which is now held in the Musée Carnavalet (Paris).
Luckily, Girardon recognized the importance of his creation and executed four bronze reductions of the sculpture. Today, three of these four can be found in the British Royal Collection (London), the State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg) and the Louvre. The example in the Louvre is the only signed reduction cast by Girardon.
Since the 17th century, other reductions of the work has been created, including the present bronze, which dates to the late 19th century. Parisian bronziers such as Henri Dasson and Alfred Beurdeley were among the important makers who re-created the sculpture during this period, and this could have come from their workshops. It is a stunning ode to this great monarch, reflection the glory of his reign and the glory of France.
The archetype of absolutism in royalty, the 72-year reign of Louis XIV, the longest in European history, not only enhanced the power of the monarchy, but catapulted France to become the most powerful nation in Europe. Louis XIV built Versailles during his reign to reflect the grandeur of the King and his court which ruled under the belief, "One King, One Law, One Faith." The period during which he served as King of France became known as "The Age of Louis XIV."
Sculpture: 36" wide x 19" deep x 43" high
Base: 37 1/4" wide x 25" deep x 30" high
Total: 37 1/4" wide x 25" deep x 73" high