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This composition completes the central subject of the painting opposite: The King ruling by himself, 1661. The figure of Juno connects the two, depicted in the main scene as being surrounded by other gods of Olympus. Here, the goddess is indicating France’s three enemy powers to highlight their vanity, of which she is the allegory. In his depiction of these powers, Charles Le Brun has observed a certain hierarchy of the crowns. The Holy Roman Empire is in the centre overlooking the others. Slightly below on the Empire’s right is Spain, who is wearing a crown that is not closed, indicating the sovereignty of the kingdom, and is therefore not equal to the French monarchy. Beneath her she is crushing a sovereign, while the lion she is sitting on is devouring another who has been overthrown on top of his treasure. She is pointing to the scene on the left, where Ambition is tearing a crown from the ‘King of the Indies”, and setting light to a destroyed palace with a torch, representing the ravages caused by Spain’s rapacity and excessive ambition in the American colonies. On the Empire’s left is the Dutch Republic, positioned a little lower than Spain with a simple count’s crown, indicating the inferiority of a Republic. The allegory is sitting on bundles of goods signifying the trade on which the State thrived. In her left hand she is holding Neptune’s trident and the chains binding Tethys to show that she dominates the seas to boost her trade. The term “prosperity” replaced “pride” in the inscription in the 18th century, also leading to the loss of the composition’s initial meaning: the pride of the Empire, Spain and the Dutch Republic justified France’s declaration of war against them.

Details

  • Title: Prosperity of France’s neighbouring powers
  • Creator: Charles Le Brun
  • Physical Location: Palace of Versailles
  • Provenance: Palace of Versailles
  • Type: Painting
  • Copyright: © RMN-GP (Château de Versailles) / © René-Gabriel Ojéda / © Franck Raux / montage Dominique Couto

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