The King Governs by Himself, 1661

Charles Le Brun1681 - 1684

Palace of Versailles

Palace of Versailles

This painting was “the principal key to everything”. Charles Le
imagined it first when the initial project depicting Hercules was
refused. Le Brun obeyed the King and abandoned the metaphor: he depicts
Louis XIV in person but without renouncing the richness of the
composition, combining allegories and gods. The King is in the centre,
seated on his throne, holding the “tiller of the state” in his right
hand. The three Graces around him symbolise the talents that Heaven has
granted him. The King’s face is reflected in Minerva’s shield: Le Brun
has thus cleverly associated the symbol of Prudence (the mirror) with
the tutelary goddess of this virtue, Minerva, who more generally
represents royal wisdom. She shows to the king Glory seated on a cloud
and holding out to the King the crown of immortality: a gold circle
surmounted by stars. Glory is also designated by Mars, the god of War,
understood here as the royal value, demonstrating that the Glory likely
to be obtained by the King “can only be obtained through his wisdom
[symbolised by Minerva], and his courage [symbolised by Mars]”

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  • Title: The King Governs by Himself, 1661
  • Date: 1681 - 1684
  • Provenance: © RMN-Grand Palais (Château de Versailles) / Gérard Blot
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: http://www.chateauversailles.fr
  • Titre: Le Roi gouverne par lui-même, 1661
  • Painter: Charles Le Brun


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