Saint-Louis by Charles de La Fosse

The height of the Dôme des Invalides is immediately striking when entering. Look up and admire this fresco, which stands 260 feet above the ground.

It was created by internationally renowned painter Charles de La Fosse (1636–1716). The 82-foot diameter fresco, entitled Saint Louis Presenting his Arms to Christ with the Virgin Mary and Angels (Saint Louis présentant ses armes au Christ en présence de la Vierge et d’anges), took three years to complete, from 1702 to 1705.

L'apothéose de Saint-Louis Vue généraleMusée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides

But before starting his masterpiece, Charles de La Fosse submitted a Modello (a model) to Louis XIV and his ministers. It was a big success and the King appreciated the painter's decorations! This is the Modello you are currently looking at!

Saint Louis is depicted on his knees, wearing the royal coat with golden fleur-de-lis, lined with ermine fur. He is handing over his King of France's sword and crown to Christ.

Behind him stand two angels carrying the coat of arms of the Kings of France, adorned with three fleurs-de-lis, which refer to the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and also the Catholic virtues: faith, hope, and charity.

With his hand raised, Christ is blessing the reigning monarch's sword, approving the warlike dimension of the royal office. Next to him, the Virgin Mary is praying for Saint Louis with her hands clasped.

L'apothéose de Saint-Louis DétailMusée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides

The crucifixion of Christ is represented by the Instruments of the Passion held by angels: the column where he was whipped, the cross where he was crucified, as well as the nails, the lance, the sponge, and the crown of thorns.

L'apothéose de Saint-Louis DétailMusée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides

Lastly, several angels are singing in the heavens. One is playing the harp, while four others are playing various instruments, such as the lute, the organ, and the violin.

The Invalides' modello is slightly different to the dôme's final version. First, its surface is about 150 times smaller, and there are differences in the attitudes, draperies, and the number of angel figures, which are numerous under the dôme.

Through this monumental work, La Fosse reminds us of the divine origin of kingship. The presence of Saint Louis symbolizes the perfect union between the altar and the throne.

One last thing—it's rare to see the fresco this close, so make sure you look for the sketches left by the artist. Then look up and stop at those two holes: they allow moisture to flow away from the ceiling. Clever, right?

Credits: Story

A story written and edited by the teams of the Musée de l'Armée.
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