The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Louis XIV
  • Antoine Coysevox (1640 - 1720)
  • Louis XIV
  • France
  • c. 1699
  • Bust
  • Bronze, originally gilded. Gilding worn. Lost-wax cast, open at the back. Coated with waxed black paint (removed during cleaning in 1982). Marble socle.
  • Bust, Height: 74.9 cm
    Bust, maximum, Width: 71.8 cm
  • S165
  • Billiard Room
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • Contrary to the great equestrian monuments erected in his honour, which were systematically destroyed during the Revolution, many portrait busts of Louis XIV survive today. Antoine Coysevox made a first marble portrait of the king for the Parliament of Burgundy in the 1670s, and another one in 1693, for display on the Grand Staircase at Versailles, the latter becoming the reference point for all subsequent portrait busts of the king.

    Our bronze portrait, originally gilded, was made by Coysevox a few years later and is a perfect example of his official portraits: the dynamism of the pose, with the head turning swiftly to the left and the almost arrogant look of the king all contribute towards conveying a clear sense of majesty. Other elements, such as the fleur de lys on the armour are common regal symbols. Coysevox’s interest in naturalism can be appreciated in the way the facial features of the king, by then 61 years old, accurately reflect his age.

    Bronze had been for centuries the preferred solution for official portraiture. Here, the material brings added refinement to the already powerful impact of the excellent modeling and finish. This is visible specifically in the exquisite modelling and finish of the intricate lace of the cravat and in the flowing curls of the king’s wig.

    In his official portraits Coysevox manifests a more rigorous classicizing approach, which was favoured by the king, but his dynamism and attention to detail make his works always very lively. It might be interesting to compare this official portrait with the much more intimate terracotta bust of Charles Le Brun (S60).

    This bust seems to be the only version of this model and can probably be identified with a bronze portrait bust presented by Coysevox to the Salon in 1699. It was acquired by the third Marquess of Hertford, possibly from the 1823 Beckford sale, and later on was lent by the fourth Marquess to the Musée Retrospectif exhibition in Paris in 1865.