Artist-in-chief to Louis XIV

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Allegory of Louis XIV, the King armed on land and at sea, 1678, by Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), preparatory sketch for the ceiling of the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images); Auxerre, Musees D’Art.

Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) was “premier peintre du roi, director of the Gobelins manufactory and rector of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture.” He was also an architect. Let’s just say that he wore a number of hats. Le Brun set himself the task, in the words of author Wolf Burchard, of creating “a repeatable and easily recognizable visual language associated with Louis XIV, in order to translate the king’s political claims for absolute power into a visual form.”

For classicists, who benefit from their own well-formulated architectural language, Le Brun’s ambition must be intriguing, whether he achieved it or not. Burchard, who has written The Sovereign Artist in order to examine Le Brun’s techniques, will lecture at the Boston Design Center at 2 p.m. this Friday at an event sponsored by the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art. The lecture is free and open to the public. Reservations can be made at this link.

Amazon, which the book title above links to, offers a fascinating account of the book that should lure any classicist to hear its author discuss the artist as dictator at the Design Center on Friday. In part the description reads:

His artistic and architectural aspirations were comparable to those of his Roman contemporary Gianlorenzo Bernini, summoned to Paris in 1665 to design the Louvre’s East façade and to create a portrait bust of Louis XIV. Bernini’s failure to convince the king and Colbert of his architectural scheme offered new opportunities for Le Brun and his French contemporaries to prove themselves capable of solving the architectural problems of the Louvre and to transform it into a palace appropriate “to the grandeur and the magnificence of the prince who [was] to inhabit it” (Jean-Baptiste Colbert to Nicolas Poussin in 1664).

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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