Title: Louis XIII, King of France, crowned by Victory
Author : by CHAMPAIGNE Philippe (1602 - 1674)
Date shown: c. 1635
Dimensions: Height 228 cm - Width 175 cm
Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website
Contact copyright: RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / Tony Querrec
Picture reference: 17-619790 / INV1135
Louis XIII, King of France, crowned by Victory
© RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / Tony Querrec
Publication date: February 2018
Academy Inspector Deputy Academic Director
The king and the "illustrious men"
Intended to adorn the Galerie des Hommes illustres designed for the Palais Cardinal (current Palais Royal in Paris), this large full-length portrait was to occupy the south wall of the long ceremonial room desired by Cardinal Richelieu at the height of his power and of his glory. Paid on November 16, 1635 150 livres to Philippe de Champaigne, official painter to the king and the cardinal-minister, the painting bears the following couplet as a caption: “Protegit auxilio socios, qui fortibus armis / Regia deffendit, laesque jura Dei” (he protects by his help his allies, he who with courageous weapons defended his kingdom, and the rights of God injured). The lack of the first letters of each line is probably explained by a cut in the canvas on a vertical strip on the left.
Established between 1630 and 1637, the Galerie des Hommes illustres was dedicated to honoring the men who had contributed to the greatness of the kingdom of France. It only presented two royal portraits, those of Henri IV, founder of the Bourbon dynasty, and of Louis XIII, son of the previous one and reigning king from whom Richelieu held his authority. Philippe de Champaigne was inspired by the royal portrait such as Frans Pourbus the Younger defined its naturalistic characteristics with the representations of Henri IV, in particular in the portrait of the king in armor preserved at the Louvre Museum painted around 1610. He innovated however by adding to it within the same composition an allegorical figure, yielding to what could be a fashion, if we judge for example by the use that Rubens makes in The Triumph of Juliers for the cycle intended to glorify Marie de Medici in the early 1620s.
The victorious war king
Louis XIII is depicted at the age of 34, full length, three-quarter length and his eyes calmly turned towards the viewer. His pose and his air exude a proud dignity, a reflection of his embodiment of sovereignty. The king wears richly crafted armor, very similar to other royal armor in the Army Museum and weighing nearly 27 kg, which protects the body from musket bullets from head to knee. Long boots with spurs recall the importance of the equestrian dimension in warfare and in command during the early XVIIe century. King of war and king-rider, Louis XIII is also a man of the court - the fine lace responds to boots in white echoes - and above all a sovereign. The blue cordon of the order of the Holy Spirit, the lilies decorating the festoons of the armor and the fleur-de-lis white scarf symbolizing the white of France, a sign of rallying to the legitimacy of Henrik during the last civil wars of the XVIe century, are so many pictorial marks of a sovereignty that is both absolute, that is to say without immanent reference, and anchored in a dynasty and a history. Sword at the side, right hand carelessly placed on the hip, left hand holding a long cane, Louis XIII wears long hair, a fine fang mustache and a pointed goatee, all hairstyle elements corresponding to a real fashion in curial circles.
Next to the king, his plumed helmet rests on a piece of furniture covered with a purple and gold carpet, echoing the chromatic tones of the heavy hanging and the cord which enclose the horizon of the left part of the canvas. This staging allows the silhouette of the king to be cut out in a contrasting manner (black, white and gold).
The right part of the composition introduces another dimension. A winged, partially bare-breasted young woman, an allegory of Victory, is about to surround the king with a laurel wreath, while holding a palm in her left hand. She makes the king emerge as a victorious hero. Suspended in the air, it lets appear behind it, through an opening revealed by the red curtain, a view of the port of La Rochelle, referring to the victory of the royal troops against the French Protestants. Champaigne is inspired here by an etching by Jacques Callot celebrating the capture of La Rochelle.
The admirable reduction to obedience of rebel Protestants
Champaigne thus chooses to bring together in a single work a naturalistic portrait of the King of France, standing on the ground and in a martial and sovereign posture, and a winged allegory of Victory. In doing so, he seems to signify to posterity that the reduction of the rebellious Huguenots to obedience is part of a larger royal design intended to impose sovereign authority and peace on all subjects. The entire left part of this portrait was reproduced in the iconography engraved by Zacharie Heince and François Bignon in the mid-17th centurye century, so much does this figure of Louis XIII seem to embody the sublimation of sovereign authority which must in return arouse the immediate admiration of spectators and subjects. Louis XIII had acceded to the throne at the age of 9, after the assassination of his father in 1610, and known a minority under the overwhelming influence of his mother Marie de Medici, influence from which he was freed in 1617 The years 1620 and 1630 were those of the affirmation of the State under the double influence of the king and his principal minister Richelieu.
Painting this canvas in 1635 also responds to the program of political iconography developed by Richelieu to show the consistency of his action in power alongside the King of France. Cardinal in 1622 and principal minister of Louis XIII in 1624, Richelieu summarizes in an aphoristic formula his project in his Political testament ; it was for him to serve the king to "ruin the Huguenot party, lower the pride of the Great, reduce all subjects to their duty and raise his name [that of the king] in foreign nations to the point where it should be. . "Champaigne's canvas appears as an illustration of this shortcut (whose caricature aspects today are emphasized in historiography): the capture of the port of La Rochelle in 1628, after a long siege, ended the civil wars in the name of religion. , even if their official end does not come until a year later, with the peace of Alès. The Huguenots are deprived of their political privileges obtained under Henri IV and confirmed at the beginning of the reign of Louis XIII. At the same time, to represent the king of France victorious in 1635, with a legend exalting loyalty to foreign allies, amounts to confirming France's warlike and diplomatic role when "open war" has just been declared to Spain in part of the Thirty Years' War.
Philippe de Champaigne served with the glory of the king and that of his minister with the same brushstroke, and participated in the iconic deployment of the kings of France in armor in the 17th centurye century.
- official portrait
- Richelieu (cardinal of)
- Medici (Marie de)
- Henry IV
- religious war
- Louis XIII
Pierre CHEVALLIER, Louis XIII, Cornelian King, Fayard, Paris, 1979.
Bernard DORIVAL, Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674): life, work and the catalog raisonné of the work, Laget, Paris, 1976.
Louis MARIN, Philippe de Champaigne or the hidden presence, Éditions Hazan, Paris, 1995.
Jean-Christian PETITFILS, Louis XIII, Perrin, Paris, 2008.
Alain TAPIÉ and Nicolas SAINTE FARE GARNOT (under the direction), Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674). Between politics and devotion, Editions of the Meeting of National Museums, Paris, 2007.
To cite this article
Jean HUBAC, "Louis XIII crowned by Victory"