Louis XIII, "one faith, one law, one king"

Louis XIII,

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Title: Louis XIII (1601-1643)

Author : VOUET (after) Simon (1590 - 1649)

Creation date : 1620

Dimensions: Height 178 cm - Width 142.5 cm

Technique and other indications: This composition is said to be a studio replica of a painting by Simon Vouet kept in Versailles

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Daniel Arnaudet / Gérard Blot

Picture reference: 85-000138-02 / MV3367

© RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Daniel Arnaudet / Gérard Blot

Publication date: February 2018

Academy Inspector Deputy Academic Director

Historical context

The portrait of a baroque painter

This composition is said to be a studio replica of a painting by Simon Vouet kept in Versailles. Due to the master's workshop and the work of one of his students (Simon's brother, Aubin?), It is considered more rigid than the prototype, which was probably executed in 1627, after Vouet's return to Paris. . Simon Vouet lived in Italy for fifteen years before being recalled by Louis XIII to France. Most of the French artists of the first XVIIe century benefit from his teaching and his example.

Simon Vouet demonstrates in this work the measure of his mastery of drapery and the sense of balance within a triangular composition whose upper point is held by the figure of the king.

Image Analysis

The prince of two kingdoms

Louis XIII in armor and seated holds a short cane, equivalent to a staff of command. Surrounded by a laurel wreath, he wears a sash of the Order of the Holy Spirit and a white stole, a “monarchical and dynastic sign” (Y. Lignereux) inscribing the sovereign filiation in the epic gesture of Henri IV, founder of the Bourbon dynasty. The white scarf became a recurring motif in royal iconology during the reign of Louis XIII.

As in the portrait of victorious Louis XIII painted by Philippe de Champaigne, the king wears a rich articulated armor, very close to another royal armor kept at the Army Museum and weighing nearly 27 kg, which protects the body from bullets musket from head to knees. Boots with spurs are a reminder of the importance of the cavalry in commanding war.

Two women representing France (on the left) and Navarre (on the right, with her clearly identifiable arms) are kneeling at the king's feet. They seem to be in awe of the monarch, who acts as an intermediary between the stage and the spectator through his gaze.


One king, one faith, one law

This representation takes up many pictorial elements present in other portraits of Louis XIII: the hooked mustache, the pointed goatee, the wavy hair descending on the shoulders, the ornate armor, the white scarf, the cord and the cross. of the order of the Holy Spirit… It thus participates in the fixing of an iconic model of the king of France as a king of war. Philippe de Champaigne and Juste d´Egmont also stand out in this register.

Simon Vouet (and his pupil), however, chose to add two significant allegorical figures to the king. Since the accession of the Bourbons to the throne (Henri IV in 1589, father of Louis XIII), the kings of France have also been king of Navarre. The two kingdoms were united in a personal way by the sovereign until 1620, when Louis XIII took advantage of the civil wars which opposed him to some of his Protestant subjects to re-establish Catholicism in Béarn and Navarre, and to reunite officially these two territories to the crown. The edict of October 28, 1620 formalizes this attachment, even if the kings of France continue to use the title "king of France and Navarre".

Simon Vouet's canvas therefore seems to illustrate the adage "one faith, one law, one king" which wanted only one official religion - the Roman Catholic religion -, one single source of law and one single sovereign to exercise their authority in the world. kingdom of France.

  • Louis XIII
  • official portrait
  • Henry IV
  • absolute monarchy
  • allegory
  • religion


Pierre CHEVALLIER, Louis XIII, Cornelian King, Fayard, Paris, 1979.

Denis LAVALLE and Jacques THUILLIER (dir.), Vouet, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1990. Catalog of the exhibition held at the Grand Palais from November 6, 1990 to February 11, 1991.

Yann LIGNEREUX, The imaginary kings. A visual history of the monarchy from Charles VIII to Louis XIV, Rennes University Press, Rennes, 2016.

Stéphane LOIRE (dir.), Simon Vouet, international conference proceedings (National Galleries of the Grand Palais, 5-7 February 1991), Paris, La documentation française, 1992.

Jean-Christian PETITFILS, Louis XIII, Perrin, Paris, 2008.

To cite this article

Jean HUBAC, "Louis XIII," a faith, a law, a king ""

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