Louis XIII in majesty

Louis XIII in majesty

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Title: Louis XIII, King of France

Author : by CHAMPAIGNE Philippe (1602 - 1674)

Creation date : 1630

Date shown: 1630

Dimensions: Height 190 cm - Width 150 cm

Storage place: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / Gérard Blot

Picture reference: 95-014390 / Inv1167

Louis XIII, King of France

© RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / Gérard Blot

Publication date: February 2018

Academy Inspector Deputy Academic Director

Historical context

An official portrait of the king

It is not known when Philippe de Champaigne made this portrait of King Louis XIII. It is probably a painting from the mid-1630s, judging by the appearance of the sovereign's face.

Born with the century, in 1601, Louis XIII particularly appreciated the talent of the painter of Flemish origin, of whom he made his official painter and from whom many portraits of the king were commissioned. Known and recognized artist, Philippe de Champaigne is distinguished by his ability to paint faces in a naturalistic vein, in the wake of those that another Flemish, Frans Pourbus the Younger, had introduced to the court of France under Henri IV and Marie of Medici. Marie de Medici, mother of Louis XIII, then Richelieu, cardinal and principal minister, also attracted the help of the portrait painter, who also distinguished himself in religious subjects and landscapes.

The canvas was probably damaged in its upper part, which explains the connection visible from the top of the scepter.

Image Analysis

The attributes of majesty

Sitting in a curule chair, the monarch participates in two imaginaries, that of Antiquity, which is the basis of the double legitimacy of power, auctoritas and potestas, and that of the French monarchy, revitalized by the Bourbon dynasty from 1589.

The face of the king is similar to that of the portrait designed in 1635 for the Galerie des Hommes illustres in the Cardinal Palace: the face is elongated, the features are enhanced with a hooked mustache and a thin goatee, the hair is detached for waving on the shoulders.

Philippe de Champaigne painted Louis XIII at an age very close to that of the portrait of 1635. However, the armor gave way to the coronation mantle, and the painter gives another image of sovereignty.

Louis XIII appears in antique costume (lambrequins descending on the thigh and boots on the feet) and adorned with the heavy coronation mantle. Her right leg is revealed bare among the folds of the mantle, subsequently constituting a recurring motif of the royal portrait in the coronation costume. The blue mantle extends to the steps of the platform on which the king literally sits. Lined with ermine, it uses the heraldic motif of the monarchy of France (golden lilies on a field of azure). The ermine hood covers the king's shoulders and highlights the large necklace of the Order of the Holy Spirit.

The closed crown, symbol of empire over the world, is placed on a cushion placed halfway up on a piece of furniture covered with a crimson velvet sheet.

Louis XIII holds in his right hand the so-called “Charlemagne” scepter, in use during royal coronations since the XIV.e century, and places his left hand on his crown, letting the sword whose hilt and hilt can be seen flapping at his side.


Say sovereign power

The hieratic pose reinforces the solemnity of a painting where sovereignty breathes through the mortal body of the king. The regalia, all of the symbolic objects of the monarchy, give Louis XIII an almost supernatural strength because of divine origin. Their use during the coronation ceremony confirms the implicitly religious dimension of such a representation of the king in majesty.

The reaffirmation of royal sovereignty through the imagination of the coronation and the sacred was particularly timely during the 1630s, when Louis XIII and his principal minister, Richelieu, engaged in a policy of expansion of French influence in Europe. After having reduced the French Protestants to obedience and having withdrawn their political privileges, while obtaining from the great lords whom they gradually (and sometimes violently ...) measure their benefit in defending the king's interest rather than theirs, Louis XIII and Richelieu end in 1635 by declaring an "open war" on the rival dynasty, that of the Habsburgs. To paint the prince in majesty in this context is to remember that the king's choices are guided by an inspiration which must be accountable only to God.

Philippe de Champaigne uses the elements of his painting of Louis XIII in coronation costume preserved in the English royal collections, but here he shows the king seated and holding Charlemagne's scepter. This specificity will be taken up in the majestic paintings of Louis XIV as a child, before the latter is again represented standing, as in the famous portrait painted by Hyacinthe Rigaud.

  • official portrait
  • Louis XIII
  • Medici (Marie de)
  • Richelieu (cardinal of)
  • Bourbons


CHEVALLIER Pierre, Louis XIII: Cornelian king, Paris, Fayard, coll. "The great historical studies", 1979.

DORIVAL Bernard, Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674): life, work and the catalog raisonné of the work, Paris, Laget, 1976, 2 vol.

MARIN Louis, Philippe de Champaigne or the hidden presence, Paris, Hazan, coll. "35/37", 1995.

PETITFILS Jean-Christian, Louis XIII, Paris, Perrin, 2008.SABATIER Gérard, The prince and the arts: figurative strategies of the French monarchy, from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, Seyssel, Champ Vallon, coll. “Epochs”, 2010.

TAPIÉ Alain, SAINTE FARE GARNOT Nicolas (dir.), Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674): between politics and devotion, cat. exp. (Lille, 2007; Geneva, 2007-2008), Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2007.

To cite this article

Jean HUBAC, "Louis XIII in majesty"

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