Louis’s Other House

Source: Wikipedia

Louis XIV, seen above in Rigaud‘s famous portrait, seems to be present pretty much all over the Louvre. There have been few people who have been such generous patrons of the arts as he was, and certainly nobody ever taxed the peasants of France as much as he did in order to patronize them. A good deal of that money went to fund his mad ideas about what kingly surroundings should be like. Some of this splendor can be seen in the rooms framing the vast collection of the Louvre, rooms which are in themselves wonderful explosions of art and decor. For instance, the Apollo Gallery which holds the French Crown Jewels is one such place. The jewels themselves are a bit disappointing as are the other rocks in the Gallery to someone not very much interested in rocks, but the room that holds them is one of the most beautiful in the museum. There are many other halls that are so lavishly decorated that the paintings that hang in them seem like overkill; in fact, after a while the rooms themselves become a bit too much.

There’s also a room, a nice and simple one, dedicated to Louis’s court painters and it contains some of the work of Charles Le Brun who is the guy we have to check out if we are to find out anything about the interior design of the insanely rich and famous royals of the period. Le Brun was a pupil of the famous Poussin, but it looks like he took his style to ridiculous excesses. Suitable for kings, yes, but exhausting to peasants like myself. Take, for instance, his last great painting, L’adoration des bergers:

Source: Wikipedia

There’s shadows and beams of light and colors and Jesus and a whole bunch of people and angels and it’s pretty much all over the place. It becomes clear after a while walking around the Louvre that clean lines and style did not figure much in their design plans. In large scale architecture and gardening these can be seen, but the lines are drawn only to be decorated by one or another sort of swirly squirly things that cover any trace of the elegant simplicity they might have possessed when they were first drawn.

To the Modernist eye the parts of the Louvre that carry Louis’s spirit are a nightmare. It is difficult to escape his presence, but luckily there are sections where moderns can find some rest. These are mostly designs produced well before there was such a thing as France for Louis to impoverish and redecorate. It might be a sign of modern decadence that most will find pre-Classical sculptures much more elegant than Louis’s preferred gold leaf curlicues. It might also be a signal of the old cliché that money or status can’t buy good taste.

If you’re interested, you can check out a panoramic view of a couple of rooms by Jonas Carlson.

1 Response to “Louis’s Other House”

  1. 1 Art in Paris « nonvisedvoce Trackback on January 30, 2012 at 22:38

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