King Louis the XIVth’s legs

 In J&L Scrutiny


This week our new “Scrutiny column” takes us to Versailles with the certainly most famous portrait of the Sun King. Louis the XIVth is presented full-length and wears his coronation clothes. At the aged of 63 years old, he posed to grant the request of his grandson Philippe the Vth, new King of Spain. Indeed, at the moment of his death, King Charles the IInd of Spain didn’t want to divide his states and offered to his sister’s, Louis the XIVth’s wife and Queen of France, second grandson to be the heir.

Hyacinthe Rigaud, King Louis the XIVth in coronation dress, 1701

Young Philippe the Vth became King of Spain in 1700, after he left his family in France. Then, he asked for a “souvenir-portrait” of his illustrious grand-father to the best portraitist of his generation, Hyacinthe Rigaud. He executed it so well with so much talent and resemblance that the whole court approved it. Therefore, during the presentation, King Louis the XIVth asked for a copy in order to keep the original in Versailles. (Copy they actually kept in Versailles as well…)

Anonymous drawing, Royal Ballet of the Night, Louis XIVth dressed up in Apollo

Louis the XIVth particularly loved it for two reasons: he liked the resemblance and that Rigaud had respected all his wishes. The king was not one of those who wanted to be embellished like with a modern “Photoshop”. However, he always had only one demand: to be painted with legs from his young age. This detail has its importance! Indeed, our dear Sun King was King of ballet as well. In 1661, at the very beginning of his reign, he founded the Royal Academy of Dance. Pierre Beauchamp became the director and codified the famous five positions. This institution was in charge of fixing rules and teaching the art of dancing. Moreover, in 1669, Louis continued and created the Opera Academy with the very first professional company in Europe.

Film poster, The King is dancing (le Roi Danse), 2000

Louis the XIVth was in love with ballet more than hunting and he knew how to turn it into a powerful instrument. He succeeded so well, he imposed an art still practice nowadays, according to the XVIIth century rules. This portrait painted with the young and muscled legs detail show us the importance to the king of this art and his proudness to have danced like anybody else.

So, lets the king dance!


Key Information

Louis the XIVth

Dates : 1638-1715

Reign: He became King in 1643 at only 5 years old

Faits marquants : He had the longest reign ever in the History, 72 years.

Louis the XIVth is mostly known for his castle, Versailles. Actually, he enlarged his father’s, Louis the XIIIth, hunting lodge to make itthe palace of his dreams to welcome the whole Court. Versailles thanks to his magnificence is still the most famous palace in the world.

Photo credits:

1 – Presentation photo: Hyacinthe Rigaud, King Louis the XIVth in coronation dress, 1701 © L’Histoire par l’image 

2 –Hyacinthe Rigaud, King Louis the XIVth in coronation dress, 1701

3 – Anonymous drawing, Royal Ballet of the Night, Louis XIVth dressed up in Apollo  © L’Histoire par l’image 

4 – Film poster, The King is dancing (le Roi Danse), 2000 © AlloCiné

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