Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Louis XIV, the Louvre and Bernini

Click on photos to see enlarged view.

Sculpture of King Louis XIV by Bernini, outside the Louvre

If you study the history of the Louvre (now the world’s largest museum at half a million square feet, but previously French monarchs' royal residence) you will get a pretty good summary of the history of France and Paris.

I, for one, am overwhelmed by all the kings named Louis and queens with “de Medici” at the end of their prenom. It will take time to study it all, but I want to start here with this beautiful sculpture outside the Louvre of Louis XIV by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Some random bits of information:

- The Louvre was first a moated castle with towers on a site called “the Louvre” (origin unknown, though there are theories) commissioned by King Philip Augustus (also known as Philip II, 1165-1223).

- Centuries later Louis XIV (1638-1715), the “Sun King” or “grand monarch,” ruled France 72 years! This is the longest reign of any French or other European monarch in history. It was under this Louis’ long reign that France’s presence was extended to the Americas, Africa and India.

- The sculptor and architect, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) came to Paris from Italy for a few months to design a new east wing of the Louvre for Louis XIV, but the task ended up being completed by architect Claude Perrault. Bernini’s most famous work, perhaps, is in St. Peter’s basilica in Rome.

I’m sorry that’s all I have time for at the moment. It’s not much, but now I know a little more about the Louvre, one Louis, a sculptor named Bernini and his connection with Paris and the Louvre.

New tidbit found today (5-24-06) at http://artchive.com/artchive/B/bernini.html about the statue pictured here:
"the ostensible reason for [Bernini's] visit, was discarded and his great equestrian statue of the king [at top], eventually delivered at the end of Bernini's life, was dishonoured. Louis did not like it, got one of his hack sculptors to turn it into Marcus Curtius Hurling Himself into the Flames, and relegated it to the garden. There it slowly deteriorated until, in 1980, vandals damaged it so badly that it took eight years to restore. Three copies were made, one for the garden, one for the Louvre, and one for Jackson, Mississippi. The original is so weak it is stored away. Happily, Bernini knew nothing of these insults, dying in an odour of sanctity, having just sketched a projected Christ, which he did not live to sculpt. His chisel had not been idle for seventy five years."

Pavillion of the Louvre, at the end of the Denon wing


Don said...

I love your photos! The Louvre is so majestic and you capture that feeling.

Rauf said...

Never heard of Bernini in Paris. They all go to Paris at some point of their lives. His 81 years seem long enough for eight to nine hundred pieces of sculpture, ?? please correct me if I am wrong

Thank you Ruth for details and terrific pictures.

Ginnie said...

I agree with Rauf--I was surprised when I saw the name Bernini in Paris. We saw his sculptures all over Rome when we were there a few years ago. Talk about prolific! To see him outside the Louvre somehow seemed à propos.

I also agree with Don because the Louvre IS "so majestic and you capture that feeling."

Ruth said...

Thank you, Don and Ginnie. I'm adding another interesting note to the post about Bernini and Louis XIV, be sure to check it out.

Rauf, I think you're right. No matter whom I study, they all go to Paris it seems. And so must you. :)

Ruth said...

Rauf, I have been googling and have not come up with a number of sculptures for Bernini. When you think of just his work at St. Peter's, that alone must have been an enormous commitment of time and energy. And this new quote I posted says that he didn't stop sculpting for over 70 years.

Rauf said...

my memory has gone rusty Ruth, I read somewhere eight to nine hundred pieces of sculpture associated with Bernini, which would have taken him 300 years to complete. It was generally believed that he would do the the sketch and prelimnary work and his students would do the rest and he would give the finishing touches, very unlike Michelangelo who did everything by himself and had no students to help him, here also you have to correct me Ruth.

Ruth said...

Rauf, I've no doubt that you know more about Bernini than I.

Just judging from the new bit I posted today on this post, there were three copies of this Louis XIV statue alone, so what you say makes a lot of sense, that there would be a few lifetimes' worth of sculpture out there associated with him.

Anonymous said...

Bernini went to Paris to serve the Sun King as a humiliation for the reigning Pope. The Pope loved Bernini and arguably squandered the resources of the Papacy buying sculptures, fountains and other sculptures from Bernini. To be fair, Bernini was the favorite of about six Popes. No one could get a high prestige job in Rome once Bernini reached the age of 25 or so and he lived into his eighties.

Bernini might be the greatest artistic genius that western civilization ever produced. He obviously was an accomplished sculptor, certainly the best since the fall of the Roman Empire. He was also an architect. Not well known was his ability as a producer of opera. He designed and built the theater house. He wrote the scripts, produced it and built the backdrops and props along with hiring the actors and directing. His work was fantastically popular.

As one might expect, he was accomplished with clay, charcoal and oil paints.

After a couple of years Paris had a bellyful of Bernini and his disdainful attitude toward French artists, particularly painters. Even though his proposals for projects were clearly superior to those of Frenchmen he was sent home with a sigh of relief.