The World as Show Place

J. Bailly (1634-1679), Illuminated manuscript as design for tapistries, 1668. Photo: Wikipedia, collection Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

The pioneering image-maker of the Western world was emperor August, who founded the first empire covering parts of three continents and ruled for more than forty years ( 27 BC-14 AD). The second place is hold by the French Sun King Louis XIV, who ruled an expanding Kingdom for 72 years.

His greatest image and myth is created by the Versailles complex of palace c.q. castle, gardens, park, works of art and splendid ornaments and decorations. The cultural activities inside the building were decisive for his image making however.

Although he was a master of war (often) and peace (ratel), he was dedicated to furnishings, sculpture, dance, music, painting, theatre, poetry, tapestries, busts, bas-reliefs and many other art works.

Contrary to the images of emperor August who apparently never grew old, when one beliefs his statues throughout the empire, the Sun King allowed himself to be depicted as growing old as the paintings by Hyacinte Rigaud (1701) and by Antoine Benoist (1705) clearly show.

The Bernini buste from 1665, showing a heroic buste of a young sovereign is not only a masterpiece and an image of majesty, it fits in the viusalization of the monarch, who can be seen at an age of fifteen costumed as ‘Le Roi Soleil´.

The accepting of aging and physical decline points to a self-confident King, a strong believer and, if necessary, scrupulous defender of the Catholic faith. The beauty of Versailles and the numerous works of art define not only the person Louis XIV, but also centuries of French culture, history and taste.

They are historical monuments of art and myth (