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King Louis XIV

  • Object:

    Relief

  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    before ca. 1683 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Mollart, Michel, born 1641 - died 1713 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory

  • Museum number:

    A.44-1935

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery, case CA10

Portraits in ivory were fashionable in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in France, Germany and Britain. Generally elephant ivory was used. Since the pieces were limited in size the portraits tended to be small, yet they could still be monumental in form. The grandeur and flamboyance of Louis XIV, the Sun King, can be seen even on this small scale. Here dynastic portraits are contained within the portrait of the king. The sun god Apollo in his chariot, with a bound captive behind, is shown on top of the helmet, while medallions on the helmet depict Louis's forebears, King Henri IV (his paternal grandfather) and King Louis XIII (his father). Over his ear is a medallion of Anne of Austria (his mother), and on the shoulder Marie de Médicis (his paternal grandmother). On a pendant around the king's neck is his wife, Queen Marie Thérèse. On the lower part of his chest are inscribed the initials L (for Louis), and M (for Marie Thérèse). Under the truncation of the shoulder is the signature. The ivory is likely to date from before 1683, when his wife Marie Thérèse died.

This signed ivory is thought to date from before Marie Thérèse's death in 1683. A related bronze plaquette was also produced, an example of which (probably a late cast) is in the Musée national de la Renaissance at Ecouen, inv.no. E.Cl. 17 344 C; see also Trésor numismatique, III, 1837, p.27, pl. XXX, no.1. Christian Theuerkauff comments on the stylistic similarities between the present ivory and the figure of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception also by Mollart in the V&A's collection (inv.no. A.90-1970); see Theuerkauff 1985, p.50.

Physical description

The bust of the king is shown in profile facing to his left wearing a long flowing wig and fantastic armour. The sun god Apollo in his chariot, with a bound captive behind, is shown on top of the helmet, and medallions on the helmet depict Louis's forebears, Henri IV (his paternal grandfather) and Louis XIII (his father); over his ear is a medallion of Anne of Austria (his mother), and on the shoulder Marie de Médicis (his paternal grandmother); on a pendant around the king's neck is his wife, Queen Marie Thérèse. On the lower part of his chest are inscribed the initials L (for Louis), and M (for Marie Thérèse). Under the truncation of the shoulder is the signature: MOLLART Fecit.

Place of Origin

France (made)

Date

before ca. 1683 (made)

Artist/maker

Mollart, Michel, born 1641 - died 1713 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory

Marks and inscriptions

'MOLLART Fecit'
'Mollart made [this]'
under the truncation of the shoulder

'L' [and] 'M'
L for Louis; M for Marie Thérèse
on the lower part of his chest

Dimensions

Height: 10.2 cm, Width: 7 cm

Object history note

Bought for £18 from Alfred Spero, London, in 1935.

Descriptive line

Relief, ivory, portrait of King Louis XIV of France, by Michel Mollart, French, before ca. 1683

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Review of the Principal Acquisitions of the Victoria and Albert Museum 1935 London, H.M Stationery Office, p. 6, pl. 3(a)
C. Theuerkauff, "Kleinplastik des Barock: Werke von Jean Gaulette, Michel Mollart und
anderen franzosischen Zeitgenossen", Kunst und Antiquitäten 1/85, 1985, p. 50
C. Theuerkauff, Die Bildwerke in Elfenbein des 16.-19. Jahrhunderts (Die Bildwerke der Skulpturengalerie Berlin, II), Berlin, 1986, p. 224 and note 6 on p. 226
T. Friedman, 'Cavalier's Charles II on horseback', Leeds Art Calendar , no. 88, 1981, p. 8 and fig.5
Millet. Ivoires et Ivoiriers de Dieppe. 1906. pp.11-12
Medlam, Sarah, Miller, Lesley Ellis, eds., Princely Treasures, European Masterpieces 1600-1800 from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, V&A Publishing, 2011, pp. 36-37
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, cat. no. 226

Materials

Ivory

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Body armour; Chariots (ancient vehicles); Parade armours

Categories

AMICO 2003; Portraits; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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