King Louis XIV thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery

King Louis XIV

Relief
before ca. 1683 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved ivory
Brief Description
Relief, ivory, portrait of King Louis XIV of France, by Michel Mollart, French, before ca. 1683
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.
Dimensions
  • Height: 10.2cm
  • Width: 7cm
Meausurements in Medlam, Sarah, Miller, Lesley Ellis, eds., Princely Treasures, European Masterpieces 1600-1800 from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, V&A Publishing, 2011, p. 36. Also on Object Card.
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'MOLLART Fecit' (under the truncation of the shoulder)
  • 'L' [and] 'M' (on the lower part of his chest)
Object history
Bought for £18 from Alfred Spero, London, in 1935.
Subjects depicted
Associations
Summary
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.
Bibliographic References
  • 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
  • Princely Magnificence: Court Jewels of the Renaissance 1500-1630, London: Debrett's, 1980.
Collection
Accession Number
A.44-1935

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record createdJanuary 12, 2004
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