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From Gregory XIII to Louis XIV:The Art and Politics of Reform in France

Nicola Courtright

Nicola Courtright, From Gregory XIII to Louis XIV:The Art and Politics of Reform in France, dans Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 01/2009.

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The 1701 renovation of Louis XIV’s bedchamber at his primary residence, the Chambre du Roi in the château of Versailles, famously displayed a changing, lightening aesthetic for royal interior decoration by means of dazzling, gilded pilasters containing large, space-distorting mirrors within white walls. But paradoxically, on the attic level, gilded pilasters and wreaths also framed inset, dark, mainly caravaggesque paintings of predominantly religious subjects from the earlier part of the seventeenth century (figs. 1, 2). How they contributed to the room and its program has not been noted in the literature.
In order to understand the historical circumstances that might explain the unique and, frankly, puzzling qualities of the king’s ceremonial bedroom, the evidence of the art not only calls for an investigation of Louis’s art collections and their purpose but also
suggests a reexamination of the complex relationship of the Roi très chrétien to Rome and the papacy. The roots of the ideas expressed by this decoration may well extend back to Gregory XIII in counter-Reformation Rome and the origins of the Bourbon dynasty.

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