Louis XIV as Jupiter - Louis XIV as Apollo

Louis XIV as Jupiter - Louis XIV as Apollo

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  • Louis XIV in Jupiter, winner of the Fronde


  • Louis XIV under the figure of Apollo, winner of the serpent Python

    WERNER THE YOUNG Joseph (1637 - 1710)

Louis XIV in Jupiter, winner of the Fronde

© RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Gérard Blot

Louis XIV under the figure of Apollo, winner of the serpent Python

© RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Gérard Blot

Publication date: November 2020

Historical context

The construction of royal propaganda

While these two works fit into the monarchical propaganda policy, they stand out for their context and scope. The ceremonial painting by Charles Poerson, a disciple of Simon Vouet who is fond of theatrical compositions should be read in the historical context of the fight against the Fronde (around 1648-1653): it is characterized by a violent opposition to the sovereign on the part including parliamentarians and then great lords who claim to participate in the government of the kingdom. Alongside the official portraits of the king "in majesty" then developed at this time allegorical portraits of Louis XIV which used history or ancient mythology to build his image and his legitimacy. These paintings, which present Louis XIV as Jupiter and Apollo, allow him to be granted a dazzling, increased, prestigious, even divine power.

Image Analysis

Louis XIV between Jupiter and Apollo

The two portraits, while retaining the features of the king, skilfully mix Antiquity and modernity as indicated in the oil on canvas by Charles Poerson, the decoration which intersects a Doric column and a purple hanging, or the costume of Louis XIV. which mixes the blue of France with Roman sandals. Charles Poerson's painting displays the king enthroned in a pyramidal composition bordered by a column that evokes ancient architecture, which presents the king as a divine marble statue inside a Greek temple. Louis XIV especially attributes to himself the attributes of Zeus-Jupiter which allow him to identify with the sovereign of Olympus: the thunderbolt which evokes his power to launch fire from the sky; the eagle - his messenger, who in turn holds the Jupiterian lightning between his talons; and the oak crown, which is his appointed tree. Battleship in the Antiquity, the young king, who was about fifteen years old during these events, trampled at his feet a shield decorated with an episem (distinctive sign) of a howling Gorgon bristling with snakes reminiscent of the Greek and Roman shields but which above all symbolizes here the resounding victory of the king against the Fronde. In the background, three men at work conjure up the forge of Hephaestus-Vulcan, the blacksmith god who made the heroic weapons of Achilles. The size of the work (166 by 143 centimeters), by presenting the king at "real size", further accentuates the "realism" of this allegorical portrait for the spectators. Joseph Werner's gouache on canvas uses similar iconographic codes. The king, perfectly identifiable, wears the wig and poses in a manner as elegant as it is contradictory to the feat he has achieved: to kill the monstrous serpent Python, figure of rebellion, who disputed with Apollo the sovereignty over the sanctuary of the oracle of Delphi. Equipped with the identifying attributes of the god Apollo - the bow and the quiver - the king, in a wooded landscape, poses alongside the defeated monster riddled with his divine arrows, casting a condescending glance at his victim on the ground. A little Eros-Cupid towers over the stage, his bow in his hand, like a spectator fascinated by this memorable victory.


Mythology in the service of the king

This image assimilation allows Louis XIV to be granted the qualities of the two most powerful divinities of Olympus, Zeus-Jupiter and Apollo: divine superiority, warlike power, victory over monsters of disorder, civilizing action, power of submission. , but also justice and legitimacy. These images, which use the evocative force of mythology, undoubtedly contribute to the refoundation of monarchical power to instigate a very personal reign. The purely Apollonian theme will develop thereafter, to finalize the construction of the image of the Sun King and display a nation that is totally based on the royal figure, as expressed by this assertion of Louis XIV taken from the Instruction for the Duke of Burgundy: “The nation is not one in France, it resides entirely in the person of the king. "

  • Louis XIV
  • Apollo
  • Jupiter
  • Python
  • Sling
  • mythological portrait
  • mythology
  • absolute monarchy
  • propaganda
  • Sun King
  • Louis de France (Duke of Burgundy)
  • Vulcan
  • Gorgon
  • Cupid
  • Grand Condé


Peter BURKE, Louis XIV: the strategies of glory, Paris, Le Seuil, 1995.

Louis MARIN, The portrait of the king, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, collection "Le sens commun", 1981.

Nicolas MILOVANOVIC, Alexandre MARAL (dir.), Louis XIV: the man and the king, exhibition catalog (Versailles, 2009-2010), Paris, Skira-Flammarion / Versailles, Palace of Versailles, 2009.

Jean-Christian PETITFILS, Louis XIV, Paris, Perrin, “Tempus” collection, 2002.

Michel PERNOT, The sling, Paris, Éditions de Fallois, Paris, 1994.

Gérard SABATIER, The glory of the king. Iconography of Louis XIV from 1661 to 1672, in History, economy and society 4 (2000), Olivier CHALINE and François-Joseph RUGGIU (eds.), Louis XIV and the construction of the royal state (1661-1672), p. 527-560.

To cite this article

Sonia DARTHOU, "Louis XIV in Jupiter - Louis XIV in Apollo"


  • Iconography: Set of images corresponding to the same subject. We speak of an iconographic program when a decoration in several parts brings together different subjects in a coherent way around the same theme.
  • Doric order: Architectural order, the oldest and simplest in ancient Greece. It is characterized by a fluted column with sharp edges, without base, a bare capital and a frieze alternating metopes (plates) and triglyphs (three vertical bands in relief).

  • Video: Art, Power and Politics - The role of Apollo in European Art History