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Title: Louis XVIII, King of France and Navarre, born in Versailles on November 17, 1755.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1815

Date shown: 1815

Dimensions: Height 42.5 - Width 33.4

Technique and other indications: Wood grain (colored with a stencil) on laid paper. Place of publication: Épinal. At Jean-Charles Pellerin (publisher, printer, bookseller)

Storage place: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzisite web

Picture reference: 02CE10152 / 52.39.143 C

Louis XVIII, King of France and Navarre, born in Versailles on November 17, 1755.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Publication date: January 2005

Historical context

This image is one of the earliest effigies of King Louis XVIII marking the return of the monarchy to France.
Louis XVIII, brother of Louis XVI, had been exiled abroad since 1791. Although hostile to the revolutionary movement, Louis XVIII had the political realism to retain part of the heritage and set up a constitutional monarchy. He then attempted to pursue a conciliatory policy - despite pressure from the ultras - while reaffirming the place of the aristocracy in France.
His reign lasted a short time: interrupted in 1815 by the Hundred Days, it ended on his death in 1824. His brother, the Comte d'Artois, leader of the ultraroyalists, succeeded him.

Image Analysis

The Restoration forced the publisher Jean-Charles Pellerin [1], yet defender and protected of the Empire, to publish from 1815 the effigy of the new king, thus erasing twenty-five years of struggle against the monarchy.

Carrying the attributes of royalty, Louis XVIII is represented on horseback while his obesity prohibited him from any equestrian activity. This type of representation is part of the tradition of equestrian portraiture, a tradition of representation of the royal effigy that dates back to Greco-Roman antiquity. The first Renaissance reappropriated this symbol of victory and then of power, notably in works such as the equestrian statue of Gattamelata, made by Donatello. He will disappear with the car. A prerogative of the ruling classes, this genre was recurrent under all regimes, and equestrian portraits of Empire generals, among others, abounded when Louis XVIII came to power.
His effigy, however, stands out from imperial portraits by a hieraticism that appeals to visual memories of the Ancien Régime. It is notably to be compared with numismatics. Coins and medals showed the sovereign in his most rigid aspect, in profile, somewhat dehumanized. Representative of God on earth, the king remained in the ancient popular imagination a supreme being, almost divine, impalpable and distant. Only his image was accessible, known to all, manipulated on a daily basis and therefore very popular.

Louis XVIII thus appears as a triumphant hero but, unlike his predecessor, no longer refers directly to Antiquity, which Napoleon used to legitimize his power. Liberator of an oppressed France, the Emperor had consolidated his reign through his Marmoreal effigy. Louis XVIII, in his turn, becomes this liberating hero, but by reaffirming monarchical traditions that the Revolution and then the Empire had strived to eradicate.


The success of the images of Épinal undoubtedly corresponds to the aspirations of the population. After years of suffering and war, peace and the return of old values ​​were expected. As a result of the radical changes resulting from the revolutionary turmoil, a kind of golden age was reborn in which the sovereign was the lord protector.
The political message of the print, unlike the staging, remains in fact medieval obedience and therefore re-establishes a millennial order marking the return of the monarchy to power.
This engraving thus legitimizes Louis XVIII's place on the throne of France and reflects the continuity of popular imagery to celebrate the great of this world, in particular through hawking, then in full swing.

  • Bourbons
  • Louis XVIII
  • portrait
  • Restoration
  • equestrian portrait


Georges BORDONOVE, Louis XVIII: the Desired, Paris, Pygmalion, 1989. Jean-Marie DUMONT, The Popular Master Engravers 1800-1850, Épinal, Pellerin, 1965.Annie DUPRAT, The kings of paper, caricature of Henri III to Louis XVI, Paris, Belin, 2002.Nicole GARNIER, French Popular Imagery, volume II "Images of Epinal engraved on wood", Paris, RMN, 1996.Évelyne LEVER, Louis XVIII, Paris, Fayard, 1988.Emmanuel de WARESQUIEL and Benoît YVERT, History of the Restoration: birth of modern France, Paris, Perrin, 1996.


1. Jean-Charles Pellerin, born in Épinal in 1756. The success of images retracing the imperial epic made the fortune of Pellerin imagery. Under the Empire, Jean-Charles Pellerin devotes part of his production to the Emperor. He was even invited by him to Paris to exhibit in 1806, and the jury appreciated his work. In 1814, the first catalog of its production (published in 1925) still includes images of imperial history, alongside religious iconography. The following year seems to have been a year of conciliation. Simple modifications of the printing woods have sometimes made it possible to transform members of the imperial family into those of the royal family. After 1815, however, he was worried about the censorship. Six hundred images of the imperial army are then captured in his shop. He was pardoned by the king in 1817. A few years later, following his trials, he sold his estate and his house to his son and his son-in-law.

To cite this article

Nathalie JANES, "Louis XVIII"

Video: Louis XVIII of France