Model for the Equestrian Sculpture of King Louis XIV
Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598, Naples-1680, Rome)
h: 76 cm
Alessandro Contini Bonacossi Collection
The terracotta model for the equestrian monument to Louis XIV was created by Bernini, already in his seventies, in late 1669 and 1670. The sculpture of the Sun King on horseback was ordered during a trip to Paris by Bernini in 1665, but we know from a letter sent by the artist to Minister Colbert, that it was not confirmed until 1669. The sculptor, who had studied his model carefully in Paris, decided to show him on the Mount of Glory controlling his galloping horse, his sceptre held horizontally; a symbol of regal equity. Although Bernini was not aware of the location intended for the sculpture, he arranged it – in accordance with Baroque taste – favouring a particular view point, in this case from the left, like the contemporary numismatics showing the king on horseback. This work can be traced back to several models both in ancient sculpture and modern painting and sculpture, most notably the model for the equestrian monument of Francis I by Leonardo (Budapest, Szépmuűvészeti Múzeum).
The sculpture was transported to France in 1685, some years after Bernini's death and, as it did not please the king, it was then moved to Versailles. The work was transformed into Marcus Curtius by the French sculptor François Girardon and placed in a hidden corner of the gardens. The execution of the sculpture is actually quite ordinary: it was done by pupils of the French Academy in Rome and not directly by the artist and his prestigious Roman workshop. This makes the autography of this terracotta model of paramount importance, its bursting vitality reviving the splendour of the Berninian idea and his creative journey.
The work was sold several times before ending up in the Contini Bonacossi Collection, from where it was given to the Galleria Borghese in 1923, a donation that was made permanent in 1926.
This terracotta was modelled by Bernini in Rome for an equestrian monument of Louis XIV, but the sculpture itself was executed by his pupils. The king, however, did not appreciate the work, and so it was transformed into Marcus Curtius by the French sculptor Francois Girardon, and transferred to Versailles (now at the Louvre).
Donated to the Italian state by the Contini Bonacossi family in 1926.
Faldi, I., Galleria Borghese. Le sculture dal secolo XVI al secolo XIX, Rome, 1954, n.38, pp. 41– 42.
Wittkower, R., Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque, London, 1955 (ed. Italiana Milano 1990, cat. 74, p. 293).
Herrmann Fiore, K., “Luigi XIV a cavallo” in Bernini Scultore, La nascita del Barocco in Casa Borghese, exhibition catalogue, Rome, 1998, pp. 310–329.
Barberini, M. G., “Gian Lorenzo Bernini: processi creativi” in Bernini scultore e la tecnica esecutiva, Rome, 2002, pp. 277–284.
Copyright image: Archivio fotografico Soprintendenza Speciale PSAE e Polo Museale della Città di Roma.
Sofia Barchiesi, Maria Assunta Sorrentino "Model for the Equestrian Sculpture of King Louis XIV" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://baroqueart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;BAR;it;Mus11;8;en
Prepared by: Sofia BarchiesiSofia Barchiesi
TITLE: Author and Researcher
Sofia Barchiesi, a graduate and specialist in Art History and recipient of a scholarship from the School of Mediaeval and Modern Art History at Lumsa University, has been working with the Superintendency for Historical Artistic Heritage and the Museums of Rome since the late 1980s. She was responsible for cataloguing the art of the region and museums of Rome, studying the period of the Counter-Reformation particularly closely. She works with journals and writes essays, alternating her research and teaching work., Maria Assunta SorrentinoMaria Assunta Sorrentino
NAME: Maria Assunta
AFFILIATION: Borghese Gallery, Rome
TITLE: Conservation Department Co-ordinator
Maria Assunta Sorrentino, holder a of a Diploma in Painting and Fresco Restoration and a degree in the Science of Cultural Heritage (historical-artistic), has worked at the Borghese Gallery since 1993, where she manages the Conservation Department and is in charge of the technical and organisational co-ordination of temporary exhibitions. She is currently working on the Ten Great Exhibitions project underway at the Borghese Gallery. She has published several papers on conservation and history in relation to the exhibition, with particular reference to artists such as Bernini, Domenichino, Canova and Caravaggio.
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: IT1 11
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Discover Baroque Art Exhibition(s)Languages of Baroque | Models and ornaments; materials and techniques
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