Name of Object:

Model for the Equestrian Sculpture of King Louis XIV


Rome, Italy

Holding Museum:

Borghese Gallery

 About Borghese Gallery, Rome

Date of Object:

c. 1669

Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598, Naples-1680, Rome)

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):



h: 76 cm


Alessandro Contini Bonacossi Collection

Type of object:

Terracotta model


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.

View Short Description

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).

Original Owner:

Louis XIV

Current Owner:

Italian State

How Object was obtained:

Donated to the Italian state by the Contini Bonacossi family in 1926.

Selected bibliography:

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.

Additional Copyright Information:

Copyright image: Archivio fotografico Soprintendenza Speciale PSAE e Polo Museale della Città di Roma.

Citation of this web page:

Sofia Barchiesi, Maria Assunta  Sorrentino "Model for the Equestrian Sculpture of King Louis XIV" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;BAR;it;Mus11;8;en

Prepared by: Sofia Barchiesi, Maria Assunta Sorrentino
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: IT1 11