What do we know about Louis XIV based on his portrait by Riguad? (What does this painting reveal about Louis’s personality and status?)

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What a beautiful portrait! The depictions of France's King Louis XIV built the reputation of Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743), who became one of the most renowned painters of the classical period. In his Portrait of Louis XIV (1701), we see a king surrounded by elegance. Although he is well past his prime, Louis (who is 63 years old at the time of this particular painting), apparently maintains an otherwise youthful appearance--a fact that must have pleased the king when he saw the painting. He is heavily clothed, with only his face and single hand uncovered, perhaps to disguise the actual physical imperfections of his age. He appears to be quite a dandy, with red high-heeled shoes (similar to women's dress shoes of the 20th century), garters and hosiery. His robe is opened to focus on his legs (it would be considered a highly effeminate pose today). Rigaud pictures Louis as a handsome and virile man, and his sword and scabbard give him a look of power: In life, Louis enjoyed a successful military career; he also maintained a series of mistresses and produced many illegitimate children. The lavish background appropriately depicts the fabulous Palace of Versailles--perhaps the most beautiful in all Europe.