Discuss the building programme of Louis XIV
Essay from the year 2005 in the subject Art - Architecture / History of Construction, grade: 66 out of 80, University of Essex, 12 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: If one hears the name of Louis XIV, the word Versailles almost immediately pops up into one‘s brain without making much effort thinking; it does not matter a lot whether one is an art historian or political scientist or a mere visitor of Paris. The question is: why is that? The answer is that king Louis XIV, who ordered to built this castle, and his minister Corbet, who transferred his visions into reality, apparently have done a brilliant job: over 400 years after it was built, it is still fulfilling its duty to massively represent the king’s greatness, power and splendour and to undoubtedly connect it with his name and making him immortal. However pathetic this may sound, if we imagine ourselves back in the baroque period where the Versailles castle of Louis XIV was built, the paradigms were certainly not as enlightened, despite the Benevolent Despotism, and they had a different evaluation. But Versailles should just be one example for the extensive building programme of Louis XIV in and around Paris, but in this introduction it perfectly works as a foretaste for the large scale the programme is basing on. It is well thought, not only physically, but socially, politically and historically to reach the aims of this absolutistic emperor. The German Philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once uttered in one of his lectures on the philosophy of art the following statement: “Architecture is symbolic; it reflects the spirit.” Louis XIV personifying this motto, his architecture reflects the spirit of absolutism in various styles. The architectural traces of his reign are the opposite of modest and feeble. He understood himself as the legitimate offspring of Apollo, the king of the sun, and the emperors of the antique, this is why he called himself the Roi du Soleil. Louis XIV knew about the quality of buildings compared to paintings or sculptures, as their monumental (Lat. monere, to remember) effect is much higher and, plus, more durable due to its physical nature. Royal edifices have ever since been a visiting card for the political power, wealth, artistic taste and the way a monarch sees himself. Louis XIV’s aim was to manifest his “gloire”, his glorious reputation, to translate this into action he preferred architecture to military campaigns or political treaties.
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