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Louis XV (1715-1774)

Artist

French, c.1820

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Louis XV (1715-1774)

Artist

French, c.1820

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Tin glazed terre-de-lorraine; 17 ½ in high (44.5 cm); 11 in. width (28 cm); 8 ¼ in deep (21 cm)

Provenance: Private Collection, England

A rare early 19th century French bust of good scale, depicting King Louis XV, probably inspired by a marble sculpture by Jacques-François-Joseph Sally, which was erected in the town of Valenciennes in 1752. The decorations on the plinth include the arms of France beneath the crown surrounded by swords, a cannon, drums, and battle standards. Similar to the 18th century Chantilly porcelain version (Getty Museum) the bust presented here was probably produced after the ascession of Louis XVIII, who after the revolution and Empire wished to emphasise his monarchical right by association to his forbears, in this case his grandfather. This was to be seen again with Napoleonic works of art when Bonaparte’s nephew Napoloen III became Emperor in 1852.

Louis XV, known as Louis the Beloved (le bien aimé), reigned as King of France from September 1715. He was a member of the House of Bourbon who succeeded his great grandfather, Louis XIV at the age of five years. As such, Louis XV did not take up the reins of power until he reached maturity (the Kingdom of France was at this time ruled by Philippe d’Orléans, Duc d’Orléans, who acted as Regent).

Crowned at Reims in 1722, Louis XV then reinstalled the government and the court at Versailles, abandoned by the state since the death of Louis XIV. While he re-used the apartments of the king for the state functions, he had his own private quarters, designed by the architect Gabriel, where he took refuge from the crowds and the pomp and ceremony of court life. In 1725, he married Marie Leszczinska and fathered an heir to the throne. Passionately interested in science and botany, he enriched the gardens of Versailles and commissioned the building of the Petit Trianon palace for his mistress, Madame de Pompadour.