The Petite Galerie exhibition for 2017–2018 focuses on the connection between art and political power. Governing entails self-presentation as a way of affirming authority, legitimacy, and prestige. Thus art in the hands of patrons becomes a propaganda tool; but it can also be a vehicle for protest and subverting the established order.
Spanning the period from antiquity up to our own time, forty works from the Musée du Louvre, the Musée National du Château de Pau, the Château de Versailles and the Musée des Beaux-arts de la Ville de Paris illustrate the evolution of the codes behind the representation of political power.
The exhibition is divided into four sections:
“Princely Roles”: The first room presents the king’s functions— priest, builder, warrior/protector—as portrayed through different artistic media. Notable examples are Philippe de Champaigne’s Louis XIII, Léonard Limosin’s enamel Crucifixion Altarpiece, and the Triad of Osorkon II from ancient Egypt.
“Legitimacy through Persuasion”: The focus in the second room is on the emblematic figure of Henri IV, initially a king in search of legitimacy, then a model for the Bourbon heirs from Louis XVI to the Restoration. Features include sculptures by Barthélémy Prieur and François-Joseph Bosio, and paintings by Frans Pourbus the Younger, Ingres, and others.
“The Antique Model”: The theme of the third room is the equestrian statue. The Louvre is home to several remarkable examples, among them the Barberini Ivory leaf, a bronze of Charles the Bald, and François Girardon’s Louis XIV.
“The Insignia of Power”: In the fourth room majestic portraits of monarchs, including Antoine-François Callet’s Louis XVI, François Gérard’s Napoleon I and Franz-Xaver Winterhalter’s Louis Philippe, are accompanied by the regalia used during the coronation of the kings of France. This final section also highlights the dramatic historical and representational changes that came with the French Revolution.
Musée du Louvre Website