|Although there have been many studies and exhibitions of the decorative arts during the Renaissance and in the time of Henry IV and Louis XIV, those of the reign of Louis XIII and the regency of Anne of Austria are still little known. The period from the death of Henry IV, in 1610, to the beginning of Louis XIV's personal reign, in 1661, is rather complicated. Still divided by religious strife, despite the recently signed Edict of Nantes, and at war with the Habsburg Empire from 1635, France lived through two regencies, that of Marie de Médicis during Louis XIII's minority and that of Anne of Austria, until Louis XIV was proclaimed of age to rule. Although weakened economically and politically, the royal family actively supported intellectual and artistic activities: the French Academy was created in 1635, followed by the Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1648. During this period, the court attracted artists and craftsmen and housed them in the Louvre. It was a time of active, enlightened patronage by the sovereigns and eminent nobles (Marie de Médicis, Louis XIII's brother Gaston d'Orléans, Richelieu, Anne of Austria and Mazarin) and a number of collectors, among whom Louis Hesselin is the best known. |
In all, the exhibition at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais numbers 350 pieces, the fullest inventory every presented of the decorative arts in France in the early seventeenth century.