The Palace of Versailles and the Absolutism of Louis XIV
Absolutism describes a form of monarchical power that is unrestrained by all other institutions, such as churches, legislatures, or social elites. To achieve absolutism one must first promote oneself as being powerful and authoritative, then the individual must take control of anyone who might stand in the way of absolute power. The Palace of Versailles helped King Louis XIV fulfill both of those objectives. Versailles used propaganda by promoting Louis with its grandiosity and generous portraits that all exuded a sense of supremacy. Versailles also helped Louis take control of the nobility by providing enough space to keep them under his watchful eye. The Palace of Versailles supported absolutism during King Louis XIV’s reign through propaganda, and control of nobility.
One of the most important elements of Versailles that affected Louis XIV’s reign was the use of propaganda. The Palace contained “paintings, statues, tapestries” (Page) and a general grandness that significantly promoted Louis’ name. Louis himself was a “prominent subject in the artwork” (Montclos 330) and was portrayed as handsome and god-like. Even in the aspects of the Palace where Louis wasn’t literally being represented, the grand nature of Versailles sent out a message that the King was living lavishly, and was therefore very powerful. Louis XIV used the grandiosity of his Palace and the art inside to promote himself to his people.
A key use of propaganda in Versailles was the depiction of Louis XIV in paintings. Often, artwork in Versailles depicted him as handsome and god-like, he was even portrayed as gods themselves, such as “Apollo or Jupiter” (Constans 109). This god-like image affected Louis’ reign because over time the viewers of the art began to believe that Louis really was god-like and heroic. Furthermore, some of the art in Versailles was displayed more like a narrative and gave an embellished account of the King’s adventures. The ceilings had murals that described the life and actions of the King. The underlying themes of all paintings were “victory, glory, fame, and peace” (Constans103). Specifically, on the ceiling of the hall of mirrors, there is a painting of the history of the King’s conquests that includes symbols of all the aforementioned themes. For instance, “the theme of victory is represented by Louis being crowned in a wreath, for glory there is an obelisk, for fame there is a trumpet and for peace there is an olive branch” (Constans 103). The painting portrays Louis as striking and heroic. There is another mural in the state apartment that describes Louis use of propaganda:
Louis XIV himself appears as a young King. Though clad in the breastplate of antiquity, he wears a wig and is easily identifiable. In the company of the era’s gods of Olympus, the mortal and human King firmly takes his place amid the pantheon of heroes in the state apartment (Constans 34).
This image of the King...