Bust of Louis XIV

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Bernini, Bust of Louis XIV, 1665

One of the most striking examples of Bernini's talent and discipline is the bust of Louis XIV. Taken from his home Italy and brought to France, Bernini's first impressions of French art was less than flattering, "It was not money that made art, but brains.".Louis XIV was not a man of grandiose stature, he was very much a fellow suffering and sick. Despite his appearance, commissioned in June of 1665, the bust grants a new view of imperialism and majesty.

Carefully drawn on paper, Bernini said the best moment to capture the liveliness and caricature of the subject was right as they finished speaking or laughing. Once complete he would construct the bozetti, small clay figures that resembled the figure as a whole. With over 40 clay models, not a single one was used, Bernini saw this as copying, no longer an art. The bust of Louis XIV was simply put, achieving a form beyond the natural.

Regal, sophisticated and disciplined the bust is truly a gauge of a master's capability. Placed in a contrapasto position, the head of the divinely appointed leader looks off in one direction, while the flowing drapery travels in the opposite. The bust is one of a imperial leader rather than an intimate gathering with an audience. The Bust of Louis XIV was the basis for what is descried as the three liberties, a platonic theory that inward virtue must be outwardly expressed through an external form - beauty. Bernini saw the divinely guided monarch and knew that the world could not contain such a great man. Deeply moved, Bernini inscribed on the wide base of the bust  "Picciola Basa." This is the first clear example of the imperialistic style that would follow Bernini into the latter stages of his career.

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