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An important bronze bust of Louis XIII (1603-1643)
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About the object

Light brown patina; the King wearing a wig with long curls falling on his large collar, on his shoulders a fur cape finely decorated with lily flowers, shells and helmets on a chain, and the necklace of the order of Saint Michel and Saint Esprit\nThe original bronze version of the bust of Louis XIII belonged to the  French royal collections and is listed in the 1788 crown inventory, ‘L’Etat des Bronzes du Garde-Meuble de la Couronne’, no.2, where it was displayed in the Salle d’Armes (it is now in the Louvre). The bust was for a long time considered to be a work by Jean Varin (1607-1672), who was known for his medals, seals and bronzes at the time of Louis XIII and Louis XIV.\n\nThe discovery of an inventory taken after the death of the daughter-in-law of the sculptor Francesco Di Bartolomeo Bordoni in 1659  reveals important information about the commission of the bust and allows an attribution of the model to the latter artist. The inventory mentions three plaster versions of Henry IV, Louis XIII and Louis XIV, as well as two bronze busts depicting Henry IV and Louis XIII, commissioned from Francesco Bordoni by the King:\n\n‘…trois bustes en plâtre et d’argile représentant les rois Henri IV, Louis XIII et le roi actuel [Louis XIV], et deux bustes en bronze de Henri IV et Louis XIII portant les deux Ordres de France et la Couronne. Après cet inventaire qui détaille les bustes précités, le dit Pierre Bourdon a déclaré que les dites figures avaient été faites par le défunt sieur Bourdon, son père, sur l’ordre du défunt roi, pour lesquelles il n’avait jamais été payé et qui, par conséquent, n’ont jamais été livrées.’\n\nThe sculptor Francesco Bordoni (1601-1643) was a pupil of Pietro Francavilla in Florence. In 1600, he followed his master to Paris to work at the court of Henry IV. The King commissioned several bronzes for the fountains of the Tiber and the Perseus in the park of Fontainebleau and made him ‘sculpteur du Roi’ in 1606, granting a high salary. In 1611, Bordoni married Francavilla’s daughter and, when Francavilla died in 1615, Bordoni took his place as ‘Sculpteur ordinaire du Roi’. The artist’s actual masterpieces were the bronzes of the Four Slaves decorating the pedestal of Henry IV’s equestrian statue for the Pont Neuf, begun by Francavilla and finished by Bordoni in 1619 (today in the Louvre). These four life size Slaves, as well as three reliefs with the Victories of Henry IV, and the angels for the royal chapel in Fontainebleau are highly appreciated bronzes not only for the quality of their casts but also for the fine chiselling of the surface. The Slaves contributed to Bordoni’s fame not only as a portraitist but also as an important bronzier in 17th century France.\n\nOur bronze is a slightly later version of the Louvre bust, cast at the end of the reign of Louis XIV, between 1700 and 1715, probably to form a pair with another portrait of a sovereign. It differs in one small detail from the original model: the monogram HM on the medallion of the order of the Holy Spirit has been replaced by the simple letter H, indicating the reign of Louis XIV. The Order of the Holy Spirit was founded in 1575 by Henry III, the chain was marked with the Greek letters phi and delta symbolising Fidelitas. Then, the Greek letters were replaced by H for Henry IV and M for Marie de Medici, reigning at the time. During the reign of  Louis XIII, the letter L for Louis was used or sometimes HM. At the time of the reign of Louis XIV, only the letter H was used, as can be seen on the present bust.\n\nRELATED LITERATURE\nL. Courajod, Jean Warin, Ses œuvres de Sculpture et le Buste de Louis XIII du musée du Louvre, Paris, 1881; G.Bresc-Bautier, ‘Le Bronze classique’, in De la Renaissance à Rodin, Exh. cat., Tokyo, 10 Sept – 6 Nov 1988, pp.213-17; Masterpieces from the Louvre, Exh. cat., Queensland Art Gallery, 1988, no.11; Les Bronzes de la Couronne, Exh. cat., Paris, 1999, p.188 (ill.); Richelieu, L’Art et le pouvoir, Exh. cat., Montreal, Cologne, 2002-03, p.75, no.3
GB
GB
GB

dimensions

67cm., 26 3/8 in.

exhibition

De Versailles à Paris. Le destin des collections Royales, Centre culturel du Panthéon, Mairie du Ve arrondissement, Paris, 1989, p.215

provenance

Duc de Luynes collection; Martin Rikoff collection; Mortimer L. Schiff collection, sale; Christies London, 22 June 1938, no.37


*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.


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