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Object Title

Painting - Louis XIII of France

Painting - Louis XIII of France

Date

1601-1630

Object Number

I.41

Provenance

Christies Sale 6 November, 1953, lot 113. Bought in and subsequently purchased for the Armouries. Previous owner, Viscountess Chetwynd. From Margam Castle, prior to 1937, according to Lady Chetwynd. She had purchased it from Captain Dudley Cutbill (letter in inventory file)

Physical Description

Oil on canvas. A youth, variously identified as a duke of Mantua and as Louis XIII, in a plain gilded half-armour, with the ribbon and cross of the order of the Saint Esprit, being crowned with laurel by a winged female figure. A landscape in the background and arms and armour on the ground in the foregoround.

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Techniques

Painting

Materials

Dimensions

Dimensions: 1730 x 1510 mm (68.125 in x 59.5 in)

Associations

Bibliographic References

European Armour in the Tower of London (London, 1968), plate LXXI

Notes

Almost certainly a portrait of the young King Louis XIII of France the painting shows the youthful monarch wearing a plain gilded half armour, with the ribbon and cross of the Ordre de Saint Esprit, being crowned by a winged female figure, the Angel of Victory. A generic landscape can be seen in the background. At the young king’s feet and in the foreground is a selection of arms and armour. The painting has previously been attributed to the Flemish artist, Sir Peter Paul Rubens, and connected with the cycle of paintings commissioned for the refurbishment and redecoration of the Palais de Luxembourg in Paris. The redevelopment of the Palais during the second decade of the 17th century had been the brainchild of the Queen Mother, Marie de Medici. Moreover, the original intention was to commission paintings from Rubens designed to celebrate the events of the lives of Marie and her deceased husband, Henry IV. This picture, however, would not have fitted in comfortably with the narrative being presented in either of those projected cycles. It is generally considered now that the painting was executed by two other Flemish artists connected to Rubens; Justus van Egmont, who is known to have produced a number of other portraits of Louis XIII, and Simon de Vos, who it has been suggested concentrated upon the armour and weapons. Both artists apparently spent time in Italy before returning to become part of the Rubens circle in the Low Countries.

When acquired by the Royal Armouries in 1953 at Christies this picture was originally catalogued as the Duke of Mantua. It is possible that the subject’s resemblance to Francis Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua by the Flemish artist, Frans Pourbus the Younger, had reinforced that initial identification. Moreover, the armour depicted in the portrait was presumably also thought to bear a resemblance to the Classically-inspired, embossed armour worn by the Gonzaga Dukes in some of their own portraits. Nevertheless, the identification of Louis XIII does seem the most likely explanation. The portrait can, of course, be seen on the most basic level to connect the youthful King to the previous military achievements of the French monarchy and himself as the inheritor of that martial tradition. However, its prime purpose would appear to be to celebrate his success against the protestant Huguenot rebels of La Rochelle in 1628 and is one of a number of such surviving examples depicting the King during the early part of his reign. Louis XIII symbolically entered the city at the head of the French army in November that year. The King being crowned by Victory also appears in a later portrait by Philippe de Champaigne in the Musée du Louvre that celebrated La Rochelle. Similarly, in an unattributed picture celebrating La Rochelle at the Sorbonne in Paris the King is also shown wearing golden armour.

A letter from the previous owner of this portrait (copy in Inventory file) states 'It is thought that this work was intended for the decoration of the Great Gallery in the Palace of Luxembourg for which Rubens was called to Paris in 1622 by Queen Marie de Medici who gave him this commission. It is thought possible that the picture in question was rejected as the young King Louis XIII appears insignificant compared to Rubens Angel of Victory. It is thought that the portrait of the young king was executed by Justus van Egmont and the armour and weapons by Simon de Vos both artists being assistants of Rubens...'

A later letter, 9.9.1968, from M. Jacques Foucart, Assistant au Departement des Peintures at the Musee du Louvre (copy in Inventory file), casts considerable doubt on the above suggestion as to the original purpose for which the painting was intended. 'As far as its possible connection with the decorative plan for the Galerie du Luxembourg is concerned, that seems to me completely improbable, given the age at which the young King is shown - about fifteen - while you associate it with the first part of the Galerie, La Vie de Marie de Medicis, not painted until 1622-1625. Besides there is no possibility that a figure of Louis XIII would appear in this part of the cycle, as it is reserved entirely for the exaltation of Marie de Medici. It is just possible that a portrait of this type might have been intended for the unfinished second part intended to show the life of Henry IV, but you must admit that it is fairly unlikely that in a series dedicated to Henry IV, a whole panel would be diverted to his son Louis XIII. I think, therefore that this picture, certainly much later in date to the period when Rubens might have been working on the decorations of the Luxembourg, can have no real connection with that decorative ensemble'.

Thumbnail image of Painting - Louis XIII of France Young Louis XIII crowned by Victory
Thumbnail image of Painting - Louis XIII of France Young Louis XIII crowned by Victory
Thumbnail image of Painting - Louis XIII of France Young Louis XIII crowned by Victory