The Artwork of the Week is celebrating the Museum’s “Season of Portraiture.”
Following ancient precedent for images of powerful rulers, France’s Sun King, Louis XIV (reigned 1643–1715), is shown wearing Roman military dress and the imperial cloak and riding without saddle or stirrups (a reference to his control of the state). On his breastplate is France’s symbol—the rooster—overcoming a lion emblematic of Holland or Spain. The magnificent horse treads upon a sword and barbarian shield bearing an Amazon’s head that symbolize enemies defeated. A concession to current fashion (one ushered in by the prematurely balding Louis himself) is the flowing wig, which had the advantage of making the king’s head seem larger.