A Lust for Virtue: Louis XIV's Attack on Sin in Seventeenth-Century France

A Lust for Virtue: Louis XIV's Attack on Sin in Seventeenth-Century France

A Lust for Virtue: Louis XIV's Attack on Sin in Seventeenth-Century France

A Lust for Virtue: Louis XIV's Attack on Sin in Seventeenth-Century France

Synopsis

Midway through his reign, in the critical decade of the 1680s, the lusty image of Louis XIV paled and was replaced by that of a straitlaced monarch committed to locking up blasphemers, debtors, gamblers, and prostitutes in wretched, foul-smelling prisons that dispensed ample doses of Catholic-Reformation virtue. The author demonstrates how this attack on sin expressed the punitive social policy of the French Catholic Reformation and how Louis's actions clarified the legal and moral distinctions between crime and sin.

Excerpt

When Gian-Lorenzo Bernini, the most famous sculptor in Europe, visited Paris in the warm June of 1665, he hoped to hear that Louis XIV (1643–1715) had approved his ambitious baroque designs for completing the façade of the royal palace of the Louvre. Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis’s minister of works, deflected Bernini’s queries by telling the Italian artist that he had other important commissions in mind, one of which would be an equestrian statue of Louis XIV to be placed between the Louvre and Tuileries palaces. Bernini, much more interested in the fate of his Louvre commission, evidenced little interest in Colbert’s equestrian statue idea. But when he returned to Italy in November 1665, Bernini still had not learned the fate of his Louvre commission. Two years later, when Colbert finally told Bernini that his plans for the Louvre had been rejected, he again pressed him to execute a statue of the king that now would be placed, like the equestrian statue of King Henry IV, on a new bridge over the Seine.

Bernini accepted the commission and began to work on the statue in his Roman studio. His early plans suggested that he had in mind a work resembling the equestrian statue of the Emperor Constantine that he had sculpted for St. Peter’s in Rome. But by 1671 Bernini had changed his mind. Instead of a conquering monarch riding a fiery

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