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Exhibition at the Louvre focuses on the connection between art and political power
Epée du sacre dite de « Charlemagne » ou « Joyeuse », pommeau : 10e-11e siècle(?), quillon : 12e siècle, or et acier. Paris, musée du Louvre © musée du Louvre, dist. RMN - Grand Palais, Philippe Fuzeau.

PARIS.- The Petite Galerie exhibition for 2017–2018 focuses on the connection between art and political power. Governing entails selfpresentation as a way of affirming authority, legitimacy and prestige. Thus art in the hands of patrons becomes a propaganda tool; but it can also be a vehicle for protest and subverting the established order.

Spanning the period from antiquity up to our own time, forty works from the Musée du Louvre, the Musée National du Château de Pau, the Château de Versailles and the Musée des Beaux-arts de la Ville de Paris illustrate the evolution of the codes behind the representation of political power.

The exhibition is divided into four sections: "Princely Roles": The first room presents the king's functions— priest, builder, warrior/protector—as portrayed through different artistic media. Notable examples are Philippe de Champaigne's Louis XIII, Léonard Limosin's enamel Crucifixion Altarpiece, and the Triad of Osorkon II from ancient Egypt.

"Legitimacy through Persuasion": The focus in the second room is on the emblematic figure of Henri IV, initially a king in search of legitimacy, then a model for the Bourbon heirs from Louis XVI to the Restoration. Features include sculptures by Barthélémy Prieur and François-Joseph Bosio, and paintings by Frans Pourbus the Younger, Ingres, and others.

"The Antique Model": The theme of the third room is the equestrian statue. The Louvre is home to several remarkable examples, among them the Barberini Ivory leaf, a bronze of Charles the Bald, and François Girardon's Louis XIV.

"The Insignia of Power": In the fourth room majestic portraits of monarchs, including Antoine-François Callet's Louis XVI, François Gérard's Napoleon I and Franz-Xaver Winterhalter’s Louis Philippe, are accompanied by the regalia used during the coronation of the kings of France. This final section also highlights the dramatic historical and representational changes that came with the French Revolution.

“By providing keys to the observation and explanation of different artworks, the Petite Galerie sets out to make the visit to the museum an enjoyable and enlightening experience” says Jean-Luc Martinez, president-director of the Musée du Louvre. Informative labels and digital touchscreen displays encourage attention to detail and help to establish context. In addition, five themed tours of the Louvre's permanent collection are proposed: 1) Royal Roles and Representational Codes in the Ancient East, 2) The Pharaoh, 3) The Powers of the Roman emperor, 4) The Islamic Sovereign, and 5) The King as Artist and Patron.

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