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Art, Body, and Power: The Construction of Body Politics of Louis XIV (1648-1715) and Urban VIII (1568-1644)

This research project analyzes how the works of Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) – premier peintre du roi and perhaps the most important figure in the artistic métier during the government of Louis XIV – helped construct an image of the monarch as body politic or body of power. This image presented the king as the incarnation of the state and therefore of the nation itself, which resided not in a separate body but in the king’s itself. Le Brun’s works make it possible to recreate the presence of Louis XIV: even if absent, he is there; although in the past, he returns to the present; and though long dead, he is revived. An important model for French culture and politics was developed by Pope Urban VIII in Rome. My research therefore addresses his body politic too. The aim is to highlight possible theoretical dialogues with gender discourses, especially the constitution of a specific masculinity within the court society, and also with decolonial studies, since the king’s body extends over the France’s colonialist project in America and impacts the creation of an African-American identity.