Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies (as note 4), p. 171.


The image of the monarch was conceived as allegorical representation of the organic unity of the body politic. An idea which has probably never been summed up in a more poignant way than in Louis XIV’s laconic utterance: «L’état, c’est moi.» The organic unity of the body politic was also accomplished through a logic of temporality depicting the king as simultaneously timeless existence and historical figure. According to Kantorowicz: «the king, at least with regard to Time, had obviously ‘two natures’ - one which was temporal and by which he conformed with the conditions of other men, and another which was perpetual and by which he outlasted and defeated all other beings.» [20] It is the institution of royal power beyond time I will discuss next, and therefore turn towards the work of perhaps the most important artist in 17th century France and at the royal court in Versailles: Charles Le Brun. 

In his paintings, Le Brun not only apotheosises the body of the king as belonging to a sphere outside society but also the perpetual body of the king situated beyond time. In Le Brun’s allegorical paintings The Triumph of Alexander / Entry into Babylon (1661-65) and The Conquest of the Franche-Comté (1674) Louis XIV is depicted as the most glorious ruler of all time dominating the course of history. The first painting [fig. 2] shows Louis XIV in the guise of Alexander the Great as he enters the conquered city of Babylon in a golden chariot drawn by two decorated elephants, the royal cloak, his opulent helmet and sceptre referring to the glory of his reign.

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