MARS, VENUS AND ETERNAL GLORY. A CONTRIBUTION TO RESEARCH ON ALLEGORICAL MEANING IN OCCASIONAL GRAPHICS OF THE LOUIS XIV TIMES (ON THE BASIS OF THE WROCLAW NATIONAL MUSEUM COLLECTIONS)
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The 17th century, full of wars, was called the 'Century of the Soldier' or - poetically - 'Century of Mars'. The reign of Louis XIV in France, a new military power in Europe, was punctuated with military conflicts. Victorious battles were often depicted in arts, but also peace, prosperity and good fortune. In spreading a desirable image of the ruler, who owing to his 'great deeds' was to achieve 'eternal glory', of substantial importance was occasional graphic commemorating important events and their celebrations. We find in it a recurring repertoire of motifs associated with the classical culture: ancient and the one already filtered by the Renaissance thought and art. Hercules symbolised courage, strength and the ideal of good governance. Apollo, identified with the god of the Sun, a divine patron of learning and arts, was often depicted because of the personal emblem of Louis XIV and the king's role as a patron of arts. Athena (Minerva) was presented as a patroness of sciences and arts, but was also associated with just war, led wisely and prudently, as in opposition to the gods of war Mars and Bellona, symbolising violence and cruelty. Mars also represented the readiness to fight and was an allegory of won Peace or Eternity. Hydra stood for a symbol of heresy; with the heads cut off she was to symbolise the triumph of Catholic faith during the rule of Louis XIV. Hymenaios signified the solemnity and permanence of marriages initiated by Cupid. Bacchus, Vertumnus and Pomona, as well as the Cornucopiae recalled the image of happiness with carefree good time and fortune. The caduceus of mediator Mercury and olive branch reminded that all these goods were brought about by peace. This image of common happiness and prosperity referred to the ancient vision of 'golden age'. Invincible France was symbolised by numerous war trophies, often in connection with a personification of Fama blowing on a trumpet - announcing to the world the glory of the French monarch. The motif of immortal fame was often related to the allegory of Eternity. The context of time (or actually of timelessness) was often supplemented by the personifications of the Four Seasons, Four Times of the Day or allegories of the months. The allegories of Four Rivers evoking the context of space, in connection with personifications of the Four Elements and (or) corresponding Four Temperaments suggested that the imagined ideological system consisted of all elements of the universe. The symbolic language used in occasional graphic of the mid-17th century was consistent with theoretical treatises and mythological 'dictionaries' published at that time. Of other character - associated with religious iconography - were personifications of Religion, Faith, Divine Providence, Piety or Justice. More concrete and individual language of emblems, accompanied by verbal commentaries indicating an interpretation of visual communication, formed a specific language of imagery, used in occasional architecture. An abundance and variety of motifs offered an opportunity to create complex iconographic programmes which were to create an appropriate image of the king.
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