The Baroque era occurred during the time of the French absolute monarchs such as Louis XIII and Louis XIV. The consolidation of power in France was realized in the personality of Louis XIV. The absolute monarch fanatically controlled every facet of the French government, society as well as culture. The monarch also transformed himself into the exclusive arbiter of fashion, as well as the sole guiding hand concerning the French Baroque fashion. It was during the reign of Louis XIV that France developed into the most powerful nation across Europe in terms of military might and cultural influence.
Hersey (54) asserts that, by the late 17th century, France had transformed into the global hub in regard to visual arts. It is imperative to note that the French Baroque art emanated from the practice of 16th century art that was renowned for lavishness and affluent ornamentation. The core rationale for this extravagance and affluent ornamentation was the glorification of the ruling absolute monarchy. Painting depicted noble, as well as serious human activities in a rational and methodical manner. The focus of the artists was primarily on composition and form, fascinating the mind, rather than the senses. According to Harris (102), nature was portrayed as if it was flawless, rather than as it was in reality. This normally generated idealistic paintings that were crafted in a manner that the audience was capable of interpreting them logically.
As a result of the influence of the French monarchy on the baroque, fashion changed speedily as the increasing middle class took up the fashion trends of the nobles. The ruling elite would in turn generate new fashions in order to maintain a more “polished” status than the middle class. In contrast to the preceding eras, where bodices, breeches, jackets, sleeves, and skirts were intended to mix and match, outfits throughout this age was prepared as separate and completely matching outfits, normally made of the same textile. The most significant development of this era was the emergence of fashion designers after the monarch Louis XIV certified the founding of a dress-makers guild Hersey (79).
In France, Baroque art was predominantly an expression of the ideals of the French monarchy, in particular of King Louis XIV. A case in point is the grand palace of Versailles that was constructed by the French monarchy a as an icon of his absolute power. The blueprint of the palace, as well as the surrounding park is the creation of a rational and strictly disciplined approach that mirrors the monarch's control of government. The sculpture, architecture and painting that adorn the palace are entirely classical in fashion. They were intended to communicate a sense of the methodical and eternal truths of the monarch's political policies. Throughout the Baroque era passion for classical antiquity, together with a cult of rationalism, promoted the advancement of a monumental, as well as formalized art (Harris 157).
It is essential to note that, the shift toward political centralization in France culminated during the Baroque era, and Louis XIV’s absolute monarchy. This movement was attended by artistic totalitarianism that was marked by the control and consolidation of artistic works to the service of the state, in addition to the establishment of art institutions. During the later Baroque era, the power of the monarch’s painters grew increasingly, marked by the monarch’s propagandists as the monarch took absolute charge of the government.
Harris, A. Seventeenth-Century Art and Architecture. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice-Hall, 2005. Print
Hersey, G. Architecture and Geometry in the Age of the Baroque. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. Print.
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