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Francesco Solimena, 'An Allegory of Louis XIV', about 1700

Key facts
Full title An Allegory of Louis XIV
Artist Francesco Solimena
Artist dates 1657 - 1747
Date made about 1700
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 47 × 58.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Philip Hendy, 1989
Inventory number NG6521
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
An Allegory of Louis XIV
Francesco Solimena

This oil sketch has long been associated with a finished painting known as the Allegory of Louis XIV, King of France (State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg). Both feature Minerva, goddess of wisdom and warfare; here, she is seated on the back of a lion and points with a commanding gesture to a shield held up by putti. Next to Minerva is an aged, bearded man personifying Time, identifiable by the scythe and hourglass lying beside him. He bends forward under the weight of a book, in which the winged figure of Fame (or History) is about to write.

The shield in the St Petersburg painting has been filled with an inscription and a portrait likeness of Empress Catherine the Great, but here it bears neither a portrait nor an inscription. Although the sketch was previously thought to be an oil study for the finished painting, it is more likely a record of Solimena’s composition that he kept in his studio to show to prospective patrons.

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