Robert Wellington will deliver a Françoise and Georges Selz Lecture on Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century French Decorative Arts and Culture on Tuesday, January 26 at 6 pm. His talk is entitled “Sun King to Moon King: Emulating the Grand Siècle in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.”


Robert Wellington is a lecturer at the Center for Art History and Art Theory at the Australian National University. He is a specialist in the material and intellectual culture of Louis XIV’s court. His current projects include an investigation of Louis XIV prints and medals as objects of cross-cultural exchange, and a study of appropriations of the Sun King’s iconography in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His book Antiquarianism and the Visual Histories of Louis XIV: Artifacts for a Future Past was published in September 2015.

At Bard Graduate Center, Wellington will explore the appropriation and transformation of Louis XIV iconography and period style in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century decorative arts. Friends and enemies alike embraced (and parodied) the visual and material culture of Louis’s court. When the Duke of Marlborough routed the Sun King’s armies, he claimed a thirty-ton marble bust of Louis XIV as a trophy for the façade of Blenheim Palace—a literal translation accompanied by broad iconographic emulations in the tapestries and painted cycles made to celebrate British victories over the French. Such was the abiding power of the Sun King’s image in the late nineteenth century that the eccentric Ludwig II created a replica of Versailles on an island in the Chiemsee lake in Bavaria. With his preference for nocturnal living, Ludwig fashioned himself as the Moon King, a reflection of the solar persona of his illustrious forbear. From stately homes in Britain to fantasy castles in Bavaria and beaux-arts buildings in New York, this talk addresses the motives of the aristocrats and industrialists who echoed and reinterpreted Grand-Siècle style for their own ends.