Painter and sculptor Antoine Benoist is best known for a profile relief portrait of Louis XIV in polychrome wax. The striking verisimilitude of this work and his other wax creations readily evoke the popular wax statues at Madame Tussauds. In this lecture, Charles Kang, curator at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, explores the outer limits of royal portraiture at the time of Louis XIV, beyond oil paintings, marble busts, bronze statues, and medals. Kang also looks at two other works that Benoist produced towards the end of his career: a group of grisaille miniature portraits in elaborate gilt bronze frames and a manuscript biography of Louis XIV decorated with similar miniatures in gouache. Through these works, Benoist attempted to reposition himself as a chronicler of royal likeness rather than as a wax portraitist.

Charles Kang is Curator of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Drawings at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Responsible for the museum’s collection of Dutch and European drawings, he is currently working on several projects, including one on the rise of private drawing societies in the Netherlands and another on the relationship between artistic drawing and early ethnography. He trained in eighteenth-century French art and visual culture and holds a PhD from Columbia University and an MA from Williams College in the history of art.

Bard Graduate Center is grateful for the generous support of the Selz Foundation.