Charles de La Fosse was commissioned to work on the upper calotte and pendentives in the Dome of Saint-Louis des Invalides Church in 1702. Modifying the iconographic programme of the first project from 1677, the representation of France's military victories along with warrior saints, heroes and strong women of the Old Testament was replaced by angels playing music or carrying the instruments of the Passion. This painting is the modello (a sketch shown to a patron) of the decoration for the cupola that was submitted to the king and his ministers.
About the work
Apotheosis of Saint Louis
© musée de l'Armée (Dist. RMN-Grand Palais) photo Emilie Cambier
There are a few small differences between the modello and the engraving by Charles Nicolas Cochin, who exactly reproduced the decoration on the dome's calotte, the details of the drapery, and the number and gestures of the angels. Although the harmonious palette of colours, combining soft tones and golden light, recalls the art of Correggio, La Fosse adopted a circular, swirling composition, filled with space in the centre, to strengthen the illusion of an imaginary breakthrough.
Saint Louis, from whom Louis XIV took his line of descent, is shown kneeling before Christ, who blesses the king's sword, thus sanctifying the royal role in making war. Behind the saint, two angels are holding France's coat of arms.
Christ's martyrdom is suggested by the presence of the instruments of the Passion, the column where he was scourged and the cross.
Lastly, seated in the clouds, several musician angels are singing. One is playing the harp, looking upwards, and four others are playing a range of instruments, including the lute, the organ and the violin.
Date : Circa 1702-1705
Width : 1,995 m
Author : Charles de La Fosse (1636-1716)
Inventory no. : 2 ; Ea 0014
Techniques : Oil on canvas
History : On display from 1874 in the Governors' office, transferred to the Hôtel des Invalides in 1897