The Absolute Center of an Absolute King�
An analytical summary of Louis Marin's "Classical, Baroque: Versailles, or the Architecture of the Prince"
By Olaf Lyczba
April 22, 2010
Louis XIV's France was an absolute monarchy, meaning the king had the power, control, finances and the nation in his hands more then ever before. In the 17th century, France was the strongest and wealthiest nation in Europe, and the head of the state, the king, was the most influential person of the time. In the ideas of the scientific revolution and the soon-coming changes of the enlightenment the country was developing. For a few decades France was not involved in any major wars or battles and the peace helped the population grow fast.
Life in Paris however was nothing like we think of it today. The overpopulated capital suffered from lack of space, diseases, and many other problems caused by urbanization. The royal court was located in the centre of paris, making the king live an isolated life because of all the issues previously mentioned. The only logical solution was to move the court with all the people to a new, fresh and open location, matching the rank of them.
The palace of Versailles is a building complex in the city of Versailles, right outside of Paris. It was an often visited royal hunting place of Louis XIII. It is now one of the biggest palaces in the world, which once served as the home of the French royalty. Its building began in the 17th century when the chateau and the surrounding parks were constructed. Later Louis XIV decided to expand the building and make it the center of the king and the governing location of the French monarchy. Louis XV added new parts as well, which made the former lodge look more or less as it does today; glorious and powerful.
The absolute center of an absolute king
In Louis Marin's analysis of the royal palace the emphasis is on the meaning of the place; how this high place of baroque architecture set a classical model for its time, and how every little detail of it represented the Prince (the king), and his ideals. The construction which was perfectly defined in itself was born into international mannerism, started off as classicism and ended up being neo-classic at its peak at around 1750.
The architecture of the prince represents the place of his greatest power. The reading tries to distinguish the tension between baroque and classical and how the state power is expressed and constructed. The king as the architectural is the subject of Versailles, where the kingdom receives its most perfect concentration. This is where the king is not only the absolute political power and the leader of his nation but also the center of the universe and eternity. With this standing in the background the construction becomes real, imaginary and symbolic at once.
In the following text I will try to explain how "Versailles works" with the help of the three main notions of the study. First, the place and its relation to space and time - location and historical background. Second, the power's relation to representation - how superiority is shown. And finally the monumentality - how all this becomes absolute.
The first part of the reading focuses on this triple meaning, three terms that are related to one another and that make up one of the major principles of the construction.
How is a place different from space? To start off we need to understand the meaning of place (lieu). It is in the Aristotelean definition a primary and immobile surface of a body which surrounds another - _the space in which the body is placed_. The spot intended for setting something either by nature or by art. It designates to a fixed and determined spot which one wishes to mark and distinguish. A place also serves as a center or in this case a country seat (chef-lieu) - a principal manor house to which one is obligated to bring fidelity and respect. The seventeenth...
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