1. Introduce Rigaud’s portrait of Louis XV to students. Begin a discussion about the ways art communicates information visually using the portrait as an example of a persuasive tool and the text for the Art of Communication topic [see below]. Discuss:
2. Provide students with the handout on 18th-century France and attitudes toward Louis XIV and Louis XV. Students may attempt additional research, but the handout includes information that may be difficult to find online or in general encyclopedias. Ask students to consider the portrait from the point of view of an 18th-century French person based on the information in the handout. Consider:
3. Inform students that outside of official court portraits, French citizens also saw the king’s portrait on a propaganda pamphlet published by supporters or detractors. Ask students to visualize what the portrait would look like, based on the point of view of the person publishing the pamphlet. How would a noble person make the king look? How would an anti-royalist depict the king? Have students respond in their writing journals.
4. Have students get in small groups of three to four to create a propaganda pamphlet about the new king from one of the following perspectives: natural (illegitimate, but recognized) child of Louis XIV; Philippe, duc d’Orléans; or a French anti-royalist. Before writing, have students bring in examples of modern documents with rhetorical language, such as newspaper editorials, campaign endorsements, advertisements, and real estate pamphlets. In their groups, ask students to determine frequent characteristics that appear in these texts, such as word choice, verb tense, subject (first, second, or third person). As a group, determine:
5. Using the informational handout and language analysis of rhetorical texts, have students write text for a propaganda pamphlet from their chosen point of view as a group. Instruct them to:
6. Once students have written and revised their text, ask them to create a portrait of Louis XV; Louis XIV; or Philippe, duc d’Orléans to accompany their texts. Remind them of the discussion about visualizing a portrait from a specific point of view from Step 3. Have students strategize and complete a design for the pamphlet that uses the text and image effectively.
7. Have the groups reproduce their pamphlets for the class. Discuss the different strategies groups used to communicate their assigned point of view. Have students reflect in their writing journal on the process of creating an argument. Consider: How did your point of view come across in the pamphlet? How persuasive was your argument? What parts of your argument worked well? What could have worked better? What would you change about your argument after seeing the efforts of the other groups? How did your portrait contribute to your argument?
When his great-grandfather died in 1715, Louis XV became king of France at the age of five. Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” had been the most powerful monarch of Europe during much of his long reign. He crafted for himself a persona of majesty and glory embodying the French nation and culture, an image reflected in the art of his court. For the sake of stability after his succession, the child-king is linked with the authority of his ancestors in this studio replica of his coronation portrait (the original is in the palace at Versailles) by his predecessor’s official portraitist. Rigaud makes him seem more mature than his age would suggest. The young monarch is endowed with majesty by his gesture, the sumptuous fabrics, and the regalia of his illustrious forebears. He holds the scepter of rule in his right hand and wears the insignia of the Order of the Holy Spirit on his chest. At his side are the French royal crown, the “Hand of Justice” that had belonged to Charles V, and the sword of Charlemagne, which can be seen today in the Louvre. The pose is also intended to evoke the grandeur of Louis XIV; the exposure of one stockinged leg, gracefully turned, was invented for the deceased king, who prided himself on his participation in the court ballets of Versailles.