Louis XIV employed the theme of the chariot of Apollo at Versailles and the smaller Grand Trianon to suggest that they were places where the new Apollo, Louis, could rest after a hard day driving the chariot of state. Pictorially and iconographically ‘The Setting of the Sun’ is a grand reworking of the same theme, where the subject of Apollo returning to his beloved is now associated with Louis XV and his mistress Madame de Pompadour. In January of 1752 Madame de Pompadour commissioned a Gobelins tapestry of the same subject. The present picture is the preparatory cartoon for the tapestry. It was an audacious iconographical choice, for by suggesting such a subject, Madame de Pompadour was comparing herself to the famous mistresses of Louise XIV and to France herself. The paintings remained in the marquise’s possession until her death and appeared in her posthumous sale in Paris in 1766.
Where to see this painting?
The Wallace Collection
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