Print

Monsieur

1676-1698 (made)

Henri Bonnart II

Height: 241 mm image, Width: 182 mm image, Height: 280 mm sheet, Width: 189 mm sheet

24703:9 PDP

Print depicting Monsieur, Philippes de France, Duc d'Orleans by Henri Bonnart II, 1676-1698

Monsieur is shown standing by steps with a garden in the background. He is wearing a curled wig, cravat, a highly decorated frock coat, heeled shoes and a sword. He holds a undecorated cane.

Monsieur was the name/title traditionally given to the King’s eldest brother. This print by Henri Bonnart, an artist renowned for prints showing fashions, shows Philippe, Duc d’Orleans, the brother of Louis XIV. It is from a series of prints showing figures from the French Court. Monsieur wears a heavily brocaded waistcoat, under a long coat, with tight stockings - typical of those worn formally and for court. His costume shows other marks of a fashionable courtier include the high peaked wig worn over his shoulders and front, a sword and a cane and heeled shoes with expensive buckles. Gentlemen wore heeled shoes, rather than boots, with lace or buckles. The court of Louis XIV is believed to have originated the wearing of red soled shoes, now a feature of shoes made by Laboutin. The court of Louis XIV was extremely opulent and courtiers were expected to dress to reflect their position. The court of the Sun King was characterised by [excessive] protocol governing behavior, etiquette, precedence and dress – a policy used by Louis XIV to control and distract his court. He hoped his courtiers’ time and resources were spent on impressing him rather than plotting rebellion. A high-ranking courtier would need a large and expensive wardrobe because rules for clothing, as well as behaviour, were carefully stratified so that only those of higher rank could wear certain fabrics or styles. An English commentator, the Rev John Andrews, noted in 1770 that French court dress is ‘a piece of state policy to prevent their employing their intellectual faculties’ . Such elaborate fashions were rare in England where high society was less centred around the court.

One of 15 engraved portraits of the French Court of Louis XIV.

Location: Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case 2, shelf H, box 12

View this object on the V&A website