Royal Treasures from the Louvre: Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette

By Marc Bascou, Michèle Bimbenet-Privat, and Martin Chapman

French decorative arts reached their highest point in craftsmanship and design between the reign of Louis XIV and the Revolution, beginning with the sumptuous works of art made at the Gobelins manufactory, which was established to furnish the royal palaces, and continuing with the luxury pieces created in specialist workshops across Paris until the end of the ancien régime. Published on the occasion of a world-exclusive exhibition at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, Royal Treasures from the Louvre reveals the story of patronage and collecting among the French kings and queens with some of the greatest works of art from the collection of the Musée du Louvre, Paris, alongside illuminating essays describing the history and background of these beautiful royal objects.

The making of opulent art objects as gifts and for personal use was a matter of great pride for European royalty. To promote the prestige of the French court, Louis XIV established the tradition of the présents du roi—lavish goods presented as diplomatic gifts from the king, including portrait miniatures, jeweled snuff boxes, and tapestries, and followed later by presentation porcelain dinner services and vases. The increasingly intimate lifestyle of the French court is also reflected in personal objects of unsurpassed luxury such as Louis XIV’s precious hardstone vases, known as the Gemmes de la Couronne, and the many exquisite objects from the private apartments of Marie-Antoinette.

Drawing from the works in the museum’s extraordinary Département des Objets d’Art, Royal Treasures form the Louvre examines the full breadth of decorative arts in 17th- and 18th-century France, offering readers copious views into the splendor of the French court.


Marc Bascou is the director of the Département des Objets d’Art at the Musée du Louvre. He has recently curated the exhibitions Biedermeier, Vienne et Prague 1815–1830 and Breguet. He is presently in charge of the renovation of the 18th-century galleries at the Louvre.

Michèle Bimbenet-Privat is a chief curator in the Département des Objets d’Art at the Musée du Louvre. Her recent publications include Le Bain et le Miroir and La Collection Jourdan-Barry.

Martin Chapman is the curator in charge of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. His recent exhibitions and publications include Cartier and America and Marie-Antoinette and the Petit Trianon at Versailles. He is currently leading the renovation of the Salon Doré from the Hôtel de La Trémoille at the Legion of Honor.

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