"The Sun King at Sea - Maritime Art and Galley Slavery in Louis XIV's France" by Meredith Martin

The Sun King at Sea - Maritime Art and Galley Slavery in Louis XIV's France Meredith Martin, Gillian Weiss

Publication date:
04 Jan 2022
Getty Publications
256 pages:


Mediterranean maritime art, and the forced labor on which it depended, was fundamental to the politics and propaganda of France's King Louis XIV. Most studies of French art in this period focus on Paris and Versailles, paying little attention to the presence or portrayal of galley slaves on the kingdom's coasts. By examining a wide range of artistic productions-ship design, artillery sculpture, medals, paintings, and prints-Meredith Martin and Gillian Weiss uncover a vital aspect of royal representation and unsettle a standard picture of art and power during Louis XIV's reign. With an abundant selection of startling images, many never before published, The Sun King at Sea emphasizes the role of esclaves turcs (enslaved Turks)-rowers who were captured or purchased from Islamic lands-in building and decorating ships and other art objects that circulated between coast and capital to proclaim the power of the Sun King. This cross-disciplinary study challenges the conventional notion that human bondage vanished from continental France before the modern period. It invites a reassessment of servitude as a visible condition, mode of representation, and symbol of sovereignty in early modern France.

Meredith Martin is associate professor at New York University. She is an art historian specializing in French art, architecture, empire, and intercultural exchange from the late seventeenth to early nineteenth centuries. Gillian Weiss is associate professor at Case Western Reserve University. She is a historian specializing in early modern France, its relations with the Islamic world, and Mediterranean slavery.