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Mediterranean maritime art and the forced labor on which it depended were fundamental to the politics and propaganda of France’s King Louis XIV (r. 1643–1715). Yet most studies of French art in this period focus on Paris and Versailles, overlooking 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 in early modern France. 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 on land and by sea to glorify the Crown. Challenging the notion that human bondage vanished from continental France, this cross-disciplinary volume invites a reassessment of servitude as a visible condition, mode of representation, and symbol of sovereignty during Louis XIV’s reign.
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