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Head of King Louis XV
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François Le Moyne
French, about 1729
Black chalk and pastel
11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in.
96.GB.22

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When François Le Moyne produced this pastel drawing of him, the French King Louis XV was only nineteen years old. Viewed from below, Louis poses informally without a wig, his hair left long and unpowdered. He gazes off into the distance, wearing a calm yet regal expression.

Using fine strokes of black chalk, Le Moyne created the young king's gently curling hair. Delicate lines of pastel give soft highlights to his hair, eyes, nose, and slightly pursed lips. Darker shadows around the jaw line form Louis's round and fleshy chin.

Le Moyne made this drawing as a preparatory study for the head of the king in an allegorical portrait, Louis XV Bestows Peace upon Europe. The work was commissioned in 1729 when the king was trying to build a central role for France as a peacemaker. The painting, which originally hung at the entrance to the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, was as much a tool for propaganda as it was a portrait of the young ruler.