Abu Dhabi: Employed to exert the mastery of one empire over the other, much of the arts in the 18th century focused on venerating rulers and highlighting their power and dominion.
A massive equestrian painting of the French Sun King, Louis XIV, typifies this trend, engaging visitors in The Magnificence of the Court gallery. Another royal painting of Indian Mughal empire viceroy, Shuja Al Daula and his son, hangs on the wall, having been painted in 1772.
A major feature of these regal depictions is the incorporation of horses, which have long been considered symbols of power and majesty. A mesmerising 18th-century marble sculpture that once adorned the gardens of the chateau of Versailles therefore fittingly dominates much of the space. There is also an equestrian bronze sculpture of Philip V of Spain, dating back to 1702-1705 — the monumental original is said to have once been installed at the centre of a royal palace.
An adjoining room harbours many of the artefacts of war, proof of the colonisation and defence activities of the period. An Ottoman turban helmet, a Japanese ceremonial armour and Turkish daggers are on display in the cases.
Offering a different perspective, a set of fascinating ink paintings from the Orient trace how landscape scenes slowly became the subject of works of art instead of being relegated to the background.
It is also refreshing to see African art at the service of power. In the kingdom of Benin, once situated in modern-day Nigeria, the Oba (the king) commissioned commemorative heads of predecessor for worship, while a statue shows the sovereign surrounded by warriors and musicians.
Although many visitors fail to note the tiny alcove at the exit, it offers a glimpse of 18th century interior decoration in elite Parisian residences, with elaborate wood panelling and a ceiling painted with an allegory of nobility.
Timings and entry fee: 10am-8pm on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday; 10am-10pm on Thursday and Friday
Dh30: 13-22 years
Dh30: Education professionals
Free entry: Children under 13. Members of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Art Club loyalty programme, journalists, visitors with specials needs and their companions
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