Les Globes de Louis XIV
When le Grand Palais (above) was re-opened in septembre 2005after a twelve-year restoration, the opening show was a display of the huge terrestial and celestial globes built for Louis XIV by Vincenzo Coronelli.
Vincenzo Coronelli, born in Venice in 1650, was a Franciscan monk as well as a cartographer. One of his most significant accomplishments was the pair of giant globes (completed in 1683) which he produced on commission for King Louis XIV . Each one measured almost four metres, thirteen feet, in diameter, and had a doorway through which people could enter to observe the globe from the interior. About thirty people could fit inside each one.
Coronelli was a doctor of Theology at the Collegium San Bonaventura in Rome. In 1678 Coronelli created two globes for the Duke of Parma. These globes had a diameter of 175 centimetres, 5.75 feet, and were finely crafted. This drew the attention of the French ambassador, d'Estree, who subsequently invited Coronelli to Paris. Coronelli moved to the French capital in 1681, where he lived for two years. Coronelli was commissioned by the cardinal to produce the two globes for Louis XIV. Due to his renown, Coronelli worked in various European countries in the following years, permanently returning to Venice in 1705. In Venice he founded the very first geographical society, the Accademia Cosmografica degli Argonauti. He also held the position of Cosmographer of the Republic of Venice.
The terrestial globe shows the world as it was known in the late XVII ème siecle, while the celestial globe shows stars and their constellations.
D'Estree told Colbert, Louis XIV's prime minister, about the globes for the duke of Parma. It is said that it was the idea of Colbert to have these larger globes made for the king. By the end of 1704, the globes were installed at the Chateau de Marly, in Yvelines. The globes remained at Marly for a long time. For this reason, the globes are often called the Marly globes. Colbert died in 1683, the year that the globes were finished. This perhaps why the globes were never installed in le Château de Versailles, although that was their intended destination.
The last time the public saw these globes was twenty five years ago in le centre Pompidou in Paris. Before the exhibition at le centre Pompidou, the globes had not been publicly seen for one hundred years.
With their display in le Grand Palais now ended, the globes will be restored and shown in the National Library of France during 2006.
A map of the known world, together with illustrations of different human peoples and crafts, such as whaling, decorated the Terrestial globe . One notable part of the map of North America showed California as a separate moon-crescent island, while another part showed the mouth of the Mississippi river displaced. Whether this last was a cartographer’s error, or a ploy by Louis XIV to confuse those wishing to invade his colony across the Atlantic, is not known. (The colony is now Louisiana, Louis XIV sold it to the Americans for $US 11,250,000.)
Vincenzo Corneilli estimated that the globes cost $US174,000 (in today's dollars) to make, he received $US 80,053 from Cardinal Duc d’Estrée, the French ambassador to Rome, at the end of 1683. However, Corneilli was also able to use the wealth of ducumentation generated to produce his engraved atlas.
In 1715, Louis XIV decided to transfer the globes to Paris, which was done by 1722, the globes being part of a special Room of Globes in the Library of the King. This room was open to the public from 1872 until it was closed and then transformed into a reading room in 1900. From 1901 to 1980, the globes were kept in packing cases in the Orangery at Versailles. They were taken out in 1980 for an exhibition on cartography at the Pompidou Centre, Paris, to be seen by 200,000 people. The globes were then reboxed up and warehoused at La Villette. The Library of the King became, in due course, la bibliotèque Nationale de France, the National Library of France.
Specifications of the globes:
Weight: 1,500 kilograms, 3,307 pounds
• arched and tapered wood struts; 3 metres long, approx. 10 centimetres wide at the equator
• each hemisphere contains 120 struts
• the wood was covered by a shell of plaster on which was glued heavy canvas. A layer of filler followed then several other fine, plastered canvases with a last layer of canvas prepared as a painting support.
Three of the craftsmen who worked on the globes were:
• Giambattista Moro, catographer and worker
• Perronel, draughtsman
• Jean-Baptiste Corneille, painter of the celestial globe