For its contribution to the 250th anniversary of St. Louis, the St. Louis Art Museum is planning an exhibition showcasing the influence of Louis IX on the world of art. Louis IX, also known as St. Louis, is the city’s namesake.
At the heart of the exhibit will be a folio out of a picture Bible on loan from the Morgan Library in New York.
“We believe that the king, Louis IX, actually commissioned this Bible,” said St. Louis Art Museum curator Judy Mann. “It is of such outstanding quality it had to have been a royal commission.”
And because the Bible was made between 1240 and 1250, Louis would have been king at the time, added Mann, whose specialty is European art to 1800.
With the Bible folio as its centerpiece, one gallery of the exhibit will be dedicated to Louis IX as a purveyor of 13th century art. A second gallery will demonstrate Louis’ influence on art in later centuries as a subject of artwork.
According to Thomas Madden, professor of medieval history at Saint Louis University, Louis’ arts patronage was an extension of his piety.
“In that period, the arts were not generally pursued for their own sake, but they were pursued usually out of pious devotion,” said Madden. “In his case, besides this Bible probably the thing [Louis] is best known for is the Sainte Chapelle, which still exists, anyone who goes to Paris can go there and see it. … It’s the chapel within the king’s palace. And he had it constructed because he had received this relic of the Crown of Thorns and he wanted a place to put this relic.”
“The early 13th century is the high point of the reliquary as an art form,” added Mann. “And here Louis commissions a building, a building almost of light because the building is almost all glass. ... It tells you of an extraordinary vision coming from the king.”
The opening of the exhibit is planned for Aug. 29, four days after the feast day of St. Louis and will run through November 2. In addition to the folio of the Bible commissioned by Louis, the exhibit will include a section on the illumination of manuscripts, an example of a 13th century reliquary, images of Sainte Chapelle, and painting of Louis IX from later centuries.
For more on the history of Louis IX, see the first segment of St. Louis on the Air from April 22.