Charles Le Brun (1619-1690). The glorious return of Alexander the Great to Babylon Tapestry panel from Aubusson (France) in the early 18th century. Wool and silk. 262 x 471 cm (maintenance restorations, later braids) Alexander's triumphant entry into Babylon is part of a set of four monumental paintings by Le Brun (1619†1690) between 1661 and 1665. Of the four scenes, the most famous is known under the two titles Alexander's Triumph and Alexander's Entry into Babylon. Heir to medieval law and ancient fashion, the Grand Siècle knows both terms, that of triumph directly linked to the victory that founds sovereignty (the army makes the emperor), on the other hand, in feudal custom, the joyful entry into a city gives concrete form to the taking of potestas by the Prince. In both cases, whether it is the Medieval Entrance and the Ancient Triumph, there is a dimension of universal royalty, represented by the parasol. In this painting, Brown places Alexander at the centre of the composition. Exposed to veneration, like Christ on Palm Sunday walking the Triumphal Way, he embodies the famous Carolingian canticle of acclaim Christus Vincit, Christus reigned, Christus imperat, on a chariot harnessed to the elephant of booty taken from the defeated Persians. Alexander freed himself from the narrow function of Macedonian king, left the rank of Primus interpares of the Balkan warriors and dominated the procession as much as the city of Babylon. Decorated with a battle scene, the chariot serves as an ex-voto to victory. Alexander holds in his hand the scepter of a sovereign surmounted by a Victory which legitimizes both the potestas and the auctoritas (temporal power and spiritual authority) because he is at the same time king, priest and prophet. The officer on horseback is one of the generals, Hephaestus, who had the double doors opened as required by royal honours and gave the order to burn incense on the tripods and to spread flowers on the ground: incense represents in a strong sense the divine presence, while giving off the famous "smell of holiness", while flowers such as the lily of the Annunciation, the twigs, the rosary express all that Christian iconography conveys. Alexander leads his army on the glorious path, assuming the responsibility of leading it into imperishable history. At the height of his genius, Charles Le Brun was recognized as the only artist capable of creating the image of the celestial palace of universal royalty, the decor of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. In this sense, this painting of Alexander's Entry into Babylon crowns both the artist and the Sun King. It precedes the works of Gaspard Diziani and Francesco Fontebasso, each author of an interpretation of Alexander's entry into Babylon.
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