Perrault's memoirs and Bernini: a reconsideration



Gianlorenzo Bernini was invited to Paris by Louis XIV, from June through October 1665, to oversee his plan for the expansion of the Louvre. This design was not implemented, but during his brief stay, Bernini made a dramatic impression on contemporary eyewitnesses, including the French writer Charles Perrault. Perrault's Memoirs have been discounted as a credible source, since his brother Claude was ultimately selected as the architect of the Louvre's new east façade, and Perrault is assumed to have been among many at the French court who were biased against the Italian artist. Much of what Perrault described, however, was independently corroborated in other accounts, including his description of Bernini's personality and his critiques of Bernini's artistic works. Those works include the rejected plan for the Louvre and the portrait bust and equestrian sculpture of Louis XIV. This article proposes a reconsideration of Perrault's testimony as a legitimate historical record, rather than a malicious invention of the ‘French cabal’.