Louis XIV ruled France from 1654 to 1715. His reign of 72 years and 110 days is the longest of any monarch in European history! He was known as Louis le Grand (Louis the Great) or le Roi-Soleil (the Sun King).
During Louis's reign, France flourished. Historians believe Louis' reign marked the birth of modern France - he was able to centralise the country resulting in less civil wars and aristocratic rebellions. While Louis XIV was King, France was the leading European power and was admired for its political, military and cultural success.
Louis XIV was known as the Sun King because he chose the Sun as his personal symbol after playing the Sun in the Ballet de la Nuit as a young King. Louis identified so strongly with the sun as his personal symbol as it was associated with Apollo, the Greek god of peace and arts. It was also the heavenly body which gave life to all things, regulating everything as it rose and set.
Louis XIV moved the French government and court to the Palace of Versailles in 1682. References to the sun can be found throughout the Palace and grounds. For example, the path of the sun is traced in the layout of the gardens. Also, in the King's Grand Apartment, the Apollo Salon was the most luxurious of all the rooms.
You can find the sun symbol dotted all around the palace at Versailles. In this fun craft we are going to make our own sun symbols, just like Louis XIV!
Make a Versaille Clay Sun
You will need:
air dry modelling lay or salt dough (we used around half 125g per person)
modelling tools (or a knife and fork from the kitchen)
water-proof sealer (optional)
Take 90% of the modelling clay and make a ball shape in the palm of your hand - the little part of clay you're leaving will be used for making facial features later on.
Flatten the ball into a half sphere.
Using our sun king image sheet as inspiration, create a sun face out of your clay. You can use the spare amount of clay to shape facial features, hair, etc.
Let your Sun King clay face dry out. This will depend on the clay and time of year. Ours took three days to dry completely, we left them on a sheet of paper in the sun.
Once the clay is dry, use your gold paint to paint the entire sun. Leave to dry.
Coat the sun with a thin layer of water-proof sealer and let dry before adding a second coat. If you like you can finish off with a coat of varnish.