Decorative Supremacy: French Diplomatic Gifts in the 18th century

helen jacobsen picture

By the late 17th century decorative art played an increasing role in diplomatic exchange. Nowhere was this more relevant than in France, where one of the underlying policies espoused by Colbert and Louis XIV was the promotion of France as a centre of artistic production and luxury goods manufacture.

The Wallace Collection contains one of the greatest collections of French eighteenth-century decorative art in the country and provides a useful starting point from which to explore the way in which the Bourbon monarchy used art to bolster its diplomatic activities and underscore its diplomatic networks. Many of the works of art that formed part of this exchange have stood the test of time rather more successfully than the policies with which they were associated and studying extant objects helps shed light on the practice rather than the theory of diplomatic etiquette.

Using examples from international collections, including the Wallace Collection in London, this talk will illustrate some of the artistic creativity and achievement that went into the production of these gifts which helped France retain its position at the centre of the luxury market throughout the 18th century.

All are welcome.


Diplomacy in Early Modern Period 1400-1800

Contact name: Ruggero Sciuto

Contact email:

Audience: Open to all