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The Sun King at Sea

The Sun King at Sea aims to unsettle a standard picture of art and power during Louis XIV’s reign. Focusing on France’s Mediterranean coast rather than the capital, we examine royal efforts to build a robust galley fleet inspired by ancient conquerors and medieval crusaders and partly powered by esclaves turcs. These rowers, captured or purchased from Islamic lands, occupied the most technically demanding positions at the oar. From a royal perspective, their subjection made galleys into effective sea machines for fighting infidels while countering criticisms about France’s longstanding alliance with the Ottoman Empire. Galleys, however, were not only a top-down production orchestrated by the Crown. In this talk, we look closely at a late seventeenth-century shipbuilding manual produced by naval officers in Marseille, which makes a case for the ongoing importance of galleys and enslaved rowers as important manifestations of Mediterranean dominance, chivalric honor, and Catholic devotion.

18th- and 19th-Century French and British art, architecture, material culture, and landscape design; art and gender politics; cross-cultural encounters in European art; interiors and identity; historical revivalism and contemporary art. Dr. Martin is also a founding editor of Journal18 (

The Sun King at Sea: Maritime Art and Galley Slavery in Louis XIV's France (co-authored with Gillian Weiss) (Los Angeles, CA: Getty Research Institute Publications, 2022)

Winner of a CAA/Millard Meiss Publication Grant

Reimagining the Ballet des Porcelaines, ed. Meredith Martin, with contributions by Phil Chan and Charlotte Vignon (Harvey Miller/Brepols, 2022)

Meltdown: Picturing the World's First Bubble Economy (co-authored with Nina Dubin and Madeleine Viljoen) (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols-Harvey Miller Publishers, 2020)

Dairy Queens: The Politics of Pastoral Architecture from Catherine de’ Medici to Marie-Antoinette (Cambridge, Ma: Harvard University Press, 2011)

Objects in Motion in the Early Modern World, co-edited with Daniela Bleichmar, special issue of Art History, vol. 38, no. 4 (September 2015)

Architectural Space in Eighteenth-Century Europe: Constructing Identities and Interiors, co-edited with Denise Baxter (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010)

Period Eye: Karen Kilimnik’s Fancy Pictures, co-authored with Scott Rothkopf (London: Serpentine Gallery/Koenig Books, 2007)


Meredith Martin is an associate professor of art history at NYU and the Institute of Fine Arts. A specialist in early modern French art and architecture, she is the co-author (with Gillian Weiss) of The Sun King at Sea: Maritime Art and Gallery Slavery in Louis XIV’s France, which has just been published by the Getty Research Institute. She is also the author of Dairy Queens: The Politics of Pastoral Architecture from Catherine de’ Medici to Marie-Antoinette (Harvard University Press, 2011), and a co-author of Meltdown: Picturing the World’s First Bubble Economy (Harvey Miller/Brepols, 2020), which is related to an exhibition that she, Nina Dubin, and Madeleine Viljoen curated on the 1720 Mississippi and South Sea bubbles for The New York Public Library. Together with the choreographer and activist Phil Chan, Martin has also reimagined and restaged a lost French ballet from 1739 known as the Ballet des Porcelaines, or The Teapot Prince, which premiered at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in December. She is a founding editor of Journal18

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