Louis Figgis as Saint Louis

5x7 inches
Saint Louis was Louis the IX of France. The only canonised French king, he was born on the 25th April 1214, died in 1270 and was canonised in 1297. His feast day is the 25th of August and he is the patron saint of France, hairdressers and embroiderers.

He was a crusader and died during his second crusade outside Tunis, some say of bubonic plague, others dysentery.

Saint Louis established the Sorbonne University and commissioned the Sainte-Chapelle on the Ile de la Cité in Paris where the crown of thorns is housed. The Sainte-Chapelle is my first 'wow' moment as a child when I saw it. Aged 10 my grand-parents took me on a trip to Paris where amongst other things I got frowned at by choir boys whilst eating the biggest lolly-pop ever in Notre-Dame. Having over the years been reluctantly dragged to many a Romanesque church as part of my cultural formation, the Gothic splendour of the Sainte-Chapelle took my by surprise.

On the other island in the Seine, the Ile Saint-Louis, there is a church called Saint-Louis en l''île. That church has a most splendid perforated spire.

In that church I drew most of the patterns used in this icon, although the ones on the side are islamic patterns, an allusion to his crusades. There is obviously a fair amount of fleurs de lys as these are emblems of the kings of France and I wanted to keep to the colour scheme of the Sainte Chapelle.

Louis Figgis grew up in the grounds of where I have my studio. As he is rather dashing, I thought he would make a fine king. I hope he will be glad I did not give him Louis the IX's hair style, patron saint of hairdressers or not.