Thursday, October 30, 2014

Paris - Le Chateau De Versailles

Date: 16th April 2014

The Palace of Versailles is a 300 over years royal chateau in Versailles located in the Ile-de-France region of France, known as the Chateau de Versailles in French. The chateau is 1 of the famous destination among foreign visitors, hence, you are advised to come as early as possible to short cut the queue. We took RER line since Versailles seated on Zone 5 which was outside the coverage of our 2 days Paris Passes. It was Wednesday, a normal working day that we visited the palace, but the queue was already formed up by the time we reached there at about 11am. For your information, there are 2 lines of queue for those who did not have any ticket yet, meaning you have to buy tickets and with that ticket you are required to stand on another queue to enter. There's a tight security point where everyone has to passed. As for our case, we patiently stood there for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, imagine if it's weekend. 

When the chateau was built, Versailles was a country village. Today, however, it became a wealthy suburb of Paris, although it located some 20 kilometers southwest of the French capital. The court of Versailles was the center of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789 after the beginning of the French Revolution. Versailles is therefore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the Ancient Regime.

The earliest mention of the name of Versailles is in a document dated 1038, relating to the village of Versailles. In 1575, the seigneur of Versailles was bought by Albert de Gondi, a naturalized Florentine (Italians), who invited Louis XIII on several hunting trips in the forests surrounding Versailles. Pleased with the location, Louis XIII ordered the construction of a hunting lodge in 1624. Eight years later, Louis obtained the seigneur of Versailles from the Gondi family and began to make enlargements to the chateau. Louis XIII's successor, Louis XIV, had it expanded into one of the largest palaces in the world. Following the Treaties of Nijmegen in 1678, he began to gradually move the court to Versailles. The court was officially established there on 6 May 1682.

Another advice to all is to bring something to read to kill your time during the long queue. And food too. I finished off my sandwiches while standing in the cold weather. 1 hour is really no jokes.  

1 hour 10 minutes after a long queue, we finally at the entrance gate. We were inside the palace courtyard at around 12.30 noon

After the disgrace of Nicolas Fouquet in 1661, Louis confiscated Fouquet's estate and employed the talents of Le Vau, Le Notre, and Le Brun, who all had worked on Fouquet's grand chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte, for his building campaigns at Versailles and elsewhere. For Versailles, there were four distinct building campaigns.

Our first view of the chateau, "The Chapel Royal" worth the long queue
The first area that we've been at is the Royal Chapel, the chapel that was used by Louis XIV for 5 years since it was not officially open until 1710 though the works begun in 1682. The decor was fixed in 1699, a design including a nave, aisles and ambulatory, an elevation with tribunes (or vaulted galleries), a harmony of white and gold contrasting with the polychrome of the ornamental marble tiling and vault paintings. It blend both Gothic architecture and baroque aesthetics. The King attended the daily mass in this royal tribune with his family. The public occupied the side galleries and the nave. Above the altar was where the chapel music choir performed.

King Louis XIV and I, he of course on the painting hung on the wall rode the white horse
The large painting in below photo is placed in the large Coronation Room which was transformed in the 19th century when King Louis-Philippe turned Versailles into a museum recounting history of France up to his own reign through paintings and sculptures. The paintings refers to the Napoleonic era, and its name stems from the presence of David's famous composition depicting the crowning ceremony. It was a coronation of Napoleon 1 and Josephine, which took place in Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral on 2 December 1804. Below is a replica. The original version is displayed in the Louvre.

Large painting in the coronation room
The Abundance Salon in below photo was where the refreshments were taken; coffee, wines and liqueurs were available on a sideboard. It was also the antechamber of Louis XIV's cabinet of curiosities. The king liked to show his distinguished guests the silver vases, gemstones and medals that were kept there and which inspired the decor of the arch. Though not visible in below photo, the large royal ship represented above the door is something that you can admired.

Abundance Salon

The Venus Salon is just next to the Abundance Salon furnished in striking green. Along with Diana Salon, this salon represented the main access to the state staircase, known as the Ambassador's Staircase led to this room. But the said staircase was destroyed in 1752. During state occasion evenings, tables were set out with baskets of flowers, pyramids of fresh and rare fruit. This salon is named after the planet, a theme linked to the solar myth that inspired all the decors in Versailles in the 1670's. The planet Venus is represented on the ceiling, in the form of the goddess of love, who was linked with this planet in ancient Greece. 

Venus Salon

The Mars Salon (in reference with below 2 photos) was originally design as the guard room for ceremonial purpose. As well as being a planet, Mars is also the god of war. The choice of this military theme (in shocking pink) that was to inspire the decoration throughout this large room can be explained by the fact that it was originally designed and subsequently used for music and dancing on state evenings, hence came to be commonly known as the ballroom. Court dances were very formal and required numerous rehearsals, princes took part in them, sometimes alongside professional dancers. 

The Mars Salon

We were so taken by another beauty of the State Apartment, Hercules Salon which was created at the end of Louis XIV reign. The building where the salon is located was constructed in 1682 on 2 floors and were in use until 1710, when it was replaced by the current chapel. The monumental painting visible in the above photo was by Veronese, "Christ at Supper with Simon", painted for the refectory of the Servite convent in Venice around 1570, was placed there in 1712. The painting was given to Louis XIV by the Doge to thank him for supporting Venice against the Turks. Francois Lemoine completed the ceiling painting in 1736 showing "The Apotheosis of Hercules"", designed to depict the fact that "virtue elevates man above himself". 

The Hercules Salon

We also visited the salon of wars in 2 below photos, where the salon was decorated and furnished in a richly gold ornaments. The building works commenced in 1678, the decoration completed in 1686, exalted the military conquest of the Dutch war (1672-1678), ending the treaty in Nijmegen. The walls were covered with marble panels decorated with 6 trophies and chutes dame's in gilded bronze. The ceiling, painted by Le Brun shows the centre "armed France seated on a cloud, surrounded by victories". A portrait of Louis XIV adorns her shield and the 3 vanquished enemies are displayed in the vaulted ceiling panels; Germany, kneeling with an eagle, a threatening Spain with a roaring lion and Holland, upside down on a lion. The 4th panel represents Bellone, goddess of war in rage between Rebellion and Discord. 

Military trophies decorating the Salon of Wars.. "I said peace no war"
After we have completed the tour inside the Salon of Wars, we take a break at the outside balcony where the museum open a booth selling souvenirs. There are many choices for visitors to choose and bring home. I bought "Visit Versailles"book which is quite heavy but gave informative guides to the palace. Since we did not rent the informative audio that explains each and every details of the rooms that was open for visitor, the book is indeed quite helpful to assist.  

The Queen's Bedchamber
The queen's bedchamber is the suite's principal room, where the queen would almost be found. The royal births took place in this room, where 19 children's of France were born. The decor preserves the memory of the queens who occupied the room. All the features were preserved since the time of Marie Antoinette, for whom the furniture and the fireplace were delivered new. The fabrics hanging around around the bed and the wall were re-woven in Lyons in the style of original cartoons that been kept. The bed and balustrade were re carved based on old documents.

Seated next to the queens bedchamber is the queens guards room. The Queen accessed her bedchamber through the guards room by the marble staircase (mentioned in below phrase). 12 body guards served the queen at one time. At Versailles, only the king, the queen and the dauphin had a personal guard made up of soldiers belonging to these elite units which were the king's four companions of bodyguards. 

The marble staircase, seen in above photo is also known as the Queen's staircase, was the most used by the courts as it led to the King's suite and Queen's suite. It is also leading to the apartment of Madame de Maintenon whom the King, Louis XIV married secretly upon the death of Maria Theresa. The staircase was built in 1681, to match the Ambassador's staircase located on the other side of the courtyard. The richness of the decor stems above all from its ornamental paving and panelling composed in a variety of marble. My husband said, we would not be able to furnished our bungalow staircase in this manner, it is to extravagant.

Please take note that a different entrance fee and entrance queue for touring the gardens section
It was in the gardens that Louis XIV would give free rein to his imagination. The king who delighted in bullying nature, taming it with art and treasure in his gardens. The works involving levelling, excavating earth and major hydraulic works, to create such a huge hard landscape which came with numerous fountains, sculpture and lighting's. The main authorising officer for the job was Andre le Notre who raised the art of the French style garden to new heights. It was created in the period of 1660-1680, the grounds drew on the Apollonian myth with their sculptured groups.

If I ever return to Paris again in the future, I shall spent a whole day in Versailles visiting remaining areas that was left out that day, especially on the Versailles gardens. There are many hard landscape architecture, arts and monuments that are worth to see and appreciate. 

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