Thursday, October 15, 2009

Versailles: Hall of Mirrors

Were you wondering when I would get to the good stuff from Versailles? I think I've kept you waiting long enough! The most famous room at Versailles is undoubtedly the Hall of Mirrors. I've enabled clicking on my photos so you can zoom into the details.
I wasn't sure what to expect. I've seen photographs of it my entire life but I was totally blown away.Blown away not just by the sumptuousness of every detail: the gilding, the beautiful mirror, the huge crowds, but mainly by the beautiful light.The room is immensely long, 239.5' to be exact, and that doesn't include the adjoining Salon of War and the Salon of Peace on either end.
The light comes from the tall french doors facing the gardens and is reflected into the 17 mirror clad archways opposite. All of the crystal, highly polished marble and gilding don't hurt either!
At the time of the halls construction in 1678, mirrors were one of the most expensive items to own. Meant as a gathering place at the palace, the mirrors were not just a decorative item but also meant to impress all those waiting for a glimpse of the king.
I was impressed.
As you can see, so was everyone else! Everyone was jockeying for elbow room to take pictures!
The hall was designed by the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart for Louis XIV; would you expect anything less from either man?
Beautiful candelabras and statues line the hallway, reflected ten fold by the mirror.
The views over the gardens are spectacular: I could have spent all day long in this one room.
I kept pinching myself: am I really here?
Towards the end of my visit in this great room, I started to pay closer attention to the mirror.
Does it look ok to you? Hazy maybe?
Not just old, but there is GRAFFITI on the mirror! At first I was outraged!!!
Then I started to read what was scratched onto the glass. Most of the inscriptions left behind are from 100-200 years ago. Historical graffiti!
Somehow that made it much more acceptable to me, is that wrong? This last image has been the screensaver on my home computer since I came back. History refleccts history!

21 comments:

Amanda said...

Oh my god, that is absolutely stunning! I have to get to Paris.

Karena said...

What an exciting experience for you both!

pve design said...

When I went last year, I just kept wishing for you to see that. I am so glad my wish for you came true!
Mirror Mirror!!! Truly spectacular, I loved how light filed that room was!
pve

Debra Healy said...

Great post. I am a bit a mirror maven. I read a really good book with a chapter about Louis XIV and the Mirror business, it is "The Essence of Style"by Joan De Jean. Chapter 9, is "Power Mirrors", it read like a thriller. In fact I think it would make a great film. Early industrial espionage, all for the hall of mirrors, and the vainglorious king.

columnist said...

Ive nominated you for a Kreative Blogger award.

Larry said...

The graffiti on the mirror makes the room much more interesting than same old same old mirrors and candelabras.

There is a simlar but not as grand hall at the Veneraia Reale
http://www.lavenaria.it/eng/storia.shtml

Unfortunately they don't have many mirrors left after those Frenchies besieged it in 1693.

I guess they were jealous of anyone else having mirrors.

Blue said...

Imagine what it was like in the light of 1000 candles strolling the Hall of MIrrors in satin, silk and diamonds - and I'm not talking about the women.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Karena, it was exciting but Heather and I got seperated due to the crowds!!

Debra, I was reading a bit about the 'mirror intrigue' last night - fascinating -i have to check out that book!

Columnist -thanks!!

Larry, thanks for the link -that place looks fascinating, I hadn't heard of it before!

Terry said...

Thanks. My brief visit long ago remains stuck in my head: Huge, hazy, narrow, "used" for many, many years, the view to the garden.

Mrs. Blandings said...

Is it wrong? Actually, it's incredibly enchanting. Like a detail from a great script. It is such a treat to see it through your eyes.

MaryBeth said...

I have always wanted to go and some day I will.
I just can not get over the fact that someone would actually write on those mirrors. I guess it was scratched in or else they would have just polished it out. I just think that is very sad.
MB

home before dark said...

Gilty pleasures, indeed. The graffiti makes the mirrors a rather interesting Cy Twombly-esk work of art in their own right. All of the light, from so many sumptuous sources. That's a satisfying ver-sigh you hear. For war, go right? For peace, for go left?

little augury said...

Again-AD,your photographs are wonderful-esp the close up ones. I am most impressed with the marbles. The mirrors too of course, the graffiti- Well It does grow on you- especially after 100- 200 years-perhaps we should be a little more tolerant? Not sure. I am so impressed with your being able to clearly capture all the details-it can be overwhelming-good for keeping your head (one can lose it in Paris!)Perhaps you should "bottle" that screensaver. GT

ArchitectDesign™ said...

MaryBeth, I know! I don't understand graffiti at all -why would anyone do that?? It definitely was all scratched deep into the glass.

HBD, after the initial shock, the graffiti was really interesting -the room is so perfect it was a nice counter-point! ver-sigh -haha!

LA -thanks so much! I'm always looking at the details: it's the best part! It's easy to get the overall's 'right' -details are where the design will succede or fail!

VictoriaArt said...

What an incredible scale this hall of mirrors has at Versailles! I can so imagine the feelings of visitors 300 years ago, when everything else was small, dark and dingy...
Oh, and the graffiti is just fantastic. It reminded me on a tiny scale of the Old Manse in Concord MA, where Hawthorne and his bride lived for a while and 'wrote' love notes on the window panes...
Lovely weekend!

Semigloss Chic said...

Historical Graffiti..that's too funny, I love it. Do you think that means that in 100 years people will look back a graffiti on all buildings and signs fondly.

Rose C'est La Vie said...

Marvellous photos as ever. It reminds me that
when I was shown round Versailles, was lucky enough to be guided down a secret passage that Louis used to access Marie Antoinette's bedroom. It took him ages, years, to consummate the marriage because there were always so many courtiers hanging around. Hence his clandestine visits! Sorry this has nothing to do with the mirrors!

Russ Manley said...

hahaha. I got to see Versailles way back when I was still in college, and had the same reaction as you - first, sputtering outrage that some yahoo would desecrate this lovely room - then amused relief when I looked closer and saw the graffiti read "Emma 1842."

Plus ca change . . . .

The Curious Connoisseur said...

I am earnestly pleased that a young man like you can get so enthusiastic about Versailles which, to me, has been a long time source of joy and interest! Do you not also just delight in the endless creaking of the parquet floors? Well done entry!

Michael Mattison said...

Stephan, I just saw your "Hall of Mirrors" write-up -- great shots, well chosen. Even though I've been there and even though Versailles is a well-known venue, the opulence sticks out all the more in so many images in rapid succession here, esp. against your blog's black background. Stunning, indeed.
And if you haven't already read it, get a copy of Stefan Zweig's "Marie Antoinette" (you can read German, right?), where her whole story is given an account so modern in approach you'd never guess it was written in 1932; more like 2002. Really, there's never been a better historical and psyochological account of MA's life.
CU,
Michael

Quatorze said...

So glad for you. I have studied the palace all my life and it never pales. You might be interested to know that the restoration of the Hall of Mirrors (Galerie des Glaces) is just one small part of a massiive restoration effort of the palace and its grounds, including long defaced private apartments of the lesser royals and high nobility, the forecourts and bringing the gardens closer to the period of the original landscape designer, Andre Le Notre.