Monday, October 5, 2009

Private Versailles

Versailles, both in the age of Louis XIV and now, is a very public place. Tens of thousands of people called it home back in the age of kings and today thousands of visitors come daily. We got to witness this on a VERY crowded Sunday when we visited during Heather's and my trip to Paris as you can see below.Levels of security exist even outside of the Palace walls. I particularly loved these wood guard stations disguised as tents: a technique copied at palaces around Europe in the 18th century.Of course not all of the spaces in Versailles are as luxurious and spacious as we see in pictures: think of the hall of mirrors for example. However, many of the smaller private spaces are as luxurious as the public ones as seen in the gold & silver ceiling in the king's private chambers.
One thing I highly recommend is to take the guided tour of the private apartments first. You get to learn a lot about the chateau with incredible guides in a small group where you can ask questions before going through the public rooms in vast crowds.
Our tour started in the king's guard room. Located on the first floor off the main court, this small and simple room housed 2 guards at all times, 24/7. The guards slept & ate here, right under the king. These closets flanked the staircase for their personal items.Of course beautiful statuary exists even here!A small but grand staircase leads you right up to the king's private apartment.At some point the wall paneling had been removed and they had 'replaced' it with faux painted panels which I really loved. What a great idea for your own home! Instant 'architecture'!While the king was very open to public contact, for safety reasons, as well as to hold the large numbers of visitors, anterooms flank the more important chambers. They are of course meant to impress as seen in this small room above.The king's waiting room is very large and filled with treasures meant to both interest and intimidate guests. The mechanical calendar seen in front of the mirror represented that the king was a very scientific and intelligent man leading the country into the future.
The king's (Louis XVI) private study, off of the waiting room, had books paneling the walls. Louis XVI was known to have important scholars of the day visit him here as well as many hours spent alone reading a book. Even the doorways are disguised as bookshelves as seen above.
The table in the middle of this room holds statues of many of the great learned men of the day, included among them is Voltaire.
Louis XVI was changing the relationship of the king to the public and was deeply invested in a private life. This was the first private and official dining room of the chateau, right off of his study. I loved the turquoise velvet!The king's chambers attach to the chateau through a much more grand staircase as you are lead into the public areas.Just a gratuitous shot of some antique mirror: Such great ambiance!
Sadly, most of the furnishings were sold off after the revolution and none of the chandeliers were of the period but later reproductions: many of them antiques in their own right today.They don't call it private Versailles for nothing, this was the toilet off the private study of Louis XIV. Watch out for splinters!


pve design said...

When we went last year, the gates to the entrance had been restored and were glowing. There is just too much to take in for one day. I look forward to going back again.

Blue said...

Great post. I have never been to the private apartments though and have until today seen few photographs. How low-ceilinged they are in comparison to the rooms of parade and how intimate they are! Thank you.

little augury said...

Actually the guards rooms would do nicely-I love the way you hone in on the personal & aesthetic eccentricities of your trip and history-doesn't all come to life this way? GT

Cote de Texas said...

I agree - the guard rooms area adorable and the toilets! so beautiful.

home before dark said...

So glad you go to go to your heart's place of place. So glorious. Since you brought it up...where did the remains of the king's day go? (How did the toilet system work?) Or below Versailles is there a heap of royal compost?

Anonymous said...

Really interesting post with very nice photos. I have been to Versailles a few times, but the last time I went it was late March, and it was eerily quiet that day. I am not sure why, but there were hardly any people at all visiting. I rarely ran into anyone, and felt entirely alone with the exception of an occasional guard walking around. It was so strange to stand all by myself in those grand rooms.

Edward said...

If you are interested in more information on Versailles you should read "The Memoirs of the Duc du Saint-Simon" He gives a detailed description of life in the court. As to the toilet, it may have been the only one in the palace. Most people used chamber pots. There were many servants coming and going and looking after the chamber pots was one of their jobs. Also if you are interested in chamber pots, you should watch "The Leopard" Visconti's film starring Burt Lancaster. The ballroom scene is eye-opening. Also, it is filmed in many Palaces in Naples and quite beautiful. As an architect you will appreciate that.

little augury said...

AD if you haven't seen the Leopard-DO.It is amazing, I did a post sometime ago. Reading the Anon. comment-reminds me of AN ADVENTURE-story of 1911 siting of MA by 2 English teacher types
Moberly & Jourdain. If you haven't read it-lots of goggle info now, and copies around. GT

Debra Healy said...

Thank you so much for this post. I enjoyed this virtual visit to Versailles with a trained architect, especially One who is obsessed with design.

Those little faux-tent guard huts are Elsie De Wolf’s emblematic green and white, after all she did claim the color scheme of the pyramids.

A little book of reflections on the art of design for seduction in the 18th century, is "La Petite Maison", "The little House" Jean-Francois Bastide (1758). (I read it in English.)

The Novel, "the Leopard", is the work of jeweler Fulco di Verdura's Cousin, Price Giuseppe de Lampedusa. This is a very interesting aspect to the Jewelry history story in the twentieth century. To me all design history is interconnected.
Please let me know when you next plan to visit France.