Saturday, November 1, 2014

Palace of Versailles, Marie Antoinette and all those King Louis'


The Palace of Versailles and its gardens are considered to
 be one of the finest and most complete achievements of French Art 
in the 17th century. Originally it was built as a hunting lodge for King Louis XIII. 
A "simple" stone and brick palace,  it was enlarged by his son Louis XIV turning
it into what it is essentially today, with glorious grounds to enhance it.
 Each succeeding King worked on making Versailles even grander, 
culminating with Louis XVI who embellished the palace and lived there 
with Marie Antoinette until the French Revolution drove them out.  
About 50 years later it reopened as a museum in 1837
 and was dedicated to "all the glories of France". 
This is a painting in the palace that I snapped a picture
  because I imagine it was the way it looked way back several hundred
 years ago, with the King and Queen leaving the palace in their
 horse drawn coach. Magnificent building and setting that still stands today.  
However now on the grounds of the palace it looks more like this:
 The large fountain pool you can still see at the left, and it was being repaired 
so none of the fountains were in operation during our visit.  There was also
 this large strange metal archway that stands in front of the center part 
of the palace that looks out of place.  What it symbolizes I have no idea, 
but we all thought it took away from the historical nature of the palace. 
I have heard it is part of modern art sculptures that the palace displays
but it seems to me that it is not in keeping with the entire experience.
Never the less it was the only place to stand to get your 
photo dead center of the Palace of Versailles.
So my American Cowboy and me in my sneakers and jeans did just that. 
 Plan on doing a lot of walking if you tour Versailles.  We enjoyed 
unseasonably warm and perfect weather during our stay in October, 
which made for a very enjoyable trip.
 However this is the end of the tour....
so lets start from the beginning, shall we?
 We arrived in Versailles  after driving from Dinard for a three night stay
 and chose to stay at the only hotel on the Palace grounds.
The Trianon Palace Versailles.  
 This was our hotel in the morning light...
and right beyond it is the complex of the Palaces of Versailles, 
of which there are three.  The first morning we set off to the Petite palace, 
but since we did our tour backwards, I will show you our second day
 of touring the palace grounds when we viewed the main palace.
 Most people would likely start touring this way, so here we go!
 We walked to the Palace from our hotel
 which was only a few blocks away.  
 We stopped for a quick breakfast of eggs and toast at this corner cafe,
 where the grand dame of the place was sitting having her coffee.
 She smiled at us when we left, and then she came out to give
directions to someone.  Everyone is so stylish over in France!
 The young and the old.
(We walked by many men in brightly colored pants~
its a thing over there. So guys and girls, buy your brightly 
colored pants if you want to be at the head of fashion here.)
Back to the tour...
Our hotel sits on the corner of the Palace grounds, 
and to enter the main gate, we walked up the cobblestone street 
past many old and beautiful buildings to finally see the gilded gates of Versailles.
 Once you get inside the palace you will be walking around the interior
 of the courtyard, but for now we just had to get inside!  
What you don't see yet is the huge amount of people that 
also wanted to go inside the palace the exact same day we did!! UGH
 We had prebought our tickets before we left home so we thought we would be avoiding lines, but this was the situation.  This long looping line was for those already with tickets in hand.  
My cowboy was fading in the hot sun...lucky for us it only took 
about 30 minutes to get inside the Palace.

 I was with Janet of the Empty Nest store and blog and her hubby,  Mr. Secret Agent. 
 We were super excited to be seeing the grand Palace.
Once inside you pass through some security checkpoints and past a sign warning of professional pick pockets.  We had heard about this in advance, so we were on guard!! Some of the best pick pockets in the world are right here.  Any doubt where we were from?  I think not.  
Finally!! We were inside!! OH MY!! It was so palacey!!  
 My first peek out a window was looking out over a garden with topiaries and urns.  Cobblestones and lovely twig fences...there were so many people in front and behind me so taking pics
 as if I was alone was going to be a challenge.  We started moving from room to room.
Room after room of oil paintings and decorative wallpapers 
and faux painted woodwork.  Some of the marble really looked like this,
 and others were copied to look like the heavily veined marble.
 Head into the next room...follow the line. 
And finally we came to the bedrooms...
 Louis XVI's boudoir.
 Pretty royal, eh?
 Every where you looked there was gilding
 and oil paintings and painted ceilings.
A display of wealth like I have never seen.
 It was good to be King! 
In this superb bedchamber, and 
in this very bed, King Louis XIV died on September 1, 1715.
 The most popular room is the Hall of Mirrors.  
This shows what it really looks like when you 
go to tour the palace.  And this is kind of off season~
the summer has way more visitors!
 So I shot a lot of upper views to delete all the peeps.
  Look at the amazing chandeliers and all the marblework and gilding. 
 Original artwork by some very talented artisans decorated the ceilings of the palace.
 The Treaty of Versailles was signed here in the Hall of Mirrors.
 One mirror after another....17 mirrors in a hallway measuring 240 long
are matched by 17 grand windows that look out onto the gardens and 
fountains of Versailles.  This room is the crowning achievement of King Louis XIV
and his architects, decorators and artists.  Marble busts and walls of marble with opulent
gilding and pilasters separating the mirrors make for an impressive room.
 Just an amazing room! With such history!
This is a scene from the movie Marie Antoinette 
and was filmed at Versailles.  I enjoyed seeing
photos from the movie as it was easy to imagine how it was back several 
centuries earlier when men and women dressed like this and were of a 
certain station to be invited to the palace.
  After the incredible Hall of Mirrors we walked through another wing 
of the palace we found this very popular room~
 Marie Antoinette's bedroom! 
Also shown off in the movie, Marie Antoinette, 
however this room was a reproduction.
Lets take a look at the actual room as I found it on my visit.
 Lets start off with the draperies!  
Marie loved pastels and lots of detailing.  These are 
reproductions of her draperies and they are quite lovely.
 There are lucite panels in place to protect the drapery panel
 from handling from the tourists.
 This is Marie's bed.  The entire room is covered in this pretty fabric
 and then has the upholstered pieces done in the same fabric. 
 Its got an off white background with tons of gilding and
 the floral has pretty pinks and aqua colors.
 French furniture all over her room, and gilded to the heavens!
 She had a gilded gate around her bed....
I wonder what the point of this barrier was? 
This was recreated in scenes from the 
movie Marie Antoinette, directed by Sophia Coppola.
 I was under the impression that the movie Marie Antoinette
 was filmed in this very bedroom on Versailles, because it appeared identical,
  but after doing a little research I found out that this scene was done in a 
reproduction room shown below in its before state.  If you look closely
 at the moldings you can see that they are different than the ones in the palace.  
Very close, but not the same.   
This is that same angle looking toward the door....look at the moldings. 
 Try to ignore all the people. UGH!! I would have loved to creep 
through here at night all alone...carrying a candelabra.  
So now when you see photos I took without anyone in them, 
you will understand it took a bit of timing and effort.
This was Marie Antoinette's fireplace screen in front of her marble fireplace.  
So with all these details, its kind of amazing to think that they 
recreated a room to look like this very one.  They started with a lovely French 
room with many details, but look at how much they had to 
change and add to create Marie's actual bedroom!
This is the room that was transformed by the set production wizard 
of the movie Marie Antoinette,  Anne Seibel.  What an amazing job she has,
 to be able to recreate rooms like this based on history and research.
To read more on Anne Seibel and how she did this, I will share a link at the 
end of this post.  
Again, here is how it looked in the movie....her trunks were in blue, which 
is very much like Annie Sloan's Louis Blue!  I think this is a scene
 from the movie when Marie moves into the palace after marrying at a young age.  
Can you imagine?!
I find it interesting to see many of Annie's colors in places like Versailles.
 All of Annie's colors were inspired  from historical European references. 
 She also has a color named Versailles, which is a pale
celery green, and one color I found in Marie's smaller palace, Petite Trianon. 
Look at the coats on the footmen, they also are close to Louis Blue Chalk Paint.
Isn't this just what you would picture when you think of Marie Antoinette? 
 The majesty is undeniable, and the experience was something you
 could only dream of!  Living as a monarch was on a level that is hard to imagine.  
Here recreated in Sophia Coppola's movie, Marie Antoinette. 
 Pretty remarkable!
Ok, well did you ever wonder and get confused about which King was which? 
 Louis XIV and Louis XV and then Louis XVI, Marie's hubby
are the most well known, as they have furniture styles named after them. 
 There was a King Louis XV who was famous for the Rococo style furniture, 
with rounded shapes and cabriole legs.   His father, Louis XIV
 was the one that enlarged the palace and made it the center for the 
French Government and was the longest reigning monarch of 72 years. 
 He favored Baroque style, which was heavy and impressive carved furniture 
that also had rounded shapes and heavy gilding.  
The furniture style of Louis XVI was neoclassical
 and it signaled a response to the backlash that was found in
 the display of supreme wealth flaunted by Louis XV.  
So the lines were straightened out, and the furniture 
showed more restraint and classic lines.  
 So the difference is in the legs!  Straight legs tell you its Louis XVI.
 Whether the top is rounded or not, its the legs that identify the style.
Another Louis XVI chair with its straight legs.
  I found an antique Louis XVI chair at an antique shop and I
 have it stripped down ready to be reupholstered....
all I need is time and a bit of instruction.
This is Louis XV Rococo style chair, with its rounded cabriole leg style.

This is Louis XIV style with its heavily carved Baroque style and stretcher.
  XV and XVI do not usually have stretchers.  So this is a crash course
 in identifying styles....most often we wonder is this Louis XV or Louis XVI?
  In a nutshell, Louis XV has rounded legs, Louis XVI has straight legs.
Back to the palace...now I am sure like any ancestral home passed down 
there will be some of Grampy's chairs still to be found.  
And the Palace of Versailles is just like any other family home, right? 
 Do you have some dated furniture that you inherited?  Well its just like that!
 All the leg styles were found~here are some little needlepoint stools 
with squirrels as a design feature in the Hall of Mirrors. 
 They have straight legs as in Louis XVI.
 Sadly I cut off most of the legs, but this was a rounded leg chair, Louis XV style.
 This room had Baroque style chairs with the heavy carvings 
and leg stretchers seen as in Louis XIV style.  
This furniture must have been original, and the fabric was protected 
with a vinyl covering.  Much of the furniture was plundered during
 the revolution, and slowly the Palace is trying to acquire its pieces
 and return them to their original home as it is now a museum for the people
to enjoy their French heritage.
 Many rooms are waiting for the contents to be replaced, like this one.
I hope you enjoyed viewing some of my favorite rooms from the main Palace of Versailles.  
However my favorite palace of all on the grounds was the small private palace of Marie Antoinette.
I will share that one next time.

 And as we were exiting the Palace, look at what we discovered!!
 There was a little shop that sold the one and only Laduree Macaroons
 that I had wanted to sample!  Wow, was I lucky! 
 I snapped Janet leaving the shop with her bag of goodies on her arm.
I had my very own too, of course! In the color most known
 for Versailles, this elegant pale green. 
So we will travel onto Marie's private palace next time~
its a real treat!
Sneak peek:  She built a little fantasy village for herself...
I loved it!!

Link to read more on Production Designer Anne Seibel, click here.



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