Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Madame du Barry's Antechamber

Originally this room had large cabinets filled with linen, silverware and plates. Today one of Madame du Barry's original dinner service which she bought from the Sèvres factory in 1770 - the 77 pieces are decorated with garlands of flowers and blue ribbons. It is from this chamber that one enters the rest of the Comtesse's apartment so there are quite a few doors in this room. A fireplace has been installed which was quite necessary due to the cold weather during the winter. A portrait of the Duc de Brissac who was Madame du Barry's lover after the death of Louis XV hangs in this room. A bright red fabric has been used both for a chair and the fire screen though it seems almost out of touch with the soft beige of the walls.

L'Appartement de Madame DuBarry - L'Antichambre

L'Appartement de Madame DuBarry - L'Antichambre

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Antichamber of the apartment of madame Du Barry by Trizek @ Wikimedia Commons

The King's Kitchen Garden

Louis XIV wanted to have his own supply of vegetables and fruits and to this he ordered his gardener Monsieur de La Quintinie to create a garden separate from those at Versailles. Thus work began to establish this garden covering 9 hectares at the edge of what is now known as the Saint Louis District in 1678. Monsieur de La Quintinie had his work cut out for him because the earth of the chosen area was poor and not optimal for gardening. Actually the only reason for why Monsieur de La Quintinie had to make due with this piece of land instead of one he himself had suggested was that Louis XIV wanted to have his garden within reach. The royal gardener even said of the land that it was: "of a sort you would never want to find anywhere". Nevertheless the garden was already sprouting fruit in 1683.

Thanks to M. de La Quintinie Louis XIV was now supplied with fresh fruits such as strawberries (in March), lettuce (in January) and melons (in June). At the time it was a huge symbol of the King's power that he was able to produce his very own vegetables even during the winter. Just around this time peas was quite new and as most new things they became a particular popular treats - and of course Louis XIV could get them from his kitchen garden too. It even became possible to grow coffee beans here during Louis XV.
Louis XIV's favourite thing about his garden was the fruit trees - there are 5000 of them of different varieties and all shaped in delicate geometrical shapes! He was so excited about these trees that he would even show them off to his more prominent guests; whenever the King took his guests to the garden through a magnificent gate called the Grille du Roi and was created by Alexis Fordin. The herb garden was vast as well with 40 different specimens ready to be taken to the royal salads. To create a royal atmosphere the architect Mansart was brought in and it is thanks to him that the garden is now rich on elevated terraces. Also the large water reservoirs, the buildings and the stairs are work of Mansart.

Monsieur de La Quintinie had created a special system in order to keep the garden alive. At the very centre of the garden is a large water reservoir and it is from here that the garden is watered through a series of drainage pipes. The entire garden consists of 28 smaller gardens - rather enclosed small gardens - at the periphery and 16 square gardens laid around the centre fountain. It took 30 gardeners to keep the garden in shape and the royal stables made sure that there was a constant supply of manure.

Today the garden is almost exactly as it was when Louis XIV walked through it and the only few changes have been made on the order of his successors.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Louis Henri de Pardaillan de Gondrin, Marquis de Montespan

Louis Henri was born in 1640 as the son of Roger-Hector de Pardaillan de Gondrin who was the Marquis d'Antan. At the age of 23 years old he married Francoise-Athénaïs de Rouchechouart de Mortemart - otherwise known to history as Madame de Montespan. Together they would have two children: a girl, Marie-Christine, and a boy, Louis. Louis Henri was not fortunate enough to be born into a wealthy noble family and so it would seem that he never had enough money. Therefore he would often be away from his château to deal with his many juridical duties. However, this meant that his wife would be alone quite often...

Monday, 18 November 2013

Château de Choisy

The Château de Choisy was once the property of the Grand Mademoiselle, Anne-Marie-Louise d'Orlèans who was the cousin of Louis XIV. She bought the property around 1680 for a staggering 40.000 livres and then had the house torn down and another one ("in my style" according to her memoirs) built in its place. Then the Grand Dauphin took over and made some alterations of his own before it became the property of Marie Anne de Bourbon who happened to be the daughter of Louis XIV and Louise de la Vallière.

Louis XV himself bought it in 1739 and used it as a smaller refuge for himself and Madame de Pompadour to whom he would offer it as a gift in 1746. When the King bought the château the village nearby immediately changed its name to Choisy-le-Roi which was a privilege only villages of royal residences had. The idea was to have a simple décor especially compared to Versailles. During this time a bathing pavilion was added to the château and the stables became a lot larger which was probably due to Louis XV's great passion for hunting - actually the hunting was a part of why the King bought the property in the first place since the royal forest of Ménart was located nearby. However, when Madame de Pompadour died the château was no longer the same for Louis XV and he lost interest in it. Eventually Marie Antoinette became fond of it but not more than she would consider trading it for Saint-Cloud. It is a touching note that Louis XV had a portrait of Marie Antoinette hung in this private retreat.

The château would not survive the revolution even though Robespierre himself lived there for a while. Since it was a part of the royal residences it was confiscated by the new government, the furniture was sold off and throughout the 19th century the château slowly fell apart until disappearing. Now all that remains are two pavilions and a part of the former service wing.

Le Nôtre designed the gardens and this is how they were designed

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Supplement to the Library

This room is quite unknown mainly because it had no other purpose than to store the King's books. Once these shelves boomed with books but now there are none left behind the glass-covered doors. There is one clue however which suggest that someone - most likely Louis XVI himself - spent some time in the room: the fireplace. It would only have been installed if the King used the room frequently.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Last Maîtresse

Madame du Barry posed for this bust in 1772 which means that it gives us a pretty accurate image of how she looked. The artist is Augustin Pajou and the bust itself is a piece from the famous Sèvres manufacturer. Madame du Barry's initials are painted in a medallion on the gilt pedestal. The combined bust measures 38,1 cm in height. It is housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art but is not exhibited.

Madame du Barry (1746–1793)Madame du Barry (1746–1793)

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Theatre of Napoleon III

This theatre was finished in 1857 and was designed by Hector Lefuel but was inspired by the royal theatre at Versailles - the Empress was a great admirer of Marie Antoinette which could be why this new theatre resembles the theatre at Petit Trianon. To make room for the new theatre some court apartments had to be torn down - imagine how that was received by the courtiers! The theatre can house 400 guests which fitted perfectly with Napoleon III and his wife's taste for inviting many people. There are four levels: the stalls (called parterres in French), the first level which includes the imperial box, the second level and finally a set of boxes protected with metal bars.

The first time the theatre was used was in May 1857 when Napoleon III received Grand Duke Constantine of Russia, the brother of the Tsar of Russia. For every history enthusiast the stage itself is a gold mine. The layout is still the same as it was when the theatre was built but some of the equipment is believed to be even older and could perhaps even be from the original Comédie Theatre which was the first theatre at Fontainebleau.

Chapel of the Trinity

The Chapel of the Trinity was not actually built for Fontainebleau but used to be the monastery church of a nearby monastery but Francis I had it re-annexed to Fontainebleau and this is how it became a part of the palace. It took a long time to finish the interior décor and it was not until Henri IV's reign that it began to take on the shape it has now. It is the frescoes that dominates the décor and it was created by Martin Fréminet. Louis XV married Marie Leszczynska in this chapel in 1725 before the entire French court. Francesco Bordoni was commissioned to create the altarpiece as well as a design for the floor.

The interior underlines the strict hierarchy at court - there are more levels and the King and Queen would normally be placed on a platform while the balconies were reserved for the princes and princesses. The altar was painted in 1642 by Jean Dubois.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Pink Bow Dress

This is one of Kirsten Dunst's dresses in Marie Antoinette and is worn in a dinner scene as well as a church scene. The dress is a robe à la Francaise due to the pleadings descending from the back's neckline. Mainly blue silk has been used for this costume except for the three pink bows attached to the bodice as well as the white pleaded fabric peeping up at the neckline and the sleeves. Also, a paler shade of blue has been chosen for the piece on the bodice where the bows are sewn onto - notice that a brooch is attached to the upper bow. This strip of paler blue is edged with pleaded ribbons in a slightly darker blue than the rest of the outfit. The petticoat is without any particular decoration and continues the blue colour as the sleeves and the main part of the bodice.

Gallery of the Columns

Louis-Philippe had this room created as a part of the preparations of his son's wedding which naturally means that it was not a part of the castle that either Louis XIV, Louis XV or Louis XVI would have seen. It is located right beneath the ballroom and was given its name due to the large twin columns adorning the walls. Also, Louis-Philippe had several Renaissance features incorporated into the design such as the square edgings on the ceilings.

The Gallery of Francis I

The Gallery of Francis I is famous for being a masterpiece of Renaissance art and holds the title of being the oldest gallery in the mayor French royal castles - the Gallery of Francis I itself was built before 1528 whereas both the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles and the Apollo Gallery at the Louvre are more than 100 years younger! The gallery is dominated by large frescoes in stucco frames by Rosso Fiorentino who completed his work in 1540. The frescoes depicts either mythological scenes or strong references to Francis I - much like Louis XIV would do at Versailles. The gallery connects the royal apartments with the Chapel of the Trinity. During the reign of Louis-Philippe it underwent great restorations and another great campaign was launched as late as the 1960's.

The Petits Apartments

These rooms were not created with the purpose of serving as the royal family's petits apartments; it was only when France had an Emperor instead of a King that these rooms were referred to as such. Originally these were the offices of Louis XV and other royal princes but they are now combined under the name "petits apartments". During Napoleon they would serve as apartments for the Emperor and the Empress - the Emperor's apartment is large enough to also include many of the ministers' offices which are linked to the Grand Apartments through secret passageways and staircases. Normally the petits apartments were decorated in a more simple manner because they were the Emperor's private chambers.