Friday, 26 December 2014

Hôtel d'Aumont

The Hôtel d'Aumont served as the main seat of the Ducs d'Aumont from 1656 when it was purchased by the then Duc d'Aumont. D'Aumont summoned some of the greatest artists of the time to complete the décor including François Mansart, Charles Le Brun and Simon Voet. Even André Le Nôtre was hired to carry out a French garden.

The Hôtel was given a make-over in the early 18th century. In the end the Hôtel only remained in the d'Aumont-family's possession for exactly one century. It was sold in 1756 by the fourth Duc d'Aumont who had gotten the Hôtel through his marriage to Louise-Marie- Augustin d'Aumont. The following owners were not as prestigious as the d'Aumonts. Pierre Terray was the owner until 1795; he held several positions at court but was not himself a nobleman.

Today it is a property of the City of Paris which uses it as an administrative unit.

View from the first floor

Ground Floor

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Blue Service of Louis XV

Strongly influenced by his mistress, Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV placed an order of a full dinner service at the Sèvres factories in 1751.


The set was delivered in intervals, the first arriving at Versailles in December 1753 and again in December 1755. In 1757 a few more items arrived. In total no less than 1.749 pieces were created for this collection! The accompanying bill is matches the enormous amount of items and in the an astonishing 82.272 livres!
In 1757 the King sold a part of the collection to his courtiers but kept the lion's share for himself and his family. Among the courtiers there was a great desire to possess such a piece not only because it came from the King but because it was the first time such a blue colour was used on porcelain.

For this order - unlike anything ever experienced at Sèvres so far - a new colour was invented. Eventually, the artists drew their inspiration from the ceilings of Versailles. When André Le Nôtre painted these he had the background painted in a deep sky-blue which had become known as the "bleu celeste" (heavenly blue) or "le bleu de roi" (the King's blue).

Louis XV had the service installed at the château de Vincennes.

The service was first put into use at a dinner party on 4 February 1754. The Duc de Cröy described the scene as such:
"The King made us unpack his beautiful blue, white, and gold service from Vincennes, which had just arrived from Paris, where it had been exhibited for the connoisseurs to admire. This is one of the first masterpieces of this new porcelain factory which is to surpass Meissen."

Jean-Claude Duplessis had a hand in the shape and design of many of the pieces. Louis XV much appreciated his contribution and made him the King's goldsmith a few years later in 1758. The service was so popular with the King and his family that it remained in use until the end of the Ancien regime. Today, some pieces can be found in the porcelain dining room while others have been sold off at auction to private collectors. 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Plans Of The First Floor: Louis XIV

Recently, I came across a wonderful floor plan which shows how the apartments of Versailles' first floor were divided. Notice how the present private apartments of both the King and Queen are not existing at this point; actually, it would be Louis XV who added them in an attempt to escape the curious eyes of the courtiers.

The Turquoise Section: The King's Grand Apartment
A. The War Salon
B. The Salon of Apollo
C. The Salon of Mercury
D. The Salon of Mars
E. Tribune of Musicians
F. The Salon of Diana
G. The Salon of Venus
H. The Salon of Abundance
I. The Salon of Hercules

The Pink Section: The Queen's Grand Apartment
A. The Peace Salon
B. The Queen's Bedchamber
C. Grand Cabinet of the Queen
D. Antechamber of the Queen
E. Hall of the Queen's Guards
F. Grand Hall of the Guards

The Green Section: Cardinal de Fleury's Apartment

The Purple Section: Duc de La Rouchefoucauld's Apartment

The Yellow Section: Madame de Maintenon's Apartment

The Pale Blue Section: M. de Noailles' Apartment

The Coral Section: Bureau of the Domain of Versailles

The Orange Section: The King's Confessor's Apartment

The Grey Section: Salons

The Sky-blue Section: Bathrooms 

The Indigo Section: Cabinets

The White Sections:

A. Pavilion d'Orlèans
B. Staircase of the Princes
C. Passage
D. Staircase
E. The Marble Staircase
F. Vestibule of the Marble Staircase
G. Hall of the King's Guard
H. Antechamber
I. Aeil-de-Baeuf or the King's Grand Antechamber
J. The Hall of Mirrors
K. Bedchamber of Louis XIV
L. Cabinet of Louis XIV
M. Cabinet of Wigs
N. Billiard Room
O. Cabinet of Agates
P. Cabinet of Jewels
Q. The Oval Salon
R. The Small Gallery
S. The Ambassador's Staircase
T. The Cabinet of Medals
U. Vestibule to the Chapel
V. The Chapel

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Court Appartements

Louis XIV might have kept his court well-entertained but since there could not be balls and masquerades every week something else was invented in the intervals. The Appartements - so called because they were generally held in the Grand Apartments - were evening gatherings were there would be plenty of refreshments lined up on silver plates. Dancing and the music were also offered as well as card games. The Court Appartements were held during the winter season.

A buffet of an Appartement in 1696. This would have been the Salon de Venus

Usually, the Appartements would be held two-three times every week. These soirées were not dependent on whether the King was there or not; they would go ahead as planned even if he decided not to attend. And for those courtiers who thought it a waste of time to be there when the King was not, they were wrong. In his later years Louis XIV preferred to spent the evenings quietly with Madame de Maintenon but it pleased the King greatly to hear that the Appartements were still well attended.

File:Seconde chambre des Appartements, 1694, Versailles.jpg
The gambling sessions
The food served would be served all at once, like a buffet. Everyone could take what they wanted and consequently, the courtiers carried their own knife and spoon with them. The more fashionable would use the newly invented fork (fresh in from Italy) but the King was known to frown upon this new invention. There were desserts as well which mostly consisted of fruits - both fresh and sugared - and another Italian speciality: ices. Sorbets were becoming popular and as it was desirable for the King to show that he, too, could manage to serve ice cold treats (in an age without freezers) were in on it.

There is a lovely series of engravings which gives a hint as to what happened in each room; the series span from 1694-98:

Theatrical performances in the Salon d'Apollon

Drinks would be served in another room and would range from the usual wine and liquor to the exotic coffee and teas. Fruits juices were provided in an array of colours; they would usually be flavoured with herbs, spices and nuts.

Actually, each salon in the Grand Apartment had its own purpose during these entertainments (I also mention this on my post on the Grand Apartment). The Salon de Venus was a buffet room where the delicious dishes were elaborately displayed on large tables. The Salon de Mercure was filled with small tables at which different games were played and often at high stakes while the Salon de Diane was reserved for games at billiard. The Salon de Mars was reserved for ballroom dancing while the Salon d'Apollon was for music and theatricals.

The Court Appartements should not be mistaken for the private Appartement which would be far more limited in numbers and a lot more intimate.

Billiard games in the Salon de Diane

Desk of the Queen's House

Jean-Henri Riesener created this writing table for Marie Antoinette's rooms in her own private retreat. Thanks to the stamped number "84" we know that the table was intended for the Queen's House in her hamlet. The design is a mixture of classical straight lines and the gilded flowers so beloved by the Queen. 

It is not possible to place furnitures in the Queen's House any longer so the table has been moved to the largest room of the Queen's private apartment. Originally, there were also four corner tables in the Queen's House, all produced by Riesener.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The King's Mark

Louis XIV understood that it was one thing to take absolute power for himself but a whole other to keep the courtiers constantly reminded of just that. First, he assembled the courtiers at Versailles by making it impossible to get ahead without being near the King. And while they were there it might as well be that the very palace which they lived in carried the King's first letter: L.

Fleur de Lis and the double 'L' for Louis; gilded wood from Versailles.
Two intertwined L's on a door

More often than not there will be not one but two L's intertwined and topped with a golden crown. A sun is naturally not unusual to find either nor is a fleur-de-lis

The double-l of Louis XIV. Gilt decoration on a door panel in the Grands Apartments, Versailles
Another door from the King's grand apartment

Gilded ironwork at Versailles. Royal  #gold details
The front gate with both a crown, two L's and a sun

Throughout most of Versailles "L"s can be found in the most unexpected places from the exquisitely carved furniture to the marble floors. By making his initial a part of the very surroundings of his court, the court would never forget who was really in charge.

Inlaid marble floor with cipher of Louis XIV at the Royal Chapel at Château de Versailles
Marble floor of the chapel

There are only two other persons whose initials appears at Versailles: Marie Antoinette and Louis Philippe. When Louis XVI handed over Petit Trianon to his wife he also permitted her to tear down the "L"'s which had been installed for Louis XV and replace them with her "MA"s. This alone shows Louis XVI's affection for his wife; not only was anything other than "L" hitherto unseen but the new initials were those of a Queen.
Louis Philippe's contribution was far less than Marie Antoinette's but his initials can still be found on some spots.

Even this key to the chapel has tiny intertwined Ls
This medallion can be found at the Queen's staircase


Naturally, since both Louis XIV's successors carried the same name there was never any reason to change the initials. That does seem lucky when you consider how difficult it would be to tear up heavy, marble floor!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Madame Adélaïde

Gilles Joubert delivered this commode for Madame Adélaïde in 1770 who had it transported to the Château de Bellevue which in itself had been a present from her father. Joubert was 74 years old when he made it and at that time he had been cabinet maker to the King since 1748.
Ivory, bronze and marble makes up the parts of the commode that is not out of wood. Versailles bought back the commode in 2007 for 350.000 euros.

commode joubert bellevue

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Louis XV's Lacquer Commode

Louis XV received this commode in 1744 and immediately placed it at Choisy - one of his favourite residences. The commode is the work of Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus who had used screens with Japanese lacquer from the collection of Louis XIV himself. The top is of red marble.

Louis XVI moved the commode from Choisy to Saint-Cloud where Madame Elisabeth had the honour of showcasing the commode in her apartment. Later, it was moved into the chambers of Marie Antoinette but it remained at Saint-Cloud. Today, it has been brought to Versailles where it takes a dominant place in Madame Victoire's bedroom.


The Dauphin's Commode

On 29 January 1748 this commode was delivered at the Dauphin's library at Versailles. It was the design of Mathieu Criaerd. Since the commode was sold off together with the other inventory during the revolution the commode had to be bought back as soon as it was located. The price: 12.000.000 dollars! It has now been placed in the very room where it was once delivered.

Prince de Condé's Desk

Desk by André-Charles Boulle who was commissioned by the Prince de Condé to whom it was delivered in 1715. The Prince had the desk sent to the Château de Chantilly where it took a prominent place in the Corner Cabinet. The desk is made of ebony with golden carvings; each table leg is crowned by a woman emerging and at the centre drawer a lion's head dominates.

 - 172 ko

Détail du bureau plat exécuté par A.C Boulle pour le Prince de Condé, dans le Cabinet d'angle du Château de Chantilly
Detail of the keyhole

André-Charles Boulle

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Jewellery Cabinet

Jean-Henri Riesener is the workman behind this jewellery cabinet which belonged to the Comtesse de Provence, sister-in-law of Louis XVI. It was finished and delivered in 1787; it was said to have cost 80.000 livres to make. During the revolution it was confiscated and later offered to Napoleon who refused it.

When opened the cabinet consists of 18 drawers as well as 3 shelves. When created it was intended for the Comtesse's bedroom at Versailles but she changed her mind and had it placed in the Palais du Petit-Luxembourg.

Choisy Commode

Originally, this commode was intended for the King's apartments at the château de Choisy. It was the work of Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus who was the royal cabinet-maker until his death in 1746. Actually, this commode was finished just two years prior to his death.

The style is another example of the fondness for Japanese lacquer though this one was created in Paris.

At the death of Louis XV the commode was handed over to Louis XVI who had it transported from Choisy to Saint-Cloud. First it was placed in the apartment of Madame Adélaïde only to be transferred to that of Marie Antoinette. Currently, the commode is located in Madame Victoire's apartment at Versailles.

The Astronomical Clock

One of the more spectacular pieces of furniture in Louis XV's collection is without doubt this magnificent astronomical clock. The clock is the result of a combined working effort between Claude-Simeon Passemant (design), Louis Dauthiau (mechanism) and Jacques and Philippe Caffiéri (case).

Besides being an imposing mechanism, the clock also shows the phases of the moon, planetary movements according to Copernicus, real time, average time and the date. The crystal globe above the clock itself contains a bronze globe with the main cities engraved; surrounding the little earth are waterfalls and rocks. The size alone is astonishing, measuring over 2 metres in height. The clock is made in such a manner as to continue to tell the date until the year of 9999.

In 1749 the clock was brought before the prestigious Academy of Sciences which decided to approve the clock.
The Duc de Chaulnes had the honour of presenting the clock to Louis XV at Choisy on 7 September 1750. Immediately, the King had it installed in his private apartments and eventually the room it occupied became known as "the Clock Room".

Madame de Mailly's Commode

Madame de Mailly - known to history as one of Louis XV's many mistresses - was the proud owner of this beautiful commode by Matthew Criaerd. The style is an imitation of the oriental lacquer which was quite fashionable at the time; though the bright blue and white is more Versailles than the Far East.

Notice that the details are painted silver but is actually made of bronze. This is quite rare since most furnitures of this time would have golden carvings rather than silver - especially when the material already had a golden shine to it. The commode is estimated to have been finished in 1742.

Jewel Cabinet

One of the more well-known pieces of furniture in Marie Antoinette's personal collection is this jewel cabinet by Martin Carlin. Rosewood, ebony and sycamore went into the creation of the cabinet as well as fine Sèvres porcelain decorated with flowers - a favourite print of the Queen.

The cabinet was delivered while Marie Antoinette was still Dauphine in 1770. All the edges are gilded with gold.

Les Fleurs de la Reine

Marie Antoinette had a true passion for flowers which most likely was a result of her upbringing with her father who adored his gardens. Already at a young age flowers were dear to her. While travelling through Nancy on her way to Versailles (and her wedding) she had spent the day gathering rose petals.

This fondness for floral prints and flower decorations is clearly shining through in quite a lot of the merchandise presented to the Queen. Among her favourite flowers were roses, violets, lilacs, hyacinths, irises and lilies.

Detail of one of the Queen's chair

Table for the Queen by Martin Carlin

In the Queen's hamlet near the Petit Trianon she had a rose garden planted which provided her with plenty of sweet-smelling, beautiful roses. Roses are often depicted in a central position in portraits of the Queen. Marie Antoinette personally had a hand in all the gardening plans carried out at her private retreat; even the colour schemes of each individual flower bed was chosen by the Queen.

Back at Versailles not only the décor but also the scent of the Queen's apartment was infused with fresh flowers. When her personal perfumer Jean-Louis Fargeon came to see Marie Antoinette he would often bring - besides the flowery perfumes - gloves scented with flowers such as hyacinths and jasmine. It was a specific task for one of her ladies to make sure that the huge vases were always filled with fresh flowers.

Billedresultat for versailles queen's bedroom
Detail of the wallpaper from the Queen's
Boiserie detail at Petit Trianon
Floral bedding of the Queen's bedroom at the Petit Trianon
Sometime during her reign as Queen consort she heard of a man, named Pierre Joseph Redouté, who was said to be able to draw flowers and plants in richer details than anyone else. Intrigued, she summoned Redouté to court where she was so impressed with him that she invited him to the Petit Trianon. Here, he would sketch many of the Queen's flowers. Sadly, these sketches were burned during the revolution.

The Queen's clothing were also often over-strewn with beautifully embroidered flowers.

Fragment of Marie Antoinette's court dress' petticoat: 1780 Museum of London
Fragment of the Queen's petticoat