Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Apartment of the Comtesse d'Ossun

The Comtesse d'Ossun was dame d'atours to Marie Antoinette which meant that she had permanent lodgings at court. Due to the prestigious position she held the Comtesse was granted apartments on the first floor near the Queen's own apartments.
The Comtesse had plenty of room to do with - especially compared to other inhabitants at Versailles - with a suite of no less than 10 rooms. Of these six had their own chimneys.

Luckily, an inventory from February 1786 gives us a fairly detailed account of the furniture in the Comtesse's apartment. The Comtesse could boast of not only two Ottoman sofas, six bedroom chairs and six moulded chairs a la Reine (basically comfortable armchairs) but also of four moulded chairs and two "tête-at-tête"-chairs. Furthermore, an "imperial style" couch was to be found in her apartment.

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Inventory showing the purchases of the Comtesse d'Ossun

Interestingly enough, the Comtesse had also ordered a specific artwork: a bust by Nicolas Vallois and Boulard.

In March of that same year the Comtesse added to her collection with two gilded sofas complete with rosettes, tassels and ribbons as well as a total of eight chairs - four "tête-a-têtes" and four armchairs.
In total no less than eighteen pieces of furniture were delivered to the Comtesse d'Ossun in 1786!
The Comtesse was careful to preserve her furniture as is seen by the expensive varnish used both for gilding and redecorating her suite.

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Frame of a chair delivered to Mme d'Ossun in 1786

The Comtesse seemed to have been particularly fond of two large armchairs; these were of yellow damask and appears in the inventories of both 1786 and 1788. In 1790 she had them moved to her bedroom - they were still intact when the furniture of Versailles was sold on auction in 1793.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Marie Isabelle de Rohan, Duchesse de Tallard

Marie Isabelle was born in Paris on 17 January 1699 to the illustrious family of the Duc de Rohan-Rohan. She spent her childhood with her four other siblings but it was early a given that she was to make her life at court. There, her family had the honour of being princes étrangere or foreign princes which entitled Marie Isabelle to the title of Her Highness.

At the age of fourteen Marie Isabelle was married off to the son of the Duc de Tallard, Joseph d'Hossun de La Baume - her bridegroom was seventeen years her senior. Now that she was a married "woman" it became essential to get an appointment at court. This she gained as a member of Elizabeth Charlotte d'Orléans' - Madame - household,
Marie Isabelle was not completely alone in Madame's household since her grandmother, Charlotte de La Mothe-Houdancourt - or simply Madame de Ventadour - held the position of Governess to the Children of France. This position she retired from in 1735 and it was handed on to Marie Isabelle.

Princesse Marie-Isabelle Gabrielle de Rohan-Soubise, 2ème. Duchesse d'Hostun, Marquise de La Baume, Comtesse de Tallard, 1699-1754.:
Marie Isabelle de Rohan

During her position as Governess Marie Isabelle had a close relationship with the royal family; particularly Queen Marie Leczynska who doted on her many children. In turn Marie Isabelle was made lady-in-waiting to Madame Henriette (second daughter of Louis XV) as well as the prestigious position of dame du palais to the Queen herself. Word has it that the Queen was very fond of her young companion which must have eased Marie Isabelle's position considerably.

With positions such as those Marie Isabelle was a firm fixture at Versailles where she was honoured with her own apartment. Here she hosted dinner parties which even the King was noted to frequently attend. The royal children themselves appears to have been pleased with Marie Isabelle for the Dauphin made sure that she was also appointed governess to his own daughters.

Despite spending a great portion of her time with children Marie Isabelle never had any of her own. Her marriage appears to have been a typical arranged marriage - the couple was not very close. Marie Isabelle remained at Versailles until her death on the night of 4 January 1754. Her loss was felt dearly by the royal family even those who had not been under her care for a great while.

Friday, 9 September 2016

The Duchesse de Berry's Alcohol Issue

The eldest daughter of the Regent Duc d'Orléans was christened Marie Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans and was easily one of the most scandalous personages at court. Her scandalous behaviour included everything from secret pregnancies to public drunkenness.

This latter problem became very obvious - and awkward - to those of the court that did not share her lifestyle. One particular embarrassing incident took place during a supper party at Saint-Cloud attended by most of the young royal family - including the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne. During the evening the Duchesse became more and more drunk until her companions had to discuss what to do with her. In the end it was decided that she was to be transported back to Versailles to sleep it off; however, the Duchesse could not walk herself to the carriage and had to be carried. Likewise, when they arrived at the palace she had to be supported to her apartment.

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The Duchesse de Berry

That Marie Louise Élisabeth was fond of a drunk - or five - became clear within a few days of her marriage to the Duc de Berry when she got very drunk at the dinner table. This resulted in a severe scolding from both the King and her father but either the Duchesse was indifferent to their words or she truly had become addicted. The incident at Saint-Cloud had been hidden from the King even though it had been witnessed by a fair share of not only the royal family but the giggling servants as well.

Once the Sun King died there was nothing to hold her back and with the death of her husband shortly after the Duchesse considered herself truly free to do as she chose. As for her drinking there was now no one to stop her; the old King had held some sway over her but that was no more.

Champagne came into fashion shortly after Louis XIV's death and the Duchesse was sure to be a part of the new trend. She was a firm fixture at her father's infamous private suppers where she was well-known to be able to drink most men under the table. Her father did nothing to halt her drinking. On the contrary, he had always adored her and would deny her nothing.

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The Duchesse at the end of her life

When at court it could be more troublesome to carry on drinking on such a scale without the privacy of her own home to retire to. It was recorded on several occasions that her drunkenness had often caused her to having to stagger to a corner and throw up.

The Duchesse's extreme lifestyle had done irreparable damage to her body - just imagine the condition of her liver - and eventually it caught up with her. She died at the age of just 23 years old.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Eerie Prophecies

The inhabitants of Versailles provide an amazing array of fascinating lives, splendid royal careers and occasionally tragic destines. Occasionally, the destines of some of these people were the target of some eerily accurate prophecies which is fascinating stuff to read from this point in history. Of course we will never know if the people concerned ever thought back on the omens or if they even remembered them at all.

Never himself a King
The Grand Dauphin was allegedly told that his destiny would be to be "the son of a King, the father of a King but never himself a King."
Naturally, the first part was already secured so that is an easy point in favour of superstition. However, the Grand Dauphin as still a child when this prophecy was made which meant that whoever said it - if anyone did, that is - they could not have foreseen the dramatic events in the latter part of the 17th century. In 1700 the King of Spain died without a direct heir which meant that there were two contenders for the throne: the Grand Dauphin and the Austrian Archduke Charles. As heir to the French throne the Grand Dauphin was not permitted by the remaining European powers to sit on both thrones but his own son could. Luckily, he had three and the second were chosen to become King of Spain (the eldest were - of course to remain to ensure the French line of succession). Eventually, the War of the Spanish Succession ended with the Duc d'Anjou becoming Philip V of Spain and his father thus becoming "father of a King".

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The Grand Dauphin

In 1711 the Grand Dauphin was already in his forties and it seemed as if his father would live forever. The King preferred his grandson and his wife, the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne, and treated the Duc more like his direct heir than his son. The Grand Dauphin seemed to have resigned himself to his fate and had removed himself to his private estate of Meudon. Here he died of small-pox on 14 April thus fulfilling the prophecy.

The cut mirror
When Marie Antoinette arrived at the French court as a young Dauphine it seemed as if a splendid destiny awaited her. She reviewed her apartments which had been left without an inhabitant since the death of Marie Leczinska. When she got to her small inner cabinet - later nick-named the Cabinet de la Meridienne since the then Queen would spent her midday hours there - she noticed that one of the mirrors behind the sofa in a cozy nook had an odd defect. The way it was cut and the particular spot where the Dauphine stood made it look as if her head had been cut off.

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The mirror

A short life
The vivacious Marie Adelaide of Savoy captivated the French court and especially Louis XIV when she came to Versailles to marry the Duc de Bourgogne. She was indulged in her every whim but there was one creepy prophecy that could dampen the spirit of even Marie Adelaide. It had once been prophesied by an astrologer in Turin laying her horoscope that she would die in her twenty-seventh year. This year was 1712 and there is something to suggest that the then Dauphine herself felt a little uneasy about what her ladies-in-waiting tried to make light of.

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Marie Adelaide as Duchesse de Bourgogne

Such an attempt was made in January 1712 when her lady-in-waiting jokingly reminded Marie Adelaide - who was in her absolute prime - about the saying. Marie Adelaide became somewhat pensive and said: "Well, I must make haste. I cannot enjoy myself too much for I shall die this year".
Less than a month later she was dead.

The heart of a King
Jeanne Antoinette Poisson was not born into nobility and during her childhood she received her education partly from her mother's hands and partly from a convent. At the age of 8 years old Jeanne's mother had taken her to soothsayer who had predicted that she would "win the heart of a King".

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Detail of an illustration of the ball - the King
was dressed as one of the yew trees

From then on her mother - who firmly believed it - took care to do all she could to bring her daughter closer to the King, Louis XV. The couple's official first meeting took place on 25th February 1745 during the wedding celebrations of the Dauphin. The occasion was the masked ball later known as the Ball of the Yew Trees which sparked the relationship between Louis XV, King of France and Madame de Pompadour.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

The Turkish Rooms of the Comte d'Artois

Having been inspired by the first instalment of a Turkish-inspired cabinet - installed in 1776 - the Comte d'Artois decided that he wished to have one - or rather three - of his own.

In 1781 he had the Cabinet de Turc created in his apartment in the South Wing at Versailles. For the task he turned to Jubault who was his chief furniture officer. In turn Jubault let the word be sent to furniture makers who created a good deal of "exotic" pieces of furniture for the Comte's new cabinet. The Comte d'Artois was infatuated with the style and ended up having no less than three rooms dedicated to it: two at Versailles and one at the Palais du Temple. Despite having been dismantled in the wake of the revolution a surprising amount of the original pieces has survived although the surviving pieces are from the different rooms.

The Louvre has created a replica of the original room as a part of an exhibition which is the closest we will get to knowing what it looked like.

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The replication
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Billedresultat for cabinet turc du comte d'artois

Francois Rémond produced a beautiful gilded table with a top of blue/grey marble. Keeping with the demand for eastern mysticism the four table legs are shaped into gilded mermaids crowned by various weaponry. The table is currently held by the Louvre.

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The table
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Close-up of the mermaids

Also, Rémond created five gilded candelabras; both table and candelabras were for Versailles and were created in 1780. The candelabras are now in Buckingham Palace.
The furniture were hung with bright yellow fabric and golden tassels.

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Billedresultat for cabinet turc du comte d'artois

The decorated wall panels are for some reason held by the MET. They were originally intended for the rooms at Versailles and date around 1781. Turban clad figures dance on the yellow background surrounded by wreaths of flowers and blue medallions. Traditionally, the wall panels have been attributed to Jean-Siméon Rousseau - not how the mermaids on the panels perfectly match those of the table. The panel can be seen below:

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Here is another version of the wall panels which was probably used for the other room at Versailles. They were also the work of Jean-Siméon Rousseau:


Friday, 2 September 2016

The Palace of Versailles

Besides the overall layout and photos of the palace there are some aspects that it is interesting to take a closer look at; especially considering that the château in itself is a masterpiece of baroque and rococo art. Sadly, the majority of the apartments of courtiers have been destroyed and only very little remains. This page focuses on two parts:

The Palace Interiors 

The Old Apartments