Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Apartment of the Grand Dauphin

Louis, le Grand Dauphin was the second-most important person at court politically; his position was clouded by his father and per French tradition the Queen had no political power. As such his apartments were required to display his status.

It was located on the ground floor overlooking the parterre du midi, immediate beneath that of the queen and the Salon of Peace. The location meant that during the spring and summer the scent of the orange trees in the Orangery would flow in through the large windows. The nearby fountain - named for the Swiss guards - reflected the sun light at sunset.

Three cabinets - arranged in the enfilade style - led the way to the Grand Cabinet which was immediately beneath the Salon of Peace. His bedroom followed immediately afterwards.
The bedroom was as magnificent as the remainder of the apartment. The colour theme was gold, blue and white. According to Nancy Mitford, Madame de Montespan gifted him with special curtains for the windows there which were embroidered at the Convent of St. Joseph. A massive fireplace was adorned with the painting "the Triumph of Flora" by Poussin.

The Grand Dauphin

When James II of England came to France to visit Louis XIV the Sun King led him to his son's apartments as a part of the château's wonders; so impressive was the artworks to be found in those chambers. The English king was not the only one to admire the grandness of the collection. Visitors were often asked to wear special slippers to protect the precious parquet floor. While the collection is somewhat intact their original setting is not. In 1747 Louis XV ordered a complete restoration of the apartments on the ground floor. Consequently, the stucco and additional decor of the Grand Dauphin's apartments are completely gone.

We can only use the statements of the Grand Dauphin's contemporaries to imagine what it truly looked like. Félibien gives us an insight into the treasury that was the apartments of the heir:
"one sees in the cabinets of his apartment an exquisite collection of all that is most rare and precious, not only in respect to the necessary furniture, tables, cabinets, porcelains,  mirrors, chandeliers but also paintings by the most famous artists, bronzes, agates, jewels and cameos ..."

The grand cabinet certainly earned its name. Originally, it had been three separate rooms: Monsieur's cabinet and bedroom and Madame's cabinet. They were fused together in 1693 to create the grand cabinet of Monseigneur.

The interior was as splendid as could be imagined. Boulle designed an entire room for him with the parquet floor emanating from his personal monogram at the center. He was also in charge of creating several of the pieces of furniture to be found in the other rooms. These pieces included a crystal cabinet stand, two tables in marquetry wood and a marquetry coffer. The four next rooms were occupied by the Grande Dauphine; the final room was reserved for the Grand Dauphin's guards.

Like the Hall of Mirrors, the Grand Dauphin's rooms were awash with mirrors. Between them the walls - and ceiling - were adorned with ebony and gold. The Grand Cabinet was left in the capable hands of Mignard who painted the ceiling with a large portrait of the Grand Dauphin himself. That same cabinet also housed a large table made from solid silver - at the price of 68.259 livres! All the paintings in this cabinet were on gold ground. 

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