Night tour of the Grand Apartments of the Palace of Versailles

The night in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles

 The night in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles

No need to introdice the Palace of Versailles  , the most brilliant achievement of the Sun King! If in daytime, especially in high season, the castle is visited by hordes of tourists in an indescribable crush, it presents a very different atmosphere once night falls …

Enjoying the night of museums in May 2018, your favorite mouse offers you an intimate discovery in the dim light of the Grand Apartments of the Palace of Versailles. The photos are therefore a little dark or have required a serious post-processing. But they aim to share with you this very singular atmosphere of « Versailles by night ». Follow me ! 😉

 



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Practical information

The Salon of Hercules at Versailles

The Salon of Hercules

A single evening of May each year, many museums, including a part of the Palace of Versailles, are open late and in general free to the public. At Versailles, the King’s Grand Apartment, the Hall of Mirrors, and the King’s Apartment, whose room, were open to all.

The historic galleries, the Mesdames’ apartments on the ground floor or the gardens remained closed. The Queen’s bedroom remained closed because in restoration, since already 2016 …

Visit

We enter, as usual, the Dufour Pavilion … but with the joy of seeing absolutely no queue! A glance at the illuminated Marble courtyard that we cross, and let’s go for the visit!

 

The chapel

We begin with admiring the chapel: first of the ground floor, then after a glance at the gallery of Peter, we climb a spiral staircase in the thickness of the wall of the chapel. A new glance from the royal gallery upstairs, which the king was gaining directly from his apartments.

Keep in mind that it is the 5th successive chapel of the castle and it was completed in 1710: Louis XIV only enjoyed it at the age of 72! We can only admire the sumptuous ceiling painted by Coypel, but the sculptures of Coustou are not bad either!

 

Then we arrive at the Grand Apartment of the King with the Hercules salon and the following six salons, almost all named after a Roman god and a star. You admire beautiful marble paneling or paintings by famous painters, but it is especially the painted ceilings that amazed me the most … beware of torticollis!

The place of residence of the king became in 1683, after the death of the queen, a parade apartment open the day to the public, and parties at the the evenings known as « Apartment », three times a week from October to Easter of 6 pm to 10 pm Do not be surprised to see that there are few pieces of furniture: the rooms were used as playrooms or dancing, with folding, small stools in « X ».

The Salon of Hercules (salon d’Hercules)

The Hercules Salon of the Palace of Versailles at night

The Hercules Salon of the Palace of Versailles at night

This living room, the largest of the castle, is entirely designed around the huge canvas of Veronese (44 m²!), The meal at Simon the Pharisee , offered by the Republic of Venice to King Louis XIV. But he did not live this finished room, the works were hardly engaged at the time of its disappearance on September 1st, 1715. Too bad …

It is under Louis XV that the works were completed in 1736, with the huge ceiling painted by Lemoyne, The Apotheosis of Hercules , of about 250 m² and 142 characters! While Louis XV, admiring, made Lemoyne the first painter of the King, the latter, exhausted and depressed,  victim of what we’d called today a burn-out, committed suicide six months later by piercing himself with nine sword’s blows…. Oops!

This room served as a reception venue or sumptuous royal celebrations. Facing the meal at Simon , note on the fireplace another smaller canvas of Veronese, Rebecca and Eliezer .

In any case, I found it very impressive, one of my favorites!

 

The Abundance Salon (Salon de l’Abondance)

On « Apartment », evenings, this room offered three buffets of hot and cold drinks. It is not known if mice also came to taste spirits or sorbets! (I like them, hum) On the wall, notice four large portraits of Louis XIV’s family members. I’m interested in History (yes, cultivated mice, do exist!) I like to have fun trying to recognize the characters represented.

 

The Salon of Venus (Salon de Venus)

With the next salon, it was originally a simple passageway at the top of – disappeared –  Ambassadors staircase , hence the marble decoration. We must especially look at the beautiful compartmentalized ceiling, but the statue of Louis XIV in costume in the antique Jean Warin is really classy. We can not imagine the same with the former french president « scooter fan »!

 

The Salon de Diane

It was the Sun King’s pool hall, which excelled at this game! You will not miss the beautiful expressive bust of Louis XIV at the age of 27 (1665) by the Italian Bernini called Le Bernin, typical of the genius of this Baroque artist. What a panache!

 

The Mars Salon (Salon de Mars)

First room of the former King’s apartment, from where the change of decor with fabric stretched to the wall, it was originally a guards room. During the evenings of « Apartment », it was set to become a room dedicated to games, balls and music. All this red hurt my eyes a bit, hum.

 

The Mercury Salon (Salon de Mercure)

It was an old antechamber that became – periodically – a room of parade, devolving to the games on the evenings of « Apartment ». At the death of the Sun King, the coffin was exposed for a whole week and watched over day and night by ecclesiastics who took turns to celebrate a permanent mass all morning!

The grandson of Louis XIV, the future king of Spain, slept three weeks before joining his new kingdom.

 

The Apollo Salon or Throne Room (Salle du Trône)

Unfortunately there is nothing left of the throne but the platform … and the three nails supporting the canopy (raise your head!), but keep in mind it the ambassadors were received here. On the evenings of « Apartment », the room was dedicated to music and dance (yes, again !)

 

The War Room at nitght in Versailles Palace

The War Room

The War Room (Le salon de la Guerre)

This corner living room is the junction between the Grand Apartment and the Hall of Mirrors.

One can not miss the enormous oval bas-relief of Coysevox on the mantel, Louis XIV victorious and crowned by Glory , appearing the king triumphing of of his enemies.

In the center of the ceiling, admire France, wearing on its shield the portrait of Louis XIV . On the other three sides of the vault, there are three figures: Germany and her eagle, Holland and Spain with their respective lions.

 

The Hall of Mirrors or Grand Hall (Galerie des Glaces)

You came for that, didn’t you? 😉 73 meters long, 10.5 meters wide and 12 meters high, this masterpiece by the painter Le Brun has been impressing visitors since its completion in 1686. Seventeen bay windows hold as many panels of glass (fun pun in French as we translate « galerie des glaces » whichi is the same word as « ice cream ». As a French mouse, I thought it was about that, snif)

The manufacture of mirrors was a monopoly of Venice at that time and it was difficult and therefore very expensive to make big ones. Louis XIV therefore made France realize the largest mirrors possible to impress visitors: it’s successful! Everything is here to the glory of the king … and French production. The ceiling of nearly 1000 m² is a set of allegories to the glory of the Sun King at the height of his reign.

It is here that was signed in 1919 the Treaty of Versailles, puting an end to the First World War, and where were received several heads of foreign states. The gallery presents its decor of 1770, at the time of the wedding of the Dauphin, future Louis XVI, with Marie Antoinette of Austria.

I really felt like a princess (I had planned to put on a beautiful dress!) in this place. Really magical at night! And more appreciable than during my diurnal visit, we can breathe a little more! But keep in monde that even in the time of Louis XIV, it was alreadyovercrowded !

 

Council Room (Salle du Conseil)

We then enter the King ‘s Apartment , where Louis XIV resided from 1684 to his death in 1715. This apartment, widely accessible at the time in the absence of his majesty, had above all a role of representation. Kings Louis XV and Louis XVI will retain the use for ceremonies of etiquette … but will reside in small private apartments, far from the crowd of courtiers … and easier to heat in winter! Indeed, the castle of Versailles was full of drafts, Louis XIV giving only little consideration to comfort. He was not sensitive to the cold, unlike his wife Madame de Maintenon!

No marble in the Council Room: this room was refitted under Louis XV in elegant « rocaille » style with carved woodwork. It was here that the king’s major political decisions were taken in the presence of his ministers, as in 1775 the participation in the American war of independence.

 

The King’s Chamber (Chambre du Roi)

This room became Louis XIV’s in 1701, and remained the official bedroom of his successors … who slept elsewhere given the discomfort of the place in winter!

Located at the center of the perspectives of the castle and the city of Versailles, as a strong symbol, there were held ceremonies of « Grand Lever » and « Coucher » (when the king officially woke up and went to bed). The day, everyone could come and go, the rooms being (already!) public. The only obligation was to bow to the bed, a symbol of monarchical power. A guard ensured that attitudes were dignified … and prevented anyone from spitting!

Normally nobody could pass the balustrade , except the clergy. This room was used for audiences, the throne was actually of exceptional use for large official receptions. The bed « à la française » is in its state of 1722, first year of the reign of Louis XV. The paintings at the very top in the attic were for the most part already present in the time of Louis XIV.

 

Salon de l’Oeil-de-boeuf

It was here that the courtiers waited for the ceremony of the Lever or the Coucher du Roi. Blowing the candlestick of the king was a great honor! If this ritual of etiquette may seem strange today, I am sure that some are able to imitate their ancestors to get favors at the Elysee … 😉 « The art of giving the being to nothing » said St. Simon …

This salon is in fact made up of two small rooms, including the former chamber of Louis XIV from 1684 to 1701. The « oeil-de-boeuf » overlooks the Queen’s courtyard, but a second, consisting of mirrors, was added in face: it is that Louis XIV was a big fan of symmetry! Madame de Maintenon said: « With him, one must resolve to perish in symmetry. « 

Note this amazing allegorical painting of Jean Nocret, The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus in the guise of the royal family !

 

The Grand Couvert Antechamber, the Guard Room and the Queen’s Staircase

We go through the first antechamber or Antechamber of the Grand Couvert, where was held the evening for 3/4 of an hour the public meal of the king. The king dined in front of the audience with a highly codified ceremonial, offering a real theatrical performance accompanied by music! An idea of ​​the atmosphere? Here you can listen to the Delalande Symphonies played there.

I would see myself there to make me serve refined food, hum … But do you know where the dishes were prepared … and where were the rodents housed at the time? Well in the Grand Commun, large building located in the city, just south of the castle. I bet thy were used to eating their meak rather cold at the royal table, especially in winter! Finally know that only the duchesses had the right to sit on folding, others had to simply stand there, admirng the king and his suite !

We then cross a very sober guard room. Since the destruction of the Ambassadors’ staircase under Louis XV, the Queen’s staircase, with its polychrome marble, has become the main staircase to the apartments. It was built by Mansart in 1679.

 

The opinion of the mouse

This unique visit in the darkness gives a little idea of ​​the atmosphere of the evenings of Apartment, three nights a week when King Louis XIV offered the Court various festivities. These two hours of strolling in a small committee gave me a different vision than that of the over-frequented castle during the day, and that I tried to share here with you. 🙂

For the more classic visit of the castle and the domain during the day, avoid the crowds and unpleasant surprises by reading absolutely all my practical advice !

 

 

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