Immortalising Versailles

By Palace of Versailles

Since the middle of the 19th century, photography has followed the destiny of the Palace of Versailles. They remind us that the Palace has changed from yesterday to today, while reflecting the continuity of History.  Archival images or artistic expression, the pictures coincide with Louis XIV’s goal: to make Versailles immortal.

Parade for the centennial of the birth of General Hoche (1868/1868) by Georges de la PersonnePalace of Versailles

 I. The Legacy of Power 

Until the 20th century, military parades were held on the Place d'Armes, just as they were under the Ancien Régime. In the pictures, the symbolic evocation of the Palace of Versailles reinforces the show of military might - Parade for the centennial of the birth of General Hoche, 1868. 

Artillery on the Place d'Armes, Anonyme, 1870/1870, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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But military strength also serves the Palace’s image, echoing the question of power - Artillery on the Place d'Armes, circa 1870. 

Louis XIV’s bedroom at the Palace of Versailles, Collection Malitte-Richard, 1870/1899, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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Under the Ancien Régime, the sovereign’s bed was one representation of power - Louis XIV’s bedroom at the Palace of Versailles at the end of the 19th century.

Louis XIV's bedroom, nowadays.

Louis-Philippe’s bedroom at the Grand Trianon, Collection Malitte-Richard, 1870/1899, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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With their focus on the bedrooms of the various Kings, Emperors and Heads of State at Versailles, photographers have perpetuated this representative tradition, perhaps unwittingly - Louis-Philippe’s bedroom at the Grand Trianon at the end of the 19th century. 

General de Gaulle’s bedroom, Fonds de l’agence d’architecture de Versailles, 1966/1966, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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Furniture and decorations change with different periods and restoration projects, of course - General de Gaulle’s bedroom in the apartments at the Grand Trianon, in 1966.

Napoleon I’s study at the Grand Trianon (1870/1870) by AnonymePalace of Versailles

In the contemporary period, the office has come to symbolise the functions of the Head of State - Napoleon I’s study at the Grand Trianon, circa 1870.  

General de Gaulle’s office at the Grand Trianon, Fonds de l’agence d’architecture de Versailles, 1966/1966, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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These pictures evoke the continuity of the relationship between Versailles and power, often with amazing similarities - General de Gaulle’s office at the Grand Trianon, 1966. 

Reception for Queen Victoria of England (1855/1855) by Eugène DisderiPalace of Versailles

Under the Empire as well as under the Republic, Versailles has often been the site of receptions held in honour of foreign Heads of State - Reception for Queen Victoria of England in the Hall of Mirrors, 1855.  

Reception honouring Czar Nicolas II of Russia, Collection Malitte-Richard, 1896/1896, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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Photo documents were often produced to preserve the memory of how the rooms were furnished and decorated for the circumstances - Reception honouring Czar Nicolas II of Russia in the Galerie des Batailles, 1896. 

Reception honouring J. F. Kennedy, President of the United States, Fonds de l’agence d’architecture de Versailles, 1961/1961, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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Although absent from the pictures, the event’s presence is nonetheless suggested  - Reception honouring J. F. Kennedy, President of the United States, in the Hall of Mirrors, 1961. 

The Hall of Mirrors, nowadays.

The Coronation Room arranged for the G7 summit at Versailles, Anonyme, 1982/1982, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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The presence of guests gave rise to other pictures that History has preserved - The Coronation Room arranged for the G7 summit at Versailles, June 1982. 

Statue of Louis XIV by Desjardins (1939/1945) by AnonymePalace of Versailles

II. Affronts

Are the statues,Versailles’ silent sentinels, immobilised forever? - Statue of Louis XIV by Martin Desjardins in the Orangerie at Versailles.

Statues moved from the stone gallery in the North wing to the Grand Stables, Fonds de l’agence d’architecture de Versailles, 1956/1956, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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They sometimes have to be moved to install them elsewhere, to restore them or to protect them - Statues moved from the stone gallery in the North wing to the Grand Stables, March 1956. 

“Apollo served by the nymphs”, by Girardon and Regnaudin, in the Grove of Apollo (1939/1945) by Fonds de l’agence d’architecture de VersaillesPalace of Versailles

During World War II, they were removed from their pedestals and sheltered from bombardment with highly elaborate measures - Sculpted group "Apollo served by the nymphs" by François Girardon and Thomas Regnaudin. 

Equestrian statue of Louis XIV by Cartellier and Petitot, Jean-Marc Manaï, 2009/2009, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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The photographers who captured these moments show us moving images of momentarily fallen works of art whose human expressions take on a deeper meaning - Equestrian statue of Louis XIV, removal of the statue on 20 February 2006. 

View of the Grand Canal after the storm, Jean-Marc Manaï, 1999/1999, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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In December 1999, an exceptionally violent storm fell over 10,000 trees in the Park of Versailles - View of the Grand Canal after the storm.

The Mill in the Queen’s Hamlet and the wash house destroyed (1929/1929) by Fonds de l’agence d’architecture de VersaillesPalace of Versailles

It was one in a long list of hurricanes that have regularly damaged the layout of André Le Nôtre’s garden. The Mill and the wash house in the Queen’s Hamlet destroyed, November 1929.

The gardens of Versailles after the storm, Jean-Marc Manaï, 1990/1990, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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Nature’s revenge on those who thought they could subject it to their will, these episodes have forced men to undertake perpetual repairs - The gardens of Versailles after the storm of February 1990. 

The groves of Versailles gardens after the storm, Jean-Marc Manaï, 1999/1999, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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All that is left of these events are spectacular pictures of what the wind had wrought - The groves of Versailles gardens after the storm of december 1999. 

The rooms of the Chimay attic, Fonds de l’agence d’architecture de Versailles, 1953/1953, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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All monuments are subject to the ravages of time and to damages. But to restore the Palace of Versailles and return it to its original beauty, it first had to be stripped of all its fineries - Renovation of the rooms in the Chimay attic above the Queen’s apartments, 1953. 

The Queen of England’s bedroom at the Grand Trianon, Fonds de l’agence d’architecture de Versailles, 1963/1966, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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Destruction before construction... What should remain hidden is then exposed: frameworks, stone and reinforcements - The Queen of England’s bedroom at the Grand Trianon, 1963-1966. 

Restoration of the wall decoration in the Morocco room, Fonds de l’agence d’architecture de Versailles, 1960/1960, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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 Woodwork, gold and stucco will then bring the monument back to its full dignity - Restoration of the wall decoration in the Morocco room in the North wing, 1960.

Colonnade Grove (1900/1930) by Eugène AtgetPalace of Versailles

III. The view of the experts

Eugène Atget (1857-1927) photographed Versailles during two periods: from 1901 to 1906 and then in the 1920s - The Colonnade Grove in the early 20th century. 

The Colonnade Grove, Eugène Atget, 1900/1930, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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All his pictures focus on the park, whose characteristics the photographer sought to decipher - Detail of the Colonnade Grove in the early 20th century. 

The Water Parterres, Eugène Atget, 1900/1930, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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He analysed the geometrical composition of the landscape in an applied, meticulous manner - The Water Parterre in the early 20th century. 

The Grove of the Arc de Triomphe, Eugène Atget, 1900/1930, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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He enjoyed bringing together sculptures and plants as a way to better express their complementarity in André Le Nôtre’s garden - The Grove of the Arc de Triomphe in the early 20th century. 

The Hundred Steps staircase, Pierre Jahan, 1965/1965, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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The artistic and architectural heritage features prominently in the work of photographer Pierre Jahan (1909-2003) - The Hundred Steps staircase, 1965 .

“Versailles, or the Thursday outing” (1965/1965) by Pierre JahanPalace of Versailles

He was interested in the vanishing lines and perspectives that are so important at Versailles - "Versailles, or the Thursday outing”, 1965.

Old man sitting at the foot of the façade, Pierre Jahan, 1960/1960, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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In the 1960s, Pierre Jahan opted for a humanistic vision - Old man sitting at the foot of the façade on the park side, circa 1960. 

Water Parterre terrace staircase, Pierre Jahan, 1982/1982, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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He came back to Versailles in the 1980s for a fisheye lens experience - Water Parterre terrace staircase, 1982. 

The apartments at Versailles, Vasco Ascolini, 1990/1990, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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Vasco Ascolini (1937), who started as a theatre photographer, sees Versailles as a performance space - The apartments at Versailles, circa 1990. 

The Abundance Salon, Vasco Ascolini, 1990/1990, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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He highlights mirror effects, the interplay of shadows and contrasts - The Abundance Salon, 1990. 

The Abundance Salon, nowadays.

Vaults of the Orangerie (1990/1990) by Vasco AscoliniPalace of Versailles

He reveals the sensuality of stone such as marble - Vaults of the Orangerie, circa 1990. 

Princes Courtyard, Vasco Ascolini, 1990/1990, From the collection of: Palace of Versailles
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His pictures celebrate the beauty of Versailles, which he treats with respect and elegance - Princes Courtyard, passage way to the gardens, circa 1990. 

Credits: Story

Présidente du château de Versailles—Catherine Pégard

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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