Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Palace at Versailles

Louis XIV also known as the "Sun King"

Louis XIV built the Palace of Versailles in 1661-1668. The palace was built around a hunting lodge erected by Louis XIV's father, Louis XIII. This hunting lodge still remains at the center of the palace. Below is a picture of where the hunting lodge stands.

This amazing marble mansion took 27 years to complete. In that time thirty thousand of the best workers were hired to erect this magnificent building. Louis XIV first hired Louis Le Vau as head architect in 1669...

Louis Le Vau

...then later hired Jules Hardouin-Mansart as head architect in order to expand Versailles.

Jules Hardouin-Mansart

Charles Le Brun was hired as painter and decorator...

Charles Le Brun

...and Andre Le Notre was the landscape artist.

Andre Le Notre

Statue made by Andre Le Notre

This magnificent palace was built using Baroque architecture. The Baroque style prefers curved lines over rigid ones, and includes many domes in its design. An excellent example of these characteristics at the Palace of Versailles can be found in the chapel room... curved arches line the room and the ceiling is a symmetrical dome with a beautiful frescoe gracing the inside of it.

Close up view of chapel room ceiling frescoe

As seen in the above picture, frescoes make up a large portion of Baroque architecture and the Palace at Versailles. Frescoes are large elaborate paintings found on walls and ceilings of magnificent buildings. These paintings show much depth and amazing lighting techniques.

Below is the Crusade Room in the Palace at Versailles, showing walls covered in large paintings of war and sieges. But also, look at the floor. Doesn't it look like a wavy, pyramid-like surface? Optical illusions were another unusual, but defining, twist in the Baroque time-period architecture.

Anyone can tell by looking at the palace of Versailles that it is elaborately decorated. Baroque architecture spared no wall or ceiling in the decorating process.

Below is the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. This room sports 49,543,547 mirrors of all sizes, fixated to seventeen arches which reflect the seventeen windows.

The layout of the grounds were elaborately designed by Andre Le Notre. These grounds cover nine hundred seventy-seven acres. Three hundred statues grace the lawns, along with one thousand four hundred waterfalls and fountains.

Bassin of Apollon

Pyramid fountain

My favorite building/part of the Palace at Versailles is Marie Antoinette's Le Hameau. Marie Antoinette was the wife of Louis XIV's son and had Le Hameau built in order to get away from the rigid etiquette of life at Versailles. Le Hameau looks like a giant playhouse fairy land that I dreamed of playing in as a child. Marie Antoinette was ridiculed for building this quaint place because many people thought it extravagant. And indeed, it was, although I can understand why Marie would want to get away from etiquette.

Marie Antoinette hired Richard Mique as architect to build this farm, dairy, and mill. Marie only allowed Switzerland animals to be raised there and Le Hameau was therefore nick-named "the Swiss hamlet". A farmer was hired to take care of the place and many times, Marie Antoinette went there to live a pretend life as a milk maid. Even if the majority of people thought Le Hameau extravagant, this farm did provide fruits and vegetables for the royal table.

The rigid schedule and etiquette which Marie Antoinette wanted to escape was set in place by Louis XIV, her father-in-law. Louis XIV always had his day planned out and followed this schedule precisely. At 7:30 Louis got up, had his servants bathe, shave, combe, dress, and feed him while one hundred men looked on (to watch the king was considered an honor). At 10:00 Louis made a procession through the Hall of Mirrors and then headed to chapel for thirty minutes. At 11:00 Louis met with his cabinet and made decisions on country matters. Then at 1:00 precisely, he had lunch in his bedroom alone. At 2:00 he went hunting or walked in the gardens with the ladies. At 6:00 his son presided over entertaining the guests while he signed letters and studied. At 10:00 the extravagant Grand Public Dinner was attended. Louis retired at 11:30.

Only Louis XIV followed this rigid schedule though. His son and grandson did not adopt it because they could not stand the rigidness of it.

Etiquette was of great importance at the Palace of Versailles. People did not knock of the king's door... they scratched with their left pinky. Many courtiers grew their left pinky fingernail long to serve just this purpose. Ladies did not hold hands or link arms with gentlemen. They laid their arm on top of a gentleman's bent arm when walking with him... only fingertips were allowed to be touched. No one crossed legs in public and when an acquaintance was met on the street gentlemen acknowledged them by raising their hats off their heads. Also, gentlemen did not work. Instead they danced, fenced, gave speeches, and wrote letter. The fashionable lady's dress did not allow her to do much activity. Instead she could sew, knit, or spend time making her own perfume and cosmetics.

Essentially, everything about the Palace at Versailles was made and done to fit the king's wished or needs. So much respect was given the king that when the chamber maid passed a group of courtiers with the king's chamber pot, all the courtiers got on one knee and showed respect to the king.

In fact, the kings' selfishness, pride, and desire for power drove the country to revolution. The Palace at Versailles, while magnificent and beautiful to behold, cost a shocking amount of money... 116,438,892 livres or 2.5 billion in American currency. Only the middle class was expected to pay taxes for the king's frivolity. The rich were not required to pay any taxes at all! This led to much bitterness and resentment among the middle class, which in turn caused a revolt.

While Versailles is beautiful and shows the architect, painter, and worker's talents, it did not favor to the middle class people who bore the brunt of this outragious extravagance.

Guess where I want to visit now... VERSAILLES!!!


AJ Blanton said...

I have always wanted to visit Versailles. It just is architecturally beautiful. I have a huge fasination with history and Marie Antoinette is a person that I find interesting.

Anonymous said...

I did not read it but the pics are pretty! :D :D