A world around the Palace, the gardens are a wide collection of fountains and lakes, surrounded by flowers carefully arranged.
Being so wide, you may use a small train to follow it, stopping in several of its more distinctive areas.
Funny, the way they use irregular measures, to compensate the errors of perspective caused by the size of the longest lake.
Now, let's concentrate on art. Forget for a while the palace and gardens, and look at the paintings, statues, frescoes and carvings. Where? Everywhere!
Each salon or corridor is a tremendously rich gallery of art that could keep you busy for hours. And if, not being a French, you had to study french culture and history, you are going to meet lots of names and faces familiar to your memories
The richness of the palace and the perfection of the gardens became a model for lots of palaces all over Europe. But none beats the original. There’s no chance to see in a glance an entire salon because there will always dozens of persons everywhere you go. It’s impossible to make a picture different from some bodies or heads, at least, with a palace in the background.
It’s impossible to analyze most of the details, because everything is so immense, and there are so many people behind you, that you have to rush. But it is a hell of experience. I suggest that you make several visits, each time focusing in a different angle. To start, the building.
It's huge marvelous and rich. And with thousand of beautiful details that you are unable to see, unless you repeat, and repeat, and repeat...
It is not an example of "trompe l'oeil" art, but we may be confused by the garden's size and proportions in Versailles.
The lake named "Grand canal" that is the axis of the gardens, is almost 1700 meters long, and it is larger at the end to reduce the perspective. It was used to several nautical exhibitions, even with large boats, but don't ask me how did they move them into the lake.
It is by entrance of the "Cour Royale" to the northern wing with the 17th c. galleries that the traditional visit of the castle of Versailles starts. The visit begins at the ground floor with a succession of decorated rooms and continues on the first floor.
On crowded days (4 million visitors/year) the visit is rather chaotic because the thousands of visitors pass from one room to another by relatively narrow doors. Moreover groups listening to the explanations of their guides slow down the visitors flow.
If you are interested by the furniture, the decoration, the paintings of this part of the castle it is better to come in low season i.e. in winter.
The nicest and spectacular part of this northern wing is in my opinion the Royal Chapel which can only bee seen from the entrance or inside on special guided visits.
In the time of King Louis XIV till Louis XVI an 80 m length monumental gate separated the Main courtyard from the Royal Court. The gate was created by the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart about 1680 and was destroyed by the revolutionaries in 1789.
The reconstitution of this Royal Gate started in 2006 and was ended in July 2008. It required 15 tons of iron and the cooperation of the best craftsmen of this art. The gilders patiently applied by hand 100.000 gold sheets. These gold leaves measure 8 X 8 cm and have only 2 microns thickness!
The courtyard of the Château de Versailles appears like it was prior to the French Revolution but there have been a number of critics in France about this reconstitution.
The bronze equestrian statue of Louis XIV set up at this spot in 1836 by king Louis-Philippe has been removed and is being restored. The famous statue, so often photographed by tourists, will not return to its original site now occupied by the restored gate but will be located on the Place d'Armes directly in the axis of the castle.
The interesting part of the northern wing - Galleries du XVIIe siècle - by which starts the visit of the castle is certainly the chapel (inaugurated in 1710) devoted to Saint Louis the patron of the French monarchy.
It comprises two vertical spaces:
1° the centre of the nave which one sees from the ground floor of the circuit of the 17th c. galleries where the courtiers would stand, the ladies of the royal court occupied the lateral galleries. They would stand with their back to the altar in order to look at the king.
2° the tribune overlooking the nave located on the same floor as the royal apartments.
It is from there that Louis XIV and his successors attended the daily mass at 10 am. The mass lasted approximately a half hour. Each day a new work composed by Lully, Lalande and others is sung by the chorus of the chapel.
The architecture is an original creation of Jules Hardouin-Mansart who combines Gothic and Baroque art characteristics. The decoration is exceptional by the extent of carved work.
There is a striking similarity with the Sainte-Chapelle in the Cité of Paris: an upper level for the king and a lower level for his subjects.
One visit is not enough to appreciate all the beauty of this palace.
From my first visit I didn't remember the ceilings, dominated by the look of everything at eyes' level. I had to come twice, prepared to look for details, to really enjoy the diversity and beauty of the painted ceilings.
As much the Castle is imposing, as much the Grand Trianon is a gem of architectural elegance. The choice of this retreat at the end of the Park of Versailles by Louis XIV and the choice of the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart for its erection in 1687-1688 in a Italian style was a great success so that the Grand Dauphin, the Queen Marie Leszczinska, Napoleon I, King Louis-Philippe staid there and that finally the General de Gaulle decided to restore it in 1962-1965.
The Palace of the Grand Trianon consists of two buildings on ground floor, covered wit a flat roof with balustrade. The two wings are connected by a peristyle adorned with pink marble columns. The sight on the flowered gardens is beautiful.
Inside the mural decoration of the time of Louis XIV was restored. The furniture is in the style of the time of Napoleon I.
I felt quite pleased with my visit here. The Grand Trianon is much calmer than the castle itself. In sunny weather it is a very nice promenade distant for thirty minutes on foot.
I always liked malachite (hydrated copper carbonate if my mineralogy souvenirs are right) it is thus with great pleasure that I discovered this “Salon des Malachites” in the right wing (room n° 13) of the Grand Trianon.
In the beginning it was the “Cabinet of Sunset” of Louis XIV, then the bedroom of the duchess of Burgundy and finally the drawing-room of emperor Napoleon I.
The blocks of malachite, extracted of the Ural Mountains, were offered to Napoleon by the tsar Alexander I after the signature of the treaty of Tilsitt. It should be known that at the time malachite was a Russian speciality. There is at the Palace of St-Petersburg another famous malachite room.
The furniture elements with malachite were created by Percier and realised by Jacob-Desmalter in 1809. The basin, the candelabra and the pieces of furniture with malachite top were initially at the Palais des Tuileries before they were moved to decorate this room of the Grand Trianon.
The remainder of the furniture of the room is decorated with fabrics of red colour what causes a seizing contrast with the green malachite.
Louis XIV particularly liked the Trianon and would stay there in the summer for short “holidays” close to the castle of Versailles but away from the strict obligations of the royal court. He occupied there successively three apartments.
The room in the left wing is particularly elegant. It is preceded by a large cabinet called Mirror Room.
After Louis XIV the room was occupied by the Grand Dauphin. With the Revolution the pieces of furniture of the Trianon were dispersed. It is the emperor Napoleon I who restored and arranged this palace. The former room of King Louis XIV became the room of the empress Marie-Louise. The bed was ordered by Napoleon for the Palace des Tuileries.
Later king Louis Philippe (1830 - 1848) had this bed widened and transferred to the Grand Trianon for him and queen Marie-Amélie. The back of the bed carries the letters LP topped by a crown.
This room is often called "Room of the Empress"; furniture is from the Empire and Louis Philippe period but the mural decoration is generally that of the time of Louis XIV.
The family living room of king Louis-Philippe is one of my preferred rooms of the right wing of the Grand Trianon. In the beginning there were two rooms, a bedroom and an anteroom of the first apartment of Louis XIV. Under Napoleon I these were the Officers room and the Princes room.
King Louis-Philippe joined the two rooms into a living room intended for the meetings of the royal family and their guests.
Paintings on mythological subjects date from the end of the 17th century.
The furniture was made by Brion and Jacob-Desmalter. The princesses could arrange their needlework in numbered drawers of the family work-tables.
It is a very beautiful, very clear living room with beautiful harmonies of colours.
This very beautiful gallery, 52 m long and 7 m broad, ends the right wing of the Grand Trianon palace and leads towards Trianon-sous-Bois (not visited).
The building shelters the flower beds from the northern wind.
The gallery contains the collection of 21 paintings of the painter Jean Cotelle carried out about 1690 at the request of the King Louis XIV. These paintings describe the gardens of Trianon and Versailles such as they were at the time of the king.
They are historical documents which served for the recent restoration of the gardens of Versailles.
They were replaced by other paintings under Napoleon but found again their place in the gallery in 1913.
Remarkable are also the 5 Empire crystal chandeliers with 24 lights which came from the crystal manufacture of Montcenis.
In the niches there are sculptures of Lespingola representing children.
Louis-Philippe transformed the gallery into dining room.
This use of this beautiful gallery is still actual. The Cotelle Gallery can be rented for private events and can contain 200 people.
This would be a fine place for a next international VT meeting on condition of finding a very generous sponsor!
Versailles is a "must see", if only to understand what grandeur a human mind could create. The gardens are created to be seen from the "God's eye" perch of the parterres.
The Hall of Mirrors is now reopened.
Versailles is outside Paris proper. You can use your Paris Museum pass at Versailles, but for more access get the Versailles Passport. You can buy your Versailles Passport online, although you must commit to a certain date. Either way gets you out of the long ticket line once you are there.
Versailles is mostly the creation of Louis XIV (5 September 1638 – 1 September 1715), designed to express and reinforce his power. The daily routine in the chateau reinforced the power further as did the gardens, which are created to be seen from the "God's eye" perch of the parterres.
My Versailles page is in progress. Most people focus on the chateau itself and give the gardens a quick look-see, but that's a mistake. The gardens have both wide vistas and small secluded areas that delight. So my pictures on this tip are the gardens.
It was not without emotion that I pushed my head in the entry - one does not go further - of the theatre of Marie-Antoinette. This simple building located at a hundred meters of the palace of the Petit Trianon contains an oval room which was the private theatre of the Queen. It was built in 1780 by the architect Richard Mique.
It is a charming little theatre with decorative pasteboard sculptures, with blue hangings, a gold-embroidered curtain. The stage is larger than the auditorium.
It is an interesting theatre from the technical point of view because the machinery is the original one from the period and the decoration is also original though restored. Close to the entry one can see a video explaining the lighting of this theatre by the means of candles.
It is also a moving place which reveals the personality of Marie-Antoinette always in search of entertainments and who liked to perform on scene. She was very elegant but it is known as that she sang better than she played roles.
This place is also an example of the thoughtlessness, even more, the political unconsciousness of Marie-Antoinette. By holding the representations with a public of close friends she induced jealousy among the nobility which was not invited. Moreover she played, against the will of King Louis XVI, the role of Rosine in “the Barber of Seville” of Beaumarchais, an obvious satire of the nobility whereas the spirit of the revolution was already moving in France.
The empress of Austria Maria -Theresa told her daughter Marie-Antoinette, who had in no way inherited the political cleverness of her mother, to stop performing.