Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Arkansas can wait - Special Edition: Versailles: "It's good to be the king!"

Mel Brook's "History of the World - Part 1" was not a great movie.  There are two things about it that stick in my mind, though.  The Torquemada Spanish Inquisition song and dance number and the Louis XVI "It's good to be the king!"  line.

There is no doubt that at Versailles, it was good to be the king, indeed!

Versailles!  Louis XIV out front of his place.
Versailles was always "something".  It was a rural retreat for the royals for quite a while - a "hunting lodge" for kings.  It was quite opulent, but Louis XIV really made it what it became for the bulk of the 18th century, adding on to the "cottage", creating places for the government ministries, and creating the immense gardens.

The total cost of the expansion was roughly 1/2 of France's annual GDP!

We first took a tour of the apartments that Louis XV created for his family.  Prior to this, the King slept in the "public" side of the house.  Louis XV wanted some more privacy so he build out some rooms in what was a large public space.

Our tour guide

A model of the open space built by Louis XIV, converted to apartments by Louis XV

King's desk, complete with secret side door for restocking paper and ink.


Showing flush doors that match the wall

Dining room

Hall leading to private apartments

A barometer.

A clock built to display the correct date and phase of the moon for millenia.  That's optimism! 

The tour included the opera house

The ceiling.  What is going on?  Cherubs and ribbons and a Pegasus and who knows what...

Gilded proscenium

Chandeliers in boxes are only half with mirrors behind them. Clever!

It WAS good to be the king, and there were throngs of folk who wanted a bit of the that "goodness" to rub off on them, so they hung around the palace.  All they had to do was rent a hat and sword in town and appear as Lord Soandso and they were in!  So, every action of the king was a great event, including who got to take his slippers off at night and tuck him in.  Louis XIV liked the attention.  Louis XV, not so much...

The tour dumped us off at the start of the main house tour. It was jam packed - for good reason.  Nothing like this exists anywhere else.  It's easy to see why the regular folk got in a bit of a rage over this lifestyle while food was becoming scarce.

Crowded palace!
Some outrageous scenes from the house

Chapel.  Every house needs one of these....

More ceiling silliness.  Cherubs coming out of a building in the sky...oh, my.

80's hair-band hair was popular on French kings, apparently.

Got enough paintings of yourself around?  Next time, go with the statue.

Decorating theme?  Leave no square inch unadorned!

Enough paintings and statues of yourself?  Try a bas-relief!

Hall of mirrors is also "hall of more crazy ceilings."

Aptly named hall of mirrors

... and from the other end 
King's bed in his "public" bedroom.
It was quite a deal to be one of those chosen to help put the king to bed and tuck him in. 

Queen's public bed

Baroque-ing Bad!
Reflective Patti

I suppose this is Hermes or Mercury doing something or another...or a promotion for Obamacare...or a premium mail order prescription delivery service.  It's not clear to me which. 

The front door

The gate to the palace itself.  Wish I had the gold paint concession...
Busts on the walls and people on the roof

Smiling visitors!

The Gardens.

The house may have gotten a good head start before Louis XIV moved there, but the gardens were all his idea.  Something about showing he could "control or master nature."  Sun Kings do this, I've heard. I guess everyone needs a hobby...

There were a few statues:

...and a few fountains

A dragon?  Sea serpant?  Can't tell if he's winning or losing.

Neptune and his pals.
Impressive even when they're not flowing.

...and a "pond"

This "pond" is the hand-dug Grand Canal.  It's a mile long!
...suitable for boating and the King's life-like model naval battle re-creations

...also good for swans and ducks and row boats

...and some MORE fountains

A relatively unadorned fountain.

Cherubs?  Why not?  Gotta have cherubs!

These dance to classical music - a relatively recent addition to Versailles.
Maybe they got the old "dancing waters" from centerfield in Veteran's Stadium, Philadelphia?

Of course, once you name yourself "The Sun King", you have to have a stylized image of yourself rising from the mist, headed to you house on your chariot.

...surrounded my mermen?
 Was Versailles in a good place for powering all these fountains?  Of course not!  It was a constant struggle to find and pump water for the canal and fountains.  There was a large cistern for holding fountain water in the north wing of the house - also handy for fire fighting should it be needed.

It was good to be the King - and probably not too shabby to be the queen, either.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your turn!