Acquisitions of the Palace of Versailles

I found this on the official site of the Chateau de Versailles, and was interested in the items recently acquired by the palace.

Click here to get more info on the acquisitions and see pictures.

As the page will probably be updated in the future, I’m going to quote a few of the items I found most interesting.

These elegant folding stools form part of a series of sixty-four ordered for the Games Room of Queen Marie-Antoinette in the royal residence of Compiègne, delivered in two groups to the Queen by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené (1748 – 1803). Twenty-four of these folding stools were immediately placed in the throne room of the Château de Fontainebleau where they can still be seen. These folding stools will be installed in the bedchamber of Louis XV.

I find this interesting because it’s indicative of what has been lost from the Chateau. During the Revolution, the contents of the Chateau were destroyed or sold off. These stools, for example, are from another palace entirely, but have been used to recreate part of the Chateau de Versailles. The downside of this is that 18th-century design was customized to the room. Furnishings, wall panels, and drapery were all custom designed to fit together in that particular space. When the elements are taken apart and then put together with other pieces, some of the effect will be lost. I’m not criticizing what’s been done at the Chateau in any way, I’m just commenting that over time some things are–sadly–lost and can’t be put back together.

A commode bearing the marks of the Palace of Versailles was acquired during a public sale in Lyon. These items of furniture used on a daily basis, provided in large quantities and regularly replaced, were sold during the French Revolution. This toilet seat presents itself as a rectangular chest sitting on spindle-shaped legs. The solid mahogany was chosen with care and set-off by the decorative moulding-free surfaces. The marks of the palace are found on the back board, made of oak, the W painted simply in black ink and the hot branding of a W with a crown above it. On the other hand, there is no Garde-Meuble registration number on the commode: was it on the toilet rim, which has disappeared, or did someone forget to inscribe it on the commode as it was delivered with other pieces of furniture? Paradoxically, the most basic items of furniture are those which are lacking the most today in the palace’s collections.

I found this item interesting because, well, it’s a toilet and because it’s also mentioned that the most common items are sometimes the most difficult to find centuries later. Think about it. Will they be looking in vain for rolling desk chairs in two hundred fifty years when they try to reconstruct 21st century offices?

Marked Louis Delanois, these were the first medallion back chairs, a style that enjoyed much success in the history of French furniture. Thanks to the sponsorship of companies like Ponthieu Rabelais, Financière de Tournon and Financière du Bac, the historical items which are recognised as “National Treasures”, will be returned to the collections of the Palace of Versailles. The chairs belong to a series of thirteen, including a higher one for the King, delivered at the end of 1769 by joiner Louis Delanois for the living room of Madame Du Barry at Versailles. The living room was also decorated with thirteen armchairs, a large settee and a screen. All covered with white satin, trimmed with green satin and embroidered with silk for the summer and velvet for the winter. Madame Du Barry, who was Louis XV’s mistress after Madame de Pompadour, lived at Versailles from 1769 until the king’s death (1774). An art lover,she supported painters and craftsmen and cultivated the neo-classical style at Versailles.

Madame du Barry was one of the more interesting personages of her time, at least to me. She must have been smart and tenacious to put herself into the position of royal mistress. It’s fairly clear she had some failings, like vanity, greed, pride, and (maybe?) lust. She clearly didn’t mind committing adultery openly, but then again it seems she and Louis XV had a genuine liking for one another. The Du Barry also has a connection to our story of the fateful diamond necklace. The necklace was originally designed with her in mind. Its gaudiness would have fit her tastes. But by the time the jewelers had assembled the diamonds to make the necklace, Louis XV had died and Madame his mistress had been exiled from Court. She had no royal lover to buy the necklace for her, so the jewelers tried to convince their new queen, Marie-Antoinette, to buy it. The rest, as they say, is history.

One thought on “Acquisitions of the Palace of Versailles

  1. Sir: I am grateful to you for sharing this information; I have a great interest, indeed a passion, for French culture in the eighteenth century. Madame de Pompadour has fascinated and entertained me for many years. The chateau of Versailles, its creator, its “denizens”, to use Miss Mitford’s term, has enthralled me for more than fifty years. I hope one day to see it, although that becomes increasingly less likely as I continue to age! Thank you again, and, please, give us more!

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