Versailles after Louis XIV

Versailles after Louis XIV

  • View of the Palace of Versailles taken from the Place d'Armes in 1722.

    MARTIN Pierre-Denis, known as MARTIN the Younger (1663 - 1742)

  • View of the Palace of Versailles taken from the Place d'Armes in 1722 (detail of the lower left part).

    MARTIN Pierre-Denis, known as MARTIN the Younger (1663 - 1742)

  • View of the Palace of Versailles taken from the Place d'Armes in 1722 (detail of the lower right part).

    MARTIN Pierre-Denis, known as MARTIN the Younger (1663 - 1742)

View of the Palace of Versailles taken from the Place d'Armes in 1722.

© Palace of Versailles, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Marc Manaï

View of the Palace of Versailles taken from the Place d'Armes in 1722 (detail of the lower left part).

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Daniel Arnaudet

View of the Palace of Versailles taken from the Place d'Armes in 1722 (detail of the lower right part).

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Daniel Arnaudet

Publication date: November 2013

University of Evry-Val d'Essonne

Historical context

The return of the court

The painting by Pierre-Denis Martin (1663-1742) is part of a period of renewal in the history of the Palace of Versailles. On the death of Louis XIV in September 1715, the young Louis XV was placed under the authority of the regent Philippe of Orleans who transferred the court to Paris, far from the heavy label introduced by the late king. Seven years later, on June 15, 1722, the court made its comeback, forty years after its first installation.

This panoramic view was commissioned by Princess Marie-Anne de Bourbon, legitimized daughter of Louis XIV and wife of Prince de Conti, to celebrate the reinvestment of the palace. First installed in the dining room of the Château de Choisy-le-Roi with five other paintings representing royal castles (Chambord, Meudon, Marly, Trianon and Fontainebleau), this painting joined Versailles in the 19th century.e century, when Louis-Philippe turned the palace into a museum dedicated to the history of France.

The author and the date of the work are known by the inscription visible on one of the stone blocks in the foreground: "P. D. Martin, ordinary painter and resident of the Roy. 1722. A pupil of Adam-Frans Van der Meulen, a great painter of the military exploits of the Sun King, Martin the Younger particularly excelled in views of royal residences. The large number of characters evokes a residence with overflowing activity.

Image Analysis

The staging of the royal residence

Known for his attention to detail and the finesse of his depictions, the author uses several levels of perspective to describe parts of the castle. The planes narrow as one enters the canvas, and the gaze is guided towards the sacred space of the palace. Slightly off-center with respect to the east-west guideline, the low-angle view allows the composition to be lightened, while giving it relief.

The foreground shows a crowded weapon plaza where Prince de Conti's carriage, wagons and horses try to find their way. Stonemasons are at work, because the city, which must accommodate a constantly growing population, is a permanent building site.

Beyond the first gate, the Court of Ministers is delimited by two buildings. At the heart of this courtyard, two of the many companies of the King's Military Household form hedges of honor. The two units shown can be identified by the color of the uniforms and the eight ordinance flags. On the right, the Regiment of the Swiss Guards, with a red coat and blue pants. On the left, the French Guards regiment, with a blue coat and red pants.

Located beyond the second gate, the third set corresponds to the Royal and Marble courtyards, in which the most important courtiers arrive. Since 1701, this space has also been the heart of the palace, the one to which overlooks the king's ceremonial chamber. The royal carriage sets off, drawn by eight horses and flanked by numerous riders. The multiplicity of characters once again suggests that the castle is coming back to life.

More suggestive, the most distant plan lets glimpse the gardens of the castle and the majestic perspective of the Grand Canal. The men are absent, but the jets of water perpetuate the idea of ​​life.

Interpretation

The golden age of Versailles

Pierre-Denis Martin's painting is a snapshot of the life of the Palace of Versailles. It makes it possible to take stock of the situation after half a century of large-scale developments. This painting takes on its full meaning if it is placed opposite the one painted by Pierre Patel in 1668, at the start of the embellishments ordered by Louis XIV. From one painting to the next, the view is more or less the same, which makes it possible to observe the extent of the changes led by Le Vau and Mansart.

This irreplaceable historical source represents the estate at the height of its splendor, when its classic architecture and town planning serve as a model throughout Europe. The small castle built by Louis XIII is now enshrined in a vast ensemble comprising two long wings, the Grand Commun and the royal chapel consecrated in 1710. The buildings are finely represented, using shimmering colors which highlight the brick, the roofs slate or limestone with a golden hue.

The main works have been completed, and this majestic setting shows the royal power bequeathed to the young Louis XV. Like a portrait of the king, the depiction of his palace also contributes to the construction and assertion of power. In the decades that followed, the ensemble underwent few modifications, apart from the construction of the Opera at the end of the north wing (1770) and that of the Gabriel pavilion at the level of the royal court. (1774).

  • Versailles
  • architecture
  • Louis XIV
  • Louis XV
  • Bourbons
  • monarchical court

Bibliography

Joël CORNETTE (dir.), Versailles. The power of stone, Paris, Tallandier, 2006.

· Frédéric DIDIER, "Versailles, a palace adorned with ocher, purple and gold", in Bulletin of the Palace of Versailles Research Center, 2002, available at revues.org.

Vincent MAROTEAUX, Versailles, the king and his domain, Paris, Picard, 2000.

Gérard SABATIER, Versailles or the figure of the king, Paris, Albin Michel, coll. "Albin Michel Library of History", 1999.

To cite this article

Stéphane BLOND, "Versailles after Louis XIV"


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