Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Papal Apartments

Anne of Austria used to occupy this room and as such it was known as the Queen Mother's Room. Pius VII visited Fontainebleau twice and it is from him that the room has derived its papal name - a portrait of the pope hangs in this room and that is all that is left from that period (latest 1814). The present décor was created by Napoleon III and his wife Eugenie who had the rooms redone in the 1860's. Luckily they kept the ceiling which dates back to Henri II and Anne of Austria.

Napoleon I wanted to impress the pope as much as possible but when the pope was 19 days away from Fontainebleau his rooms were still not finished! Probably with a sweaty forehead, Napoleon ordered the workmen to speed up and quickly demanded that furniture must be found - imagine if the pope found his rooms empty and bare! And as it turned out it was important that the pope liked his room's décor because from June 1812 to 23 January 1814 he never left these apartments.




The Renaissance Rooms

Francis I created the Renaissance Rooms of Fontainebleau and meant to be a sign of his own and his country's glory. The Francis I Gallery is a part of these rooms but I will describe that in another post (check out the main page for Fontainebleau).

Otherwise there is the chamber of the Duchesse d'Etampes (Anne de Pisselieu) who was the maîtresse-en-titre of Francis I. Her chamber was located right next to the King's own - quite convenient. At first the room was decorated by Primaticcio who worked on the chamber between 1541-48. He left a magnificent stucco work behind rich with figurines and allegories to the love life of Alexander. Louis XV wanted this to be the room for the King's Staircase but kept some of the original work during his alterations in 1748-1749. Lastly, Louis-Philippe had the ceiling finished completely.






The Ballroom is another pearl on the string of the Renaissance Rooms. It was also begun during Francis I but he died before it could be completed so his son, Henry II, took over. The ballroom's frescoes were created by Nicollo dell'Abbate who followed the design of Primaticcio. The chimney (by Philibert Delorme) is flanked by motifs of hunting - after all Fontainebleau is perfect for hunting located as it is near large forests. Originally, there were two large bronze satyrs on each side of the fireplace but they were melted down during the revolution - now they have been restored. Like every other palace the musicians were placed on a platform so they would not mingle with the noble lords and ladies; above the platform there are musical motifs. The very walls of the room is adorned with mythological motifs.
One side is flanked by large windows above which chandeliers hang.





This is the musicians' platform
Close-up of one of the chandeliers

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Two Boudoirs of Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette had two boudoirs at Fontainebleau but it was her husband (Louis XVI) who had ordered the construction of the second one - he thought that the Queen should have another one, probably because the original one had very few windows and was therefore poorly lit. The second one was conveniently located right above the first one.

Boudoir de la Reine is the first one and is also known as the "silver bedroom". It lies between what is now Napoleon's throne room but used to be the King's apartments and the Queen's other apartments. In 1786 the Rousseau brothers redecorated the room in an Antique style. The nickname the "silver room" comes from the decoration on the walls: floral patterns on a silver background with a golden frame. The furniture for the room was intended to match the colour-tone - one of the desks are inlaid with mother-of-pearl! The locks are thought to have been created by the King himself, a touching gesture.



This is the decoration above the door - you can clearly see the inspiration
The desk of the Silver Bedroom


The other bedroom is inspired by the Turkish style and was a gift from Louis XVI. The bedroom is a perfect example of how the interest in exotic designs were still very much alive. Everywhere you look in this room you can find symbols of that Turkish inspiration: turbans, incense burners, crescent moons etc. Another funny little addition to the room is the pair of "firedogs" (sculptures placed in front of the fireplace) from 1777 which are decorated with a sitting, golden camel! The furniture was lost during the revolution and the ones that are now exhibited were created for Empress Josephine.



The Grand Apartments of the Sovereigns

Just as the King was the centre of his court so is the Grand Apartments the centre of Fontainebleau. The apartments are located around the courtyard le Cour Ovale. Louis XV had the King's apartments rebuild  in what used to be the chamber of the Duchesse d'Etamps; he had the architect Gabriel build the magnificent staircase which linked the King's new apartment to the following chambers and salons.
The Queen's apartments faces what is known as the Jardin de Diane but used to be the Queen's personal garden. The main décor is from the 17th century. Louis XVI's inner chamber would become a part of the Grand Apartments when the revolution broke out.

The Queen's Ceremonial Bedchamber is a part of these apartments as well but Marie Antoinette never actually slept in the giant gilded bed. The décor of this room is almost confusing to the eye because of the dominant and different patterns. The overall décor varies a lot. One of the rooms have almost completely bare panels while another is richly adorned with red damask-patterned fabric. Yet another one is covered in large tapestries. Honestly, it is easier to present you with photos than to describe it to you, so here you are:



The Queen's Ceremonial Bedchamber

These are from the château's web-site:








Friday, 26 July 2013

Marie Leszczynska's Service


When Marie Leszczynska had given birth to an Dauphin in 1729 Louis XV was so excited that he ordered this porcelain service for his Queen - after all she had performed her greatest duty. With her new gift the Queen could enjoy chocolate, tea and coffee which were all considered to be exotic and therefore in fashion. The wooden chest contained and still contains:
  • A coffee caddy
  • A tea caddy
  • A spice box (spices were often put in chocolate)
  • A chocolate pot on a lamp stand
  • A cream-jug shaped as a sea-shell
  • A tea strainer
  • A coffee grinder
  • A bell, a funnel
  • A long-handled spoon
  • Sugar tongs
These pieces were the work of Henry-Nicolas Cousinet. Some of the pieces has a clear reference to the recent birth of an heir to the throne: the chocolate pot's three legs are dolphins and some of the other pieces also have the motif of a dolphin somewhere on them.

Also the King had ordered separate pieces of porcelain to accompany the chic gift: two tea bowls with matching saucers, a sugar bowl, a teapot, two cups and two stands. All this were in gilded silver.
These pieces has different origins; some are Chinese, others Japanese and others again from Saxony. The porcelain pieces are all inspired by the Far East with Chinese motifs. 




This tea, coffee and chocolate service, which originally bore the arms of Queen Marie Leczinska (1703-68), commemorates the birth of the Dauphin (father of Louis XVI, Louis XVIII and Charles X) in 1729). Most of the pieces, by Henry-Nicolas Cousinet, are in gilded silver, and they bear witness to the emergence of the rococo style.


                        Nécessaire à thé, café, chocolat de la reine Marie Leczinska, vers 1729-1730, offert par le roi à la reine à l'occasion de la naissance du Dauphin.
                                   The porcelain set
Chocolate pot on a lamp stand, French, 1729, silver gilt. Henry-Nicolas COUSINET. The chocolate pot with a dolphin spout has a stand with three dolphin legs - allusions to the birth of the Dauphin - and is decorated with small garlands; the lid is surmounted by a tiny bouquet of flowers. Part of Tea, coffee, and chocolate service offered by Louis XV to Queen Marie Leszczynska after the birth of the dauphin in 1729.
Chocolate pot with the three
dolphin legs

Robbing the Favourite

After the death of Louis XV Madame du Barry obviously no longer had a position at court. A couple of years later she lived at her château of Louveciennes where she experienced an unpleasant surprise.

On 11 January 1791 Madame du Barry returned to her estate at the news of a robbery. At her arrival she found her beloved jewels and jewellery lost and her bedroom ransacked - even the Sèvres medallions had been smashed. It is reported that the former favourite wept at the sight of it.
But how could a robbery even happen at a château where numerous servants where still staying? There was a number of factors that all contributed to the success of the daring robbery. First of all a Swiss Guard in the du Barry's employment had left his post to go drink with his friends in the nearby village hereby leaving his post unattended. Secondly, Madame du Barry had specifically ordered a servant of hers to sleep in a bedroom right next to her own in order for him to be close if anything happened; however the servant had chosen not to follow the order. Combined this meant that really no one was anywhere near the former favourite's bedroom.
The next mourning a ladder was discovered outside Madame du Barry's bedroom window explaining how the thieves managed to get to her apartment.

A man by the name of Morin was Madame du Barry's trusted man-servant and it was he who immediately contacted the Hôtel de Brissac (where Madame du Barry was staying) and then the police in the towns of Versailles and Louveciennes. Also, the jeweller Jean Joseph Rouen was called upon to carry out a detailed list of the jewels missing - he had a thorough knowledge of the precious belongings of the former favourite. The finished list took up eight full pages! A reward on 2.000 louis was offered and considering the lack of money at the time it was an enormous sum.
But none of those involved had ever thought of the impression the circulation of the list would leave. At a time when most nobles kept a low profile and the revolution was already rolling, the list only reminded the public of the vast wealth of the former King's mistress.

On 15 February a new message arrived for Madame du Barry, this time from London. The jeweller Nathaniel Parker Forth who had caught four people in possession of what seemed to be her jewellery. However, it was not Nathaniel Parker Forth (an untrustworthy character) who had actually found the missing jewels but Baron Lyon de Symons (a far more honest character). Symons had been approached by one of the very thieves and had just happened to see a notice of the robbery at the French embassy - his honest character moved him to contact Nathaniel Parker since it was a well-known fact in London that he worked as an "agent" for Madame du Barry. Symons had already paid 1500 pounds as a deposit and wanted Nathaniel Parker (as acting for du Barry) to remedy this gamble but Nathaniel Parker had never even heard of the robbery and refused to pay anything.
But Nathaniel Parker knew when he could claim a profit and also knew that Symons was too shy a man to reveal the thieves' identities themselves. Consequently, he wrote to a friend at the French embassy to get filled in on all the details of the robbery. But he did not find a helpful hand there and was simply told that the ambassador knew no more of the case. Nathaniel Parker was not that easy to stop and had the five thieves imprisoned in the notorious Newgate prison. Later on it was only the Englishman Joseph Harris who confessed to the robbery.

Madame du Barry and Jean Joseph Rouen travelled across the Channel on 19 February and after a meeting with the English and French lawyers and jewellers, Madame du Barry was reconciled with her precious jewels. Sadly, the Comtesse would not enjoy her rediscovered jewellery for long and just two years later she was beheaded.

Contrasting Colours

Charlotte de Turckheim in "Jeanne Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour" portrays and ageing Marie Leszczynska and wears this gown in the process. The sleeves as well as the sides of the bodice and the skirt is made of turquoise satin. The contrasting red which is almost Bordeaux is a surprising choice of complementary colour to the turquoise but manages to bring out both colours beautifully. This red fabric (also satin) has been used for the petticoat; but it is probably the eight large bows (six on the bodice and one on each arm) on the top part of the gown that draws the most attention. The very fabric of the bodice is also turquoise though it almost seem to be of a brighter tone than the remaining dress.

The gown has also been embroidered with flowers all the way down from the shoulders to the hem of the same deep red and silver thread. Lastly there is the large amount of lace (typical of this period) with at least two layers hanging from just beneath the elbow and a surprisingly large amount of lace appearing at the neckline.

The Polish Queen Arrives

Karine Pinoteau wore this gown in "the Palace of Pleasure) - a BBC documentary - when Marie Leszczynska arrived at Versailles. The blue fabric has a pattern that resembles flower leaves a bit and in a slightly brighter tone. The corset ends in a pointed tip at the centre of the bodice which is actually historically correct (what else can you expect from BBC?). Many corsets from this time period where rather short but had a remarkably long pointed tip. Also the bodice is divided into three different "sections" whereas the middle one is the focus of the entire outfit.
The bodice has also been decorated with artificial white flowers and dark green leaves surrounding some kind of pendant that seems to be encrusted with diamonds. White lace can just been seen at the edge of the sleeves, peeping out from underneath the cape.

The cape itself is not completely white but closer to a wool colour. The upper part of the voluminous cape has a pleaded edge - it is actually the hood of the cape. Talk about a large hood!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Madame du Barry's Library

Madame du Barry's library is very small and is completely without any decoration at the ceiling. The glass cabinets that contains the books were very stylish and modern when the maîtresse-en-titre had them installed; they were elaborately decorated with gilded gold. The couch is placed in a small alcove with mirrors covering each side. This was the very room that Madame du Barry had her pet parrot in that beautiful cage described in artefacts. The fireplace is made of so-called cherry marble named so after its reddish colour.
The right side is dominated by a large column leading to the small windows letting in natural light to the small room.





LES LIAISONS DE MARIE ANTOINETTE :  DETAILED IMAGE OF MADAME DU BARRY’S  LIBRARY LIBRARY IN HER APARTMENT LOCATED ABOVE THE KING’S SUITE.  Reference : VERSAILLES, A PRIVATE INVITATION WITH PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRANCIS HAMMOND AND TEXT BY GUILLAUME PICON.

madame du barry's apartment



Dans la bibliothèque de Madame Du Barry @ChateaudeVersailles, une cage décorée de fleurs de porcelaine de Meissen

Close-up of the gorgeous bird-cage



The Unfashionable Dauphine

Not every Dauphine was as fashion-minded as Marie Antoinette. The Savoyard Adelaide (or Marie-Adelaide) was Dauphine through her marriage to the Duc de Bourgogne and had from the start been favoured by Louis XIV himself who could find but one flaw with the boisterous young lady: her sloppiness.

File:Marie Adélaïde of Savoy (1685–1712), Duchess of Burgundy in 1710 by Gobert.jpg
Adelaide had no interest whatsoever in neither fashion nor public display of grandeur. And if there was one thing Louis XIV could not stand in a woman then it was sloppiness towards appearance; after all he had become accustomed to be surrounded by beautiful, polished women. Today this would hardly have drawn any attention but amidst the glittering ladies of Versailles it stood out like firework on a dark night-sky. When Adelaide became pregnant she went so far as to ditch her corset! On this her husband backed her up pointing at the importance of her being comfortable.
She was soon reprimanded for this unbecoming behaviour with the words: "Your untidiness displeases the King". Surprisingly enough this did not scare Adelaide very much and she eventually agreed to a compromise: before she went to her visits to the King she would adorn herself with the gorgeous gemstones and jewels that came with the title of Dauphine and when she left she would take them off.

It seems strange that even someone destined for so great a position as the Queen of France took so little interest in what the court thought most highly of: appearance. Perhaps the history of France would have look very differently if Adelaide had lived to ascend the throne.

Blaspheme & Insult

As a person of note in the 18th century you simply just had to put up with a constant stream of demeaning and cruel pamphlets, lampoons and verses. But this particular one is something special because it does not just insult the King (Louis XIV) but also uses a religious verse to do so. When Louis XIV had his affair with Madame de Maintenon at the end of his reign, the situation was not going as planned. His minister Charmillart was blamed for the troubles of France and the people were (as usual) far from happy and expressed their displeasure in the following manner:
Our Father who art in Versailles,
Thy name is no longer hallowed;
Thy kingdom is diminished;
 Thy will is no longer done on earth or on the waves.

Give us our bread, which on all sides we lack,

Yield not to the temptations of la Maintenon

And deliver us from Charmillart. Amen.


Oh, that precedence!

When a right was gained at Versailles it was guarded with every possible mean. No one wanted to surrender a privilege - including Marianne-Victoire, La Grande Dauphine.

Duchess Maria Anna Christina Victoria of Bavaria, 'la Grande Dauphine'..jpg
Marianne-Victoire
Marianne-Victoire was Dauphine at the time when King James II and Queen Mary Beatrice of England were exiled and lived at the French court. Up until the time when the English King arrived Marianne-Victoire had ranked higher than Mary Beatrice. However, that all changed when Louis XIV decided that the now united royal couple of England should be given full precedence according to their ranks as King and Queen. This meant that the roles now were reversed; Marianne-Victoire had to cease her precedence in favour of Mary Beatrice.

This was embarrassing to the already unpopular Dauphine who came up with a way to entirely avoid the issue of precedence in public: if she received the exiled Queen in bed it would not be visible to anyone (not even the most alert courtier) that the French Dauphine had been demoted. So that is what she did. Eventually, Marianne-Victoire had to leave the security of her bed - it would not do to anger the King excessively! Still a point had been made but Marianne-Victoire remained as unpopular with the courtiers as ever.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Coronation Hall



Originally this served as the château's third chapel but it was changed in 1682 in a guards' room for both the King and Queen. The name has nothing to do with the Bourbon-monarchs but is derived from the incredibly large painting of the coronation of Napoleon which takes up an entire wall. Every year on Holy Thursday the King would wash, then kiss the feet of 13 impoverished children. Also, it was in this very room that Louis XV held a lit de justice on 13 April 1771 during which he announced the dissolution of the parliaments.
The ceiling is remarkably raised and has been gilded - all on the order of Louis-Philippe.



The ceiling

This is the notorious painting of Napoleon and Josephine's coronation

Toilet - or Cabinet de la Chaise à l'Anglaise de la Reine

Even royalty had to go and at the court of France this place was referred to as a Chaise à l'Anglaise or English Chair! Marie Antoinette's toilet is sensibly stripped of any extravagant décor (except for the white woodwork) and is dominated by the large wooden toilet. I wonder whether it was made so wide to make room for her dress?

Juli 2010

Juli 2010