Palace of Versailles

HISTORY

The city of Versailles, France is located a little over 10 miles southwest of the city of Paris. Originally a small royal hunting lodge, royalty were attracted to the area of Versaille in the early 1600s because of the good game and wildlife. At the time of Louis XIII (13th) in the mid-1600s, all that was built at Versailles was a small hunting lodge that fit the king and a small group of his hunting partners. A simple chapel was also built in Versailles to host the king’s personal devotions. From 1631-1634, Louis the 13th laid the foundation of what we know Versailles as today

Inside the Palace of Versailles, the decadence did not end at the embellishments within its walls. Rumors of lavish parties, very costly theatrical plays, gambling, and massive spending on jewels and clothes also reached the ears of the French. According to Veranda (veranda.com), Marie Antoinette spent a record number of money on clothing that is thought to value to about $3.6 million in modern United States currency.

However, things changed in 1789, when the extravagance of the palace soon led to the downfall of the monarchy. This was because what was happening outside of the palace walls was the tragic realization of life really was like for the average French citizen. To make matters worse, the long distance between Versailles and Paris further shielded the monarchy from the poverty and starvation that cursed the average French citizen. Angry citizens stormed the palace and marched on Versailles. This was the beginning of the French Revolution.

Artistic and Architectural Features

With more than 2,000 rooms and over 60,000 pieces of artwork that spans over 5 centuries, seeing all of it within a day trip to the Palace of Versailles is an impossible feat. In addition to the sheer volume of the palace and number of artwork to view, the artwork themselves are highly elaborate. It is possible to get lost into the intricacies of even one piece of artwork. An example of this can be seen in the large tapestries that hang throughout the palace.

TAPESTRIES

For centuries, tapestries have been a large part of French culture, becoming popular additions to royal homes in the Medieval and Renaissance time periods. According to Touch of Tapestry (touchoftapestry.com), the way that the Belgians and the French weaved their tapestries gave them unique color compositions when exposed to different lighting conditions. These tapestries were made from only the finest materials -including silk, acrylic, cotton, and linen.

Key Terms:

  • Tapestry – A dense piece of woven fabric that displays complex designs that are generally used for decoration. Tapestries have served as cultural and historical significance over the centuries, as they have featured royalty and fictional characters from the long past.
  • Bust – A half statue that features figures (most of the time – human) from the waist up. 
  • Marie Antoinette – An infamous historical and fatal figure during the French Revolution, and queen to King Louis the 16th. She is incorrectly quoted saying, “Let them eat cake.”
  • Bourgeoise – A French word that describes the upper class in a society. 
  • Absolute Monarchy – A type of centralized government where the power of the government sits with one ruler. 
  • Versailles, France – Located 12 miles southwest of Paris, Versailles was once a government seat and a formal royal residence.

Busts and beautiful murals can also be seen within the palace. Some of the most famous murals that can be seen in the Palace of Versailles are of Marie Antoinette herself. Last, but certainly not least, several busts can be seen throughout the palace. Busts are prominent statues of key figures in history and mythology  that are only shown only from the waist up. In the extraordinary and massive garden of Versailles, some of the most prominent figures include gods from Greek and Roman mythology such as Apollo, Juno, and Jupiter.

You will need:

  • A large piece of light-colored cotton cloth. (It can be a handkerchief.)
  • A plastic cup or other steady cylinder-like object (For placing cloth over.) 
  • Permanent markers (Any color, but bright colors work best.) 
  • Rubber bands/tight string
  • Paint pipettes or liquid droppers 
  • Iron 
  • Rubbing alcohol (This will give a strong odor. Work in a well-ventilated space.)

To decorate:

  1. Wrap a piece of cloth over a steady cylinder object like a plastic cup. Secure with a rubber band or tight string that will make sure that the cloth will not move when the drawing designs.
  2. Draw a simple, but unique design on your tapestry with permanent markers!
  3. Using a liquid dropper, drop small drops of rubbing alcohol onto the design. After a few minutes, the colors will begin to spread into a tie-dye design.
  4. The design can then be set by ironing over it.

Works Cited:

  • Burrow, Rachael. “A Look at Marie-Antoinette’s Breathtaking Jewelry Collection.” Veranda, Veranda, 2 Nov. 2021, https://www.veranda.com/luxury-lifestyle/luxury-fashion-jewelry/a32879244/marie-antoinette-jewelry/. 
  • Jarus, Owen. “Palace of Versailles: Facts & History.” LiveScience, Purch, 5 Oct. 2017, https://www.livescience.com/38903-palace-of-versailles-facts-history.html. 
  • Meares, Hadley. “How Versailles’ over-the-Top Opulence Drove the French to Revolt.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2019, https://www.history.com/news/versailles-palace-opulence. 
  • Spawforth, Antony. Versailles a Biography of a Palace. St. Martin’s Press, 2008. 
  • “Tapestries from Medieval to Modern Times.” Wallace Enterprises, https://touchoftapestry.com/History-of-Tapestries-7.html. 
  • Vigée-Lebrun, 1787 — Elisabeth-Louise, et al. “Official Website.” Palace of Versailles, 9 Dec. 2021, https://en.chateauversailles.fr/.