Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Furnishings

The furniture in Versailles is some of the loveliest I have ever seen in person. Unfortunately, most of the original furnishings and decorations are gone forever. Versailles was a symbol of all the Revolution was against, and the Revolution stripped it bare. It was stripped it of its art, the Mona Lisa, the Titians, the Rubenses and so much more were carted off to the Louvre and other museums. The tapestries were burned to recover their gold and silver thread to help fund the expensive Revolution. The furnishings were more or less well inventoried, some of them were put in storage and some were sent to government buildings, but the most of them were put up for public sale to help pay for the mounting costs of Revolution. The Revolutionary leaders were eager to see the last of Versailles and all its reminders of autocracy so they preferred foreign buyers to buy the objects from the palace and enticed them by selling them tax free, they came from all over Europe and America to take advantage of this. Much of today's Buckingham Palace is a legacy of the taste of the Prince of Wales whose agents took away shiploads of Versailles treasures.

A poster advertising the sale of the furniture and effects of the person referred to as the "So-Called Queen" took place on Sunday, August 25, 1793 - seven months after the execution of her husband and two months before her own death on the scaffold. In small print at the bottom of the poster it states that any items bought at the sale could be taken abroad tax-free.

Commissioned for Marie~Antoinette it bears the royal markings

In Louis XIV's great days, the state furniture of Versailles was all in massive solid silver ~ tables, armchairs, sideboards, mirrors, sconces, hundreds of pieces. All of these pieces were melted down in 1690 to help pay for the king's disastrous wars and replaced by wood pieces.

This table probably came from the Trianon de Porcelaine, which is now where the Grand Trianon stands, a small house built for the King's mistress, Madame de Montespan. This table's marquetry of ivory and horn, painted blue underneath, would have followed the chateau's blue and white color scheme, imitating blue and white Chinese porcelain, a fashionable and highly prized material at the time. The table's top may be raised to form an angled reading or writing stand, while a drawer at the side is fitted for writing equipment. It is now housed in the Getty.

I always wondered how the Belvedere was furnished and now I have an idea after finding this chair, also housed in the Getty. This chair was part of a suite of eight side chairs and eight armchairs made for Queen Marie-Antoinette. Designed in the Neoclassical style with carved bands of ivy, laurel wreaths, and fluting, they stood in the salon du rocher of the Belvedere Pavilion located in the gardens of the palace of Versailles.

This might be might favorite, not because of its aesthetic but because of its history. Marie-Antoinette sat in this very chair while her servants arranged her hair and applied her makeup in her bedroom at the Petit Trianon. Known as a chaise de toilette, its swivel mechanism and low back were specially designed for performing the daily rituals of dressing. It is finely carved with bands of lily of the valley and ivy. This chair was part of a set of furniture delivered to the palace in 1787 that also included two armchairs, two side chairs, a fire screen, and a stool. The bed from the set is missing, but the rest remains at the Petit Trianon. The other pieces retain the original pastel-colored paint in yellow, blue, green, and white that has unfortunately been stripped from this chair.

This is a chaise à la reine, they were generally low and comfortably padded. This chair was once part of a fifteen-piece suite of seating furniture acquired secondhand from the upholsterer Claude-François Capin for Louis XVI at the palace of Versailles.

Jean-Henri Reisener was just one of many who supplied the Royal household with luxurious furnishings. He is best known for the artistry of his marquetry and his specialty, mechanical tables with secret compartments. As Versailles' supplier of the Garde-Meuble Royal until 1785, Reisener supplied Marie-Antoinette and other high-ranking members of the court with countless pieces. ~Wikipedia (if you look him up her there are links to museums, where you can see his work, many of the pieces were for Marie~Antoinette). He was one of many cabinet makers who made furniture for the Monarchs of Versailles.
Founded by Louis XIV, the Garde Meuble was responsible for supplying the King, his family and the household with all of the movable elements of decoration: textiles, furniture, lighting accessories, table wares, silver and carpets. The Garde Meuble was responsible for keeping the Royal house up to date on trends and new styles of cabinet making. Could you just imagine being the "Interior Designer" to the King of France! How fun!

All of the furniture (including carpets, jewels, object d'art, etc.) for the Royal residences were inventoried in what is called the Journal du Garde Meuble for the years 1666-1792. Available to view at The Wallace Collection in England. All of these items of furniture were marked with their inventory numbers and the location they were to be (for example PT would indicate that the piece would reside in the Petite Trianon). If a piece like this goes up for auction and it is marked and located in the Journal, it can fetch quite a high price. This has also made it easier for historians to locate some of the furniture and bring it back to Versailles. It helps to authenticate the items as well.

This is the marking on the base of the above armoire that once belonged to Marie~Antoinette. The "W" signified it belonged to Versailles.

Well, again, my friends, I could write volumes about just this one subject. It seems as though every thing I read turns up an entirely new world and more things I would like to read about! I could never have the time for this luxury! It is so much. So, I will leave you with this.
Photos via Flickr, the Met, and the Getty museum
Have a beautiful day! We are having some earthquakes this evening, so to all of you who may have felt them, I hope you have a good night with very little rocking, rolling, and shaking!
Bisou Mon Amis!
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  1. You so take the breath out of me, Judith.

    Sharing this very interest with you, in my profession as a professional decorator, mainly in historical perspectives, I am delighted to read your posts and I also know what a great work you have put into them.

    I will look in soon again, such an inspiration.

    Have a great day,

  2. Hi hon
    Of course I popped right over here after your sweet comment and realized I am one of your 33 FOLLOWERS !!

    Somehow I knew we'd met.
    Time for blogging????? Well for one thing, I am a fast blogger. All it takes is the spark of the idea. Did you read the post a few back called "Move over Martha"? I sat up in bed with that idea...and then boom..I jumped on the keyboared...already had the pictures..and the rest is old post history.

    This is now my favorite pastime
    and YOU are one of my newest friends.

    let's chat

  3. 1787 was a very good year.

    i would just die to site in
    Marie-Antoinette's chairif
    for just for 1 split second.

    omg !!

    stupendous post. ( sp ? )
    i should ALERT THE MEDIA !!
    i love love love love love these post .

  4. I was thrilled to see the striped chair from the Belvedere! I've always wondered. - It's as if you helped to put together a piece of a puzzle for me. Doesn't furniture take on a life of its own! Beautiful!
    P.S. I have no idea what 'links to this Post' means. See, I told ya.

  5. I am drooling over the chairs!!! I have a "thing" for chairs, especially ones such as these!
    Wishing you a great weekend.

  6. Loving all these Versailles details! I just swoon at gilt, ormolu and rococo... My favorite of course is the little theatre - like a dream come true... Hope you are staying warm and cozy, all the French snow images are so beautifully chilling!

  7. Wow, I missed this post somehow. Revolution,Smevolution...just a bunch of party crashers*smile*. In truth, it makes me sad every time I think about it. I love all the styles under Louis VX,XV & XVI. In the words of Renee Finberg..."stupendous post!"

  8. your series is fabulous - i love the detail. the effort is obvious and makes you a cut above!

  9. I too would love to read more about the furnishings of Versailles - your posts are rich and evocative, please tell me what you're reading, where you are turning for information! Many thanks - M

  10. thanks for sharing this article on Versailles furniture, its very well written with loads of excellent photos; thank you.

  11. Hi Judith, I'm working on my blog about you. have a couple of questions. Can you email me at Lynn@parishotelboutique.com. thanks!!!

  12. Having searched for sites related to web hosting and furniture specifically hosting linux plans, your site was first.


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