The Versailles You’ve Never Seen

You’ve made the requisite pilgrimage to Versailles and seen the storied chateau, in all likelihood with throngs of others. The Hall of Mirrors was glorious, the magnificent gardens sublime but in truth, you saw only a small portion of the great and hidden splendors of the Sun King’s Palace. Now in a gorgeous oversize new volume, you can enjoy an unprecedented tour of the palace, behind the scenes with the four official palace photographers.

Versailles

With an introductory preface by Catherine Pégard, president of the Château du Versailles’ supervisory board, the book not only celebrates the more well known public spaces but provides unparalleled access into the private chambers and apartments in the upper floors. Below, Marie Antoinette’s library, with an intricately decorated jib door and bookcases displaying leather bound volumes embossed with her coat of arms.

Marie Antoinette library at Versaillesphoto © Château de Versailles (dist. RMN-Grand Palais)/Christophe Fouin

Opening their personal albums for the first time ever, the four photographers, Christophe Fouin, Thomas Garnier, Christian Miles and Dider Saulnier each look at the palace with a different eye. But if there is one aspect that has captured them all, it is the light. As Garnier explains, “I go hunting when the sun is as I like it. Before 10 am. After 4 pm.” Below, his ethereal shot of the château as seen from the Orangerie on a frosty winter morning.

Versailles on a winter morning by Thomas Garnierphoto © Château de Versailles (dist. RMN-Grand Palais)/Thomas Garnier

And below, he captured the light so delicately in the intimate quarters of the queen’s bedchamber, restored to how it would have been on October 6, 1789, when Marie-Antoinette fled Versailles, never to return. The room wears its summer decor emblazoned with the flowers the queen loved.

Queen's bedchamber at Versailles, photo by Thomas Garnierphoto © Château de Versailles (dist. RMN-Grand Palais)/Thomas Garnier

It is the intimate knowledge of the palace, both grand spaces and the smallest details, that these photographers bring to the book, telling the story not often seen. Within the King’s Inner Apartment is the Gold Plate Room, so named for the period when Louis XV displayed his gold-plated dishes there. The window in the room, below, overlooks the Royal Courtyard with the balcony on the right part of the king’s inner cabinet. It was from here he watched Madame de Pompadour’s funeral procession. The photograph almost seems to capture that wistful emotion.

Gold Plate Room at Versailles by Thomas Garnierphoto © Château de Versailles (dist. RMN-Grand Palais)/Thomas Garnier

In the Bull’s-Eye Salon, a large room in the king’s antechamber, a detail in a portrait by Rigaud shows the king wearing shoes with red heels, a fashion statement inadvertently started by his brother who, after walking through the butcher’s district, arrived in the Council Study with blood stained heels – perhaps a story known by some contemporary shoe designers.

detail from painting in Versailles, photo by Christophe Fouinphoto © Château de Versailles (dist. RMN-Grand Palais)/Christophe Fouin

It is impossible to appreciate many of the palace’s architectural features when filled with visitors. Below, the impressive enfilade of the Grand Apartments. Originally comprised of seven rooms with each dedicated to one of the then-known seven planets, the apartments were a metaphor for the Sun King.

Apartment of the planets at Versailles, photo by Didier Saulnier photo © Château de Versailles (dist. RMN-Grand Palais)/Didier Saulnier

As the final photo explains, Versailles is the château where the sun never sets. This beautiful volume from Vendome not only features stunning photographs but is informative and exquisitely produced and printed – a must for any francophile or reader inspired by beauty, craftsmanship and history.

Versailles at night, photograph by Thomas Garnierphoto © Château de Versailles (dist. RMN-Grand Palais)/Thomas Garnier

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