19 February 2018


"most of the people who come to the court are persuaded that, to make their way there, they must show themselves everywhere, be absent as little possible at the king's lever, removal of the boots, and coucher, show themselves assiduously at the dinners of the royal family ... in short, must ceaselessly work at having themselves noticed."- so wrote a courtier at Versailles during Louis xiv's time

In a strategic move to maintain dominance over a fragmented and restless nobility, Louis XIV established Château de Versailles on the outskirts of Paris as his seat of power. Through decades of construction, architects, intrigue, the court was subjected to backbreaking curtsies, rigid protocols, closet size rat-infested quarters, and courtiers urinating in darkened corridors and stairways.

the Chateau view from the Orangerie

XIV had them right where he wanted them.

L'etat c'est.— Louis xiv
I am the State.

Perhaps he knew then, what we know today—that Versailles would be standing centuries after the Ancien Régime would fall.
Three new books, and no—there can never be enough— are testament to Louis XIV's vision.


VERSAILLES THE GREAT AND HIDDEN SPLENDORS OF THE SUN KING'S PALACE  by Catherine Pegard, president of the Versailles supervisory board. Access to the palace by four photographers, Christopher Fouin, Thomas Garnier, Christian Miles, and Didier Saulnier, gives the reader a voyeur's laser focus into the rooms sans hundreds of 21st-century mere mortals milling about in sneakers and iPhones.

The grandeur of Versailles is on full display in the book, but it's the photographs that capture the intricate details of the chateau. that appeal to me most, and in this, the book excels.

detail of Hyacinth Rigaud's portrait of the King. The "of the moment" red heels were a fashion created by the King's more fashionable brother Philippe de France. Monsieur, as he was known, had been tripping through the butcher's district on his way back to Versailles and arrived with bloodstained heels. 

the Mercury Salon in detail,  
Louis xiv played cards here—amongst other things, on occasion a State Bedroom, and ultimately the room where he would lie in state.

Marie Antoinette's private library, not a reader, the books remained for the most part—untouched by the royal hand.

all images above are from VERSAILLES published by Vendome Press


Author of FASHION AND VERSAILLES is a sumptuous new book written by Laurence Benaim who has written biographies about Saint Laurent, Marie Laure de Noailles, and Jean-Michel Frank in French, and two in-depth books about Christian Dior. Her new book traces Versailles as the place of the original dress code, and fashion police—Louis XIV.

The book is lavishly filled with fashion photographs amassed at Versailles, fashion inspired by Versailles, and the great portraits that emerged from life there. Besides being beautiful, we find such historic jewels as the creation of Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart's "innocent" frocks that were designed to conceal her pregnancies—Louis XIV fathered seven children with Athénaïs, aka Madame de Montespan.

Designers have long been inspired by the French courts. Rose Bertin, dressing Marie Antoinette, was perhaps the first fashion designer, created colors that reflected court life—cuisse de nymphe or "maidens thigh," certainly applicable to the dishabille state of many women bent on seductions at court.

Lagerfeld interprets Versailles Style, originally published in Vogue Paris, 1998.

British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood interprets Fashion & Versailles
photograph by Jean-Marie Perier for Elle, 1994.

Always recognizable, the photographs of Deborah Turbeville's Unseen Versailles, convey the idea that Catherine Pegard, who wrote the first book here,  puts forward as the book opens, writing, "Versailles is where fashion finds new beginnings, always, etched as it is in the footsteps of the lovely ghosts that kindle the dreams of couturiers." Pegard, is the president of the Public Establishment of the Palace, Museum, and National Estate of Versailles, writes the foreword to the book.

"Pompadours of the New World"- Laurence Benaim
Pale gray lace and pale pink roses trail from a gown by Pierre Balmain, 1953. 

Le Style Louis
Chanel Haute Couture, 1987-1988


Last—but certainly not least, VERSAILLES A PRIVATE INVITATION looks at the chateau through an entirely different lens.
Firstly it's the lens of the great photographer Francis Hammond, and secondly, Hammond had carte blanche to each and every niche at Versailles. He also had access to the newly restored Cabinet de la Meridienne, the boudoir of Marie Antoinette, and the Salon d'Aurore. In addition to photographing these treasures, he had access to rare objet d'art not seen by the public.

Versailles' Clock Room
The copper rod in the floor to the window marks the Paris Meridian

Author Guillaume Picon gives readers inside access to family secrets using quotes from Marie Antionette's letters, first-hand accounts of visitors and courtiers of the palace in the eighteenth century, memoirs, and from classical literature. Readers certainly know how I do love a quote!
The busts in the Gallery of Battles depict the great military leaders of France many who walked the halls of Versailles to pay homage to their King.

One of 67 staircases in the chateau

Each of these books is worth having all with unique perspectives. It's likely there will be another book on Versailles and another. I've 4 books on Versailles in my library already, not to mention several on various Kings, courts, and Queens. The books will go on, as will Versailles.
Unlike Rose Bertin's color temps perdu or lost time, something akin to a mist I'd guess, time is not lost at Versailles, but it does stand still.

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