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The King’s Grand Apartment



The Parade apartment

This prestigious seven-room enfilade was meant to serve as a parade apartment, that is, as a venue for the sovereign’s official acts. Therefore it was sumptuously decorated according to the model of former Italian palaces. During the day it was open to all, French people and foreigners, who came to see the king when he traversed it on his way to the Chapel. On three evenings a week it was reserved for the Court.

The Hercules Salon

The first salon of the King’s Grand Apartment, the Hercules salon was actually the last to be created, at the end of Louis XIV’s reign. From 1682 onwards, the chapel of the palace occupied its location over two floors and served until 1710, when it was replaced by the present chapel. To decorate this new salon, in 1712 the monumental painting by Veronese, The Meal at the House of Simon, painted for the refectory of the Servite Convent in Venice in 1570, was placed here. In 1664, the Doge had presented it to Louis XIV so that the king would support him against the Turks. Interrupted due to the death of the Sun King for ten years, the works on the Hercules salon lasted until 1736, when François Lemoyne completed the painting of the vault depicting the Apotheosis of Hercules, which was supposed to show that "Virtue raises man above himself". This vast allegorical composition with 142 figures aimed to rival the masterpieces of the Italian fresco painters but it was painted on primed canvases, i.e. glued onto the support. The young painter committed suicide shortly after ending this work.

The Abundance Salon

On evening soirees, the Abundance Salon was the place of refreshments, where a buffet served coffee, wine and liqueurs. It was also the antechamber of the Cabinet of Curiosities or the Rarities of Louis XIV (now occupied by the Games Salon of Louis XVI) which was accessed by the rear door. The king liked to show his distinguished guests the silverware vases, gems and medals which were kept here and which inspired the decor of the vault, where one can see in particular the great royal vessel depicted above the doorway.
The King’s vessel, a precious object in the form of a dismasted ship, was placed on the sovereign’s table on grand occasions, or on the buffet. The symbol of power, which everyone had to salute as they passed, it contained the sovereign’s serviette.

This room was restored recently. Learn more

The Venus Salon

This salon, as well as Diana’s Salon, formed the main access to the Grand Apartment, since the grand staircase, known as the "Ambassadors’ Staircase" (destroyed in 1752) ended here. On evening soirees, tables were set up covered with baskets of flowers, pyramids of fresh, rare fruit such as oranges and lemons as well as crystallised fruit and marzipan. Like all the following rooms, this salon takes its name from a planet, the theme linked to the solar myth which inspired all the decor of Versailles in the 1670s. Here Venus is depicted on the ceiling with the features of the Goddess of Love who, in Greek Antiquity, was associated with this planet. The other painted compositions, which decorate the arches of the vault (mouldings), represented the actions of ancient heroes relating both to the planet of the place and the actions of Louis XIV: thus one must decipher that the moulding depicting Augustus presiding over the circus games alludes to the famous carrousel of 1662 given in honour of the Queen, and that the one showing Alexander marrying Roxana evokes the wedding of Louis XIV.

Of the entire enfilade, the Venus Salon presents the most baroque decor. It is the only place where Le Brun made a dialogue between architecture, sculptures and paintings, sometimes real and sometimes deceptive: the marble pilasters and columns are repeated in the perspectives painted by Jacques Rousseau, and two trompe l’œil statues next to the windows correspond to the figure of Louis XIV by Jean Warin.

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