The First Empire rooms
In the 19th century Versailles underwent a new destiny: that of becoming the museum of the history of France, dedicated to "all the glories" of the country, pursuant to the wishes of Louis-Philippe, the new King of the French, in 1830. The collections, today installed in several of the halls and galleries of the château, were expanded up to the beginning of the 20th century. The museum is currently undergoing a transformation. A website dedicated to it was already set up in 2008.
After the 1830 Revolution which deposed Charles X, the youngest brother of Louis XVI and the last reigning Bourbon, his cousin Louis-Philippe of Orléans was proclaimed King of the French. By a decision taken in 1833, the new sovereign expressed his wish to put Versailles to a different use. He withdrew its status as a royal residence and transformed the Château into a museum. A lover of history, a discipline which was then becoming a veritable science, he decided to bring together here all the painted, sculpted, drawn and engraved images illustrating events or personalities of the history of France since its inception.
To do so, Louis-Philippe drew on old royal, princely, private and institutional collections which he complemented with thousands of copies and retrospective works commissioned from contemporary artists. He charged his architect Nepveu to organise it all. The latter had to destroy many princely apartments, especially in the two large wings of the château where these historic galleries are still in place today. While this museum, inaugurated in 1837 and dedicated to "all the glories of France" fulfilled a political wish for Louis-Philippe – that of reconciling the members of the different regimes which had succeeded one another since 1789, thereby consolidating his own legitimacy as King of all the French – it nonetheless remained, with more than 6,000 paintings and 3,000 sculptures, the main iconographic source of French history.
Napoleon III (1852-1870) saw to it that the fitting out of the museum was completed, but the 1870-1871 war put a stop to the development of this space. Versailles was occupied by the Prussians from September 1870 to February 1871 and the German Empire was proclaimed in the Hall of Mirrors on 18 January 1871. The National Assembly was installed here in March 1871, joined by the ministries during the Commune, and the Third Republic was voted in here on 30 January 1875. At the end of the 19th century, the custodian Pierre de Nolhac endeavoured to restore Versailles’ character as a royal residence and to reorganise the collections. He dismantled part of the installations of Louis-Philippe’s museum, began to redeploy the collections and set up an active acquisition policy.