Louis-Philippe I, the new King of the French, decided to expand the historical project he initiated at the Palace of Versailles by including the story of his own reign. A “Louis-Philippe” room exhibited the many paintings he commissioned. This room was then enlarged to include the Constantine, Morocco, and Smalah Rooms.

A project for a new reign

From the very beginning of the Historical Galleries project in 1833, there were questions about expanding its historical overview to include the reign of its creator, Louis-Philippe, the new King of the French. Like all the rulers before him, he continued to commission new paintings year after year to reflect the events of the time. A “Louis-Philippe” room was soon planned for reconfigured areas in the North Wing, soon enlarged to include an entire set of rooms: the Constantine, Morocco, and Smalah Rooms.

The Smalah Room

© EPV/Didier Saulnier

Horace Vernet in the spotlight

The king wanted to preserve the peace, but was soon forced to engage in military operations. He sent his sons into battle and ordered new works to illustrate their military exploits. The siege of Antwerp in 1832, during the creation of the new Kingdom of Belgium; the gradual conquest of Algeria throughout his reign; and the siege of San Juan de Ulúa in Mexico in 1838 were all painted by the king’s favourite artist, Horace Vernet, with whom he had a close relationship.

Vernet, Capture of the Fort of San Juan de Ulúa, 27 November 1838

© RMN-Grand Palais (Château de Versailles) / Rights reserved

More information on the collection website

 

An unfinished project

After the Constantine Room was inaugurated in 1842, decorations began in the Morocco and Smalah Rooms. However, these projects were never fully completed, as they were brutally interrupted by the collapse of the regime in February 1848. The Taking of Abd el-Kader’s Smalah  in 1843 was the subject of an immense painting that took up the entire length of the room, giving it its name. As for the Morocco Room, only the Battle of Isly was completed; it now hangs across from the Smalah. During the Second Empire, the Morocco Room became the Crimea Room, then the Crimea and Italy Room, while the other middle rooms featured other paintings recounting the history of the new reign. Once again, that project was never completed. Today, the Africa Rooms are used for major temporary Exhibitions at Versailles, and the large paintings they contain are protected and thus invisible most of the time.

Some works from the Africa, Crimea, and Italy Rooms

1843-1845 — Horace Vernet

Prise de la Smalah d'Abd-el-Kader par le duc d'Aumale à Taguin, 16 mai 1843
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1840 — Horace Vernet

Attaque de la citadelle d'Anvers, 22 décembre 1832
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1838-1839 — Horace Vernet

Siège de Constantine. Prise de la ville, 13 octobre 1837
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1844-1846 — Horace Vernet

Bataille d'Isly, 14 août 1844
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the historic galleries also include