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HistoryVersailles through the centuries

Eugène-Charles-Frédéric Nepveu

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Architect of the palaces of Versailles and Compiègne (1777-1862)

Architect of the history rooms of the museum of Louis-Philippe, he created the celebrated Gallery of Battles.

Architect of Versailles since 1831, Nepveu had his hour of glory when Louis-Philippe, king of the French, entrusted him with the creation of his Museum of the History of France from 1833 to 1837. It had been placed under the supervision of Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine (1762-1853), the former architect of Napoléon and Louis XVIII, who became the architect to Louis-Philippe when he was enthroned in 1830.

The two men designed for the south wing of the Château, where the former apartments of the princes had been, the Gallery of Battles modelled on the Grand Gallery of the Louvre. In compliance with the spirit of the museum, dedicated to “all the glories of France”, they presented in 14 paintings the great battles of the history of France, from Tolbiac in 496 to Wagram in 1809. The gallery, 120 metres long by 13 wide, was adorned with 82 busts of the most celebrated French military leaders and 16 bronze tables of all those who had contributed to France’s military grandeur.

In the same spirit, Nepveu installed in the North wing, on the ground floor and in the grand apartments of the central body a series of history rooms featuring the great figures and the principal events of the history of France. He took care beforehand to note all the details of the existing rooms and these notes were partly used for the restoration of certain areas in the late 19th century and the 20th century. While the Gallery of Battles led to the irremediable destruction of the apartments of the South Wing, the grand apartments were able to be restored in their 18th century condition. The same was true, between 1980 and 1986, for the apartments of the Dauphin, the Dauphine and Mesdames the daughters of Louis XV, on the ground floor. Pierre de Nolhac, curator of the museum from 1887 to 1919, and a virulent adversary of this monotonous museum, was the great initiator of this return to their historical conditions.

A pupil of the architects Antoine-François Peyre and Charles Percier, Nepveu was largely unknown outside of his activity in Versailles and Compiègne. Decorated with the Legion of Honour in 1834, in 1814 and 1819 he designed two public libraries for Paris and then, in 1852, the for the reunion of the Louvre and Tuileries gardens based on the grand design of Napoléon III. These projects were never carried through.

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