The hall of Mirrors
The hall of Mirrors
The Grande Galerie (La Grande Galerie in French), as it was called in the 17th century, served daily as a passageway and a waiting and meeting place, frequented by courtiers and the visiting public.
After the victory over the three united powers, represented in the Salon de la Guerre (War Room) and cited on the previous page, the gallery’s seventy-three metres glorified the political, economic and artistic success of France. Political success is demonstrated by thirty compositions in the arch painted by Le Brun, which illustrate the glorious history of Louis XIV in the first eighteen years of his government, from 1661 until the Peace of Nijmegen. Military and diplomatic victories, as well as reforms in view of the reorganisation of the kingdom, are portrayed in the form of antique allegories. Economic prosperity is demonstrated by the dimensions and quantity of the three hundred and fifty-seven mirrors that decorate the seventeen arches opposite the windows, attesting that the new French production of mirrors, which at the time were luxury objects, is capable of stealing the monopoly away from Venice. Artistic success: the Rance marble pilasters decorated with a model of gilded bronze capitals called “French order”; created by Le Brun at the request of Colbert, this new model represents national emblems: a fleur de lys topped by a royal sun between two French cockerels.
The Grand Gallery (La Grande Galerie in French), as it was called in the 17th century, was used daily by courtiers and visitors for passing through, waiting and for meeting people. It was only used for ceremonies on exceptional occasions, when sovereigns wanted to lend splendour to diplomatic receptions, or distractions (balls or games) on the occasion of princely weddings. For the first, the throne was installed on a podium at the end of the hall, next to the Salon de la Paix (Peace Room) with its closed arch. The show of power rarely reached such a degree of ostentation; thus, the doge of Genoa in 1685 and the ambassadors of Siam (1686), Persia (1715), and the Ottoman Empire (1742) had to cross the entire hall, watched by the Court gathered on each side of the terraces! There were also the wedding celebrations of the Duke of Burgundy, grandson of Louis XIV, in 1697, of the son of Louis XV in 1745 and the masked ball for the wedding of Marie-Antoinette and the Dauphin, the future Louis XVI, in May 1770. It was also here that the treaty of Versailles was signed on 28th June 1919, which sealed the end of the First World War. Since then, the presidents of the Republic of France continue to receive the official hosts of France here.
The Hall of Mirrors was restored in 2007 thanks to the sponsorship of skills of the company Vinci, great sponsor of the Ministry of Culture and Communication.
The War Salon
Mansart started to build the Salon de la Guerre (War Room) in 1678. The decoration, completed by Le Brun in 1686, glorifies the military victories that led to the Peace of Nijmegen. The walls are covered with marble panels decorated with six trophies and gilded bronze carvings. The wall on the Apollo Room side has an oval plasterwork bas-relief representing Louis XIV on horseback trampling over his enemies. This masterpiece by Coysevox is surmounted by two gilded Renommées supported by two prisoners in chains. Above, in the bas-relief that eclipses the opening of a false fireplace, Clio is writing the history of the King for the future. The ceiling, which was painted by Le Brun, represents France in the centre, armed and sitting on a cloud, surrounded by Victories. A portrait of Louis XIV decorates her shield. The ceiling panels portray the king’s three conquered enemies: Germany, kneeling, with an eagle; Spain, threatening, with a roaring lion and Holland, upside down on a lion. The fourth panel represents Bellone, Goddess of war, enraged between Rebellion and Discord.
The Peace Salon
The Peace Room features the same decoration of marble panel and trophies of gilded bronze and carved weapons as in the War Room, to which is symmetrical. However, Le Brun decorated the cupola and the ceiling panels with the benefits of the peace given to Europe by France. At the end of the reign of Louis XIV, this room was separated from the hall by a mobile partition and considered part of the Queen’s Grand Apartment, of which it became the last room. It was here that, under the reign of Louis XV, Marie Leszczinska gave lay or religious concerts every Sunday, which played an important role in the musical life of Versailles, and which were perpetuated under the reign of Marie-Antoinette.