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Court Pomp and Royal Ceremonies

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31 March to 28 June 2009

The Court Pomp and Royal Ceremonies – Court Costume in Europe 1650-1800 exhibition recounts the history of Court costume in Europe and also highlights France’s major influence in that domain from the mid 17th century to the early 19th century.

For the first time, more than 200 works (costumes, jewels, illustrations) linked to prestigious European monarchies have been brought together for an exhibition which will only be on display at Versailles.


The Victoria & Albert Museum, the Pitti Palace in Florence, the Louvre, Musée Galliera, Les Arts Décoratifs, Les Archives Nationales and private collectors have agreed to lend their works. The royal collections of London, Dresden, Denmark (Rosenborg Castle), Sweden (Livrustkammaren), Portugal (Ajuda Palace) and the imperial collections of Vienna (Kunsthistorisches Museum), the tsars of Russia (the State Hermitage Museum), and the Cologne Cathedral are being displayed for the first time outside their country of origin. This event falls within the framework of the exhibitions evoking court life in the 17th and 18th centuries, much like Versailles and the Royal Tables in 1993-1994 and When Versailles was Furnished in Silver in 2007-2008.


With court costume a genuine political language, whose primary function was to visually convey the hierarchy of power, was developed. The costumes on display evoke the extraordinary circumstances in which the monarchy was founded, the life of European monarchs and their courtesans, (anointing, crowning and ceremonies of royal Orders), as well as the prestigious circumstances found at all courts, such as weddings. The outfits worn during these events are remarkable in the way they submitted to the formalism of court Etiquette.


It is the sumptuousness of the materials, fabrics, embroidery, lace and trimmings and the accumulation of gems and jewellery that decided which court costumes were suited for a particular circumstance. The costume thus became a showcase for the luxury goods trade, of which it used the technical and aesthetic innovations. With the rising importance of fashion and the accelerated renewal of costume conventions, court costume quickly evolved. Yet the numerous orders made in Paris by European royal houses attest to the major influence of France in the world of court costume and fashion owing to the remarkable quality achieved by Parisian craftsmen.

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