In the spring of 2021, the Palace of Versailles will be presenting an exhibition dedicated to all the drawings acquired for its Graphic Arts Department between 2000 and 2020. Visitors will discover some 100 works in every technique including pastel, pencil, sanguine, trois crayons, pen, watercolour and gouache, some of which will be on display for the first time.
The exhibition will showcase acquisitions that have joined the Palace of Versailles Graphic Arts Department over the last 20 years. On display in Madame de Maintenon’s apartments, “Drawings for Versailles, 20 years of acquisitions" will present pastels, gouaches, watercolours and other works that are often kept in storage because of their great fragility.
The exhibition will include a gallery of sometimes surprising portraits and scenes from life at court, such as Louis XIV portrayed as a Roman emperor or Charles Perrault drawn by Charles Le Brun, as well as caricatures and other sketches. It will also reveal preparatory sketches for the major painted decors of the Palace of Versailles, from the ceilings of the Royal Chapel and the Hercules Room to the over-door panels in the King’s Bedchamber and the Diana Room.
Lastly, it will present views, plans and architectural drawings of the Palace of Versailles from the Ancien Régime through to the early 20th century.
Visitors will be plunged into the heart of the Palace of Versailles’ collections and travel through four centuries of graphic creation, discovering a Versailles as depicted by the greatest artists of their times, including Charles Le Brun, Charles de la Fosse, François Lemoyne, Richard Mique, Jacques Gondoin, and Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer.
The Graphic arts department
The collection includes over 30,000 works dating from the 16th to the 20th century, including 28,000 prints, some 1,500 drawings, 350 manuscripts and around 100 pastels. Considered an invaluable resource for research and knowledge of the history of the palace and its collections, it is organised around three major themes: depictions of the palace, preparatory drawings for architectural or painted decors, and portraits and allegories.
In the 1930s, at the instigation of Gaston Brière, it was decided to create a collection of portraits or “documentary prints”. Later, Charles Mauricheau-Beaupré continued the project for a museum of French iconography to “assemble, with the collection of painted and sculpted portraits from Versailles, an entirely French iconography, the inevitable gaps in which will be filled with drawings, prints and even photographs, and thus create a source of information for researchers”. The collections were mainly iconographic and focussed on Versailles as the royal residence and Museum of the History of France from the 17th to the 20th century and included the architecture, decors and gardens of the palace, as well as portraits or allegories of royal power, life at court and scenes from the history of France from the Middle Ages to the Second Empire.
The 2000s marked a new stage in the development of the Graphic Arts Department, with the appointment of a dedicated curator for the collection. Over the last twenty years, several remarkable pieces have been added to this collection, and they are showcased today in this exhibition.
"With the support of the State, but also of all the people who love Versailles, we are fighting. We hope to get through this difficult period without letting go of what makes the Estate’s core greatness, so that it continues to shine throughout the world ", Catherine Pégard, President.
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