From 29 November 2016 to 26 March 2017, the Palace of Versailles presents an exhibition showing the infinite variety and ingenuity of entertainment provided at Court, making Versailles a venue for ever more monumental, extraordinary and fantastical parties and shows. Covering three reigns, from Louis XIV to the French Revolution, the exhibition does not aim to be exhaustive, but focuses on the courtier’s point of view.
As a political monarch, King Louis XIV took “grand entertainment” to the height of magnificence, making Versailles a venue for monumental, extraordinary and fantastical parties and shows. The king had a shrewd understanding of the human mind and understood that “this society of pleasure, which gives members of the Court an honest familiarity with [the sovereign], and touches and charms them more than can be said,” (Louis XIV, Memoirs for the Instruction of the Dauphin, 1661) was necessary for the political framework he had built. Everyday life in Court required multiple forms of entertainment, and extraordinary royal events needed to surprise and enthral the court, the kingdom—all of Europe. Each of his successors maintained the tradition of splendid, creative shows in their own way, according to their own tastes and the fashions of the time.
This exhibition presents the infinite variety and ingenuity of entertainment at Court, whether put on by the King or enjoyed by the Court. These included all forms of public shows, comedies, operas, concerts, fireworks and light displays, as well as private performances in which Lords and Ladies of the Court went on stage themselves. The was a large amount of gambling, leading to fortune or ruin, as well as physical activities in which members of the court had to shine, including hunting, dancing in balls and masked balls, pall-mall and real tennis.
Covering three reigns, from Louis XIV to the Revolution, the exhibition does not aim to be exhaustive, but focuses on the courtier’s point of view. A large selection of clothing, paintings, objects and graphics from French and foreign public and private collections convey the wide range of entertainment and the refinement associated with them. The exhibits are accompanied by large visuals, 3D images and immersive scenes that invite visitors to rediscover the atmosphere in the venues — some of which no longer exist — and imagine what it would be like to be in the King’s court.
Some works about festivities and entertainment at Court
- Béatrix Saule, Head curator of the exhibition
- Élisabeth Caude, General curator, Head of the Department of Furniture and Works of art of the Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon
- Jérôme de La Gorce, Emeritus director of research at the CNRS, Scientific advisor at the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles
- Artistic Director : Patrick Hourcade, photographer and plastic artist
- Agence Décoral : Patrick Bazanan, Valéry Sanglier et Marine Bouthémy
The exhibition partners
With the sponsorship of Saint-Gobain.
With the support of Epson, Samsung Electronics France, Fêtes et Feux et Moët Hennessy :
With the kind collaboration of the Opéra national de Paris, the AROP and the Société des Amis de Versailles :
The exhibition is made with the exceptional support of the French National Library :
In media partnership with BFM Paris, Connaissance des arts, Direct Matin, Figaroscope and France Culture :
Exhibition from 29 November 2016 to 26 March 2017
The exhibition is open every day, except on Mondays, from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM (last entry at 4:45 PM).
After more than three years of restoration work, the Queen’s State Apartment is being reopened to the public, providing a great opportunity to revisit three of the Palace of Versailles’ key female characters: Marie-Antoinette, who lived in the Queen’s State Apartment, Marie Leszczynska and Madame de Maintenon.