From 6 October 2018 to 4 February 2019, the Palace of Versailles will be holding a major exhibition devoted for the first time to Louis Philippe I and his decision to convert the former royal residence of Versailles into a museum dedicated to the history of France, inaugurated in 1837.
Louis Philippe I at Versailles
On 6 October 1789, when Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and the royal family were forced to leave Versailles, the Palace was left empty, never to be used as a royal residence again. Heir to the Orléans family, Louis Philippe I had little in common with the Versailles of the Ancien Régime, but he showed an interest in the Palace from the moment he ascended to the throne in 1830. The new King of the French became intent on transforming this monarchist building into a national monument dedicated “to all the glories of France”. He imagined it as a museum open to all with an educational purpose, where paintings could be consulted like a picture book. His aim, truly political, was to reconcile the deeply divided French people but more especially to ensure that his reign left its mark in the country’s history. The exhibition will retrace Louis Philippe's tastes and the king’s direct involvement in the work culminating in the inauguration of the Historic Galleries on 10 juin 1837.
An immersion into 19th-century Versailles
With over 200 works from prestigious institutions, the exhibition will take history to a new level by totally immersing visitors in the Versailles of the 19th century. The exhibition will be held in the Africa Rooms and other Historic Galleries of the Palace, revealing to the public the paintings commissioned by Louis Philippe I. In connection with the exhibition, a new visit route will guide visitors through the Palace exploring the museum created by the king and including numerous rooms which are usually closed to the public. Visitors will be able to discover the Crusades Room, the Estates General Room, the Coronation Chamber and the 1792 room, the latter two having been specially restored for the occasion. Furthermore, some of the former collections from the Historic Galleries will be recreated, such as the gallery of sculptures dedicated to Louis XIV on the first floor of the South Wing.
"Louis Philippe has done a great thing at Versailles. […] He has given this magnificent book that is the History of France, a magnificent binding called Versailles."
- Victor Hugo
some paintings of the exhibition
An extraordinary “Gothic Palace” in Trianon
The stage of the Queen's Theatre will display an unusual set for the duration of the exhibition, one which was originally commissioned by Louis-Philippe for the palace of Eu. Now kept at the palace of Fontainebleau, it is exceptionally on loan for this occasion.
This extraordinary set, a vast composition representing a “Gothic palace”, had never before been shown to the public, which explains why it has reached us in such a miraculous state of conservation. Recent research showed that this stage set had, in fact, never been used.
It is a modular set which can be used to create different scenes by adding or removing various components.
Its refined architecture and stunningly fresh colours, together with the luxurious detail, clearly identify its designer: Pierre-Luc-Charles Cicéri (1782-1898), one of the greatest 19th-century decorators of the Paris Opera.
Visitors can explore this poetic splendour during special guided tours with the theatre’s mechanical specialists.
a monumental theatre setting at Versailles’ royal opera
As part of our exhibition : Louis Philippe and Versailles, you will have the unique opportunity to discover a monumental setting which was created during king Louis Philippe’s reign and has never been exhibited so far.
It is displayed on the historical stage of the royal opera as a rare and precious testimony of crafts and skills in the domain of scenic design.
The setting is exposed at Versailles' royal opera:
every day from Sunday, September 30 to Sunday, November 4;
with the exception of Mondays and Tuesday 2, Saturday 13, Sunday 14, Monday 15, Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 October.
plan and brochure
Here are the plan and the route of the exhibition as well as the brochure.
Valérie Bajou, Head Curator at the Palace of Versailles
Scenography: Hubert le Gall
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To help children better understand the exhibition, the Palace of Versailles has designed a discovery game in partnership with Paris Mômes.
This game booklet is free of charge and available at the entrance of the exhibition.
This exhibition is made in media partnership with :
For its eleventh exhibition of contemporary art, the Palace of Versailles invites the Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto this autumn in a new emblematic place. The Japanese artist will invest the gardens of the estate of Trianon inviting art, architecture and performance.
The Palace of Versailles presents many operas, concerts, gala evening and ballets in some of its exceptional sites as the Royal Opera and the Royal Chapel. In May 2020 we will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the inauguration of the Versailles Royal Opera : discover the 2019-2020 musical season programme.