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.

The Exhibition

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.

Louis Philippe I visiting the historic galleries

© Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN / © Jean-Marc Manaï

Pharamond placed on a pedestal by Frankish warriors in 417

© RMN-GP (Château de Versailles) / © Gérard Blot

Godefroy de Bouillon holding the first courts of assize of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in January 1100

© RMN-GP (Château de Versailles) / © Franck Raux

Assembly of Crusaders in Ptolemais in 1148

© RMN-GP (Château de Versailles) / © Gérard Blot

Crusades Rooms

© RMN-GP (Château de Versailles) /© Christian Milet

Africa Rooms

© RMN-GP (Château de Versailles) / © Thomas Garnier

Gallery of Battles

© RMN-GP (Château de Versailles) / ©Thomas Garnier


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

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.

Gothic Palace, third stage. 

© Jean-Marc Manaï / EPV / RMN 

Exhibition Curator

Valérie Bajou, Head Curator at the Palace of Versailles

Scenography: Hubert le Gall


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