Since the creation of the historic galleries, inaugurated in Versailles in 1837, the acquisitions policy at the Palace of Versailles has evolved to focus on several categories of items. First, the Palace acquires objects (furniture, bronzes, porcelain, paintings, drawings, sculptures or manuscripts) that at one time were here and which now bring the place back to life as we see what it must have looked like at the time when it was a royal residence and we have a glimpse of life at Court. Alongside these acquisitions, paintings, drawings, photographs or written documents are added on a regular basis to complement our knowledge of the Palace, the Estate and their development through the ages. Lastly, the collection of iconographic material built up since the time of Louis-Philippe is enriched by new works to represent the characters or illustrate the periods of French history that are represented in the Palace galleries.
Acquisitions year by year
See all the acquisitions by the Palace of Versailles on the Collections website (French only):
- Acquisitions in 2018
- Acquisitions in 2017
- Acquisitions in 2016
- Acquisitions in 2015
- Acquisitions in 2014
- Acquisitions in 2013
- Acquisitions in 2012
- Acquisitions in 2011
See below a selection of the works with descriptions.
Bernard II Vanrisamburgh
Produced in the workshop of the cabinetmaker Bernard Vanrisamburgh (circa 1700-1766), this small flat-top desk, with three drawers, has all the stylistic features of this master craftsman who specialised in rich floral marquetry. This desk was commissioned on the occasion of the marriage of the Dauphin of France, Louis-Ferdinand, son of Louis XV, to the Infanta Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain in 1745. In order to furnish the new apartments for the royal couple on the first floor of the South Wing, the Royal Furniture Treasury purchased new furniture, including this table-cum-desk, intended for the library, and supplied by the decorative-arts purveyor Henri Le Brun. This work was acquired as payment in kind.
Traders preparing bundles, and a Jesuit conversing with a Mandarin
The fair in the city of Nankin
These two works are part of a cycle of paintings from the beginning of summer 1761 by Queen Marie Leszczynska, assisted by La Roche, Frédou, Prévost and Coqueret, painters of the King’s Cabinet. The Queen was particularly interested in the history of the first missionaries to China. A first Chinese room was originally installed for Marie Leszczynska in Versailles in 1747 in what is now Marie-Antoinette's library; it was replaced by a second room in 1761, known as the “Chinese room”.
Dessert platter from Louis XV’s “Bleu celeste” (Heavenly blue) service
This dessert platter is made of porcelain with redcurrant motifs on a background of turquoise blue, a pigment that was invented by the scientist Jean Hellot. The platter was intended to be used for serving dishes between the roast meats and the desserts. It is part of the Bleu Céleste service, the first complete dinner service delivered by the Vincennes Manufacture, and of which Versailles has many pieces. This acquisition was funded by the Friends of Versailles Society through a legacy from Madame Simone Baraille.
Jug from Siam
Piece acquired in February 2018 thanks to the patronage of LVMH-Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton
This gilded silver jug, of Chinese origin, is decorated with chased leaf motifs, showing houses and birds in relief, and is an extremely rare piece. It was given to Louis XIV by the ambassadors of Siam during their audience with the King at Versailles in 1686, and it is the only silver item still in existence that was given as a gift to the King by the King of Siam, Phra Naraï (1633-1688) or his prime minister, Constance Phaulkon (1647-1688).
Portrait of Charles Perrault
Charles Le Brun, 1665
It was perhaps in Simon Vouet’s studio that Le Brun first learned how to use pastel, although Le Brun’s technique is closer to that introduced into France by Wallerand Vaillant: the subject’s position is a three-quarter view, the materials are delicate and applied quickly, brown background, limited colour palette (brown, white, black, red and blue). This “Portrait for friendship” is by an artist at the peak of his career, as he was appointed Painter to the King in June 1664, and shows another artist, a writer this time, but also a close collaborator of Colbert, to whom Le Brun owed his appointment. We can also see what unites the writer and the painter, as both are striving towards the glorification of Louis XIV.
Commode for Madame Adélaïde’s chambers at Versailles
Donated by the Society of the Friends of Versailles in 2018, thanks to the exceptional legacy of Ms Simone Baraille, Ms Micheline Cavallo and Ms Monique Genneret
This commode was delivered in 1776 for the withdrawing room of Madame Adélaïde, daughter of Louis XV, in her ground floor apartment in the central section of the Palace, and it can now be returned to the exact location for which it was originally intended. From its structure, its marquetry with latticework and colour, and the richness of the bronze work, this commode is typical of those produced by Jean-Henri Riesener during the period 1770-1780. In the central panel we also see a sunflower emerging, the cabinetmaker’s favourite motif.
The death of Saint François-Xavier
The Death of Saint François-Xavier by Charles-Antoine Coypel came originally from the Palace of Versailles. In fact, the work was commissioned by the Dauphin Louis de France (1729-1765) for his wife, and previously hung in Maria Josepha of Saxony’s oratory (1731-1767) on the ground floor of the Palace. This painting was completed in 1749 and was combined with two other paintings delivered by the same painter in 1747: Saint Landrade instructing the widows and young people who had come under his direction and Saint Piame withdrawing with her mother in a village in Upper Egypt. Charles-Antoine Coypel’s vision of the death of the missionary is particularly appropriate in a painting for private devotion.
Cradle of the Duke of Anjou
Donated by Mr Edouard de Royère via the intermediary of the Society of the Friends of Versailles in November 2018
This intimate painting is valuable testimony to the beginnings of the career of Charles Le Brun before his stay in Italy. Louis XIII is leaning tenderly towards Anne of Austria who is holding the Dauphin. Born on the 21 September 1640 in the Château of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, two years after the long-awaited birth of Louis Dieudonné, it was now the turn of Philippe to occupy the royal cradle. The fleurs-de-lys that decorate both the carpet and the dais confirm that this is a royal scene. This small painting, with colours that are particularly vivid and precious (red and almond green, gilded effects), falls into a pictorial genre that was in fashion in Paris during the period 1630-1640.
Rococo vase with pink ribbons and flowers
This vase has the characteristics of the Rococo style that developed during the reign of Louis XV, with the motif on the base consisting of intertwined foliage and shells. This piece now stands alone, although it did have a companion piece when it was acquired by Louis XV at the annual sales at the Royal Sèvres porcelain Manufacture in Versailles, in December 1758. The pink background was a technique perfected at Sèvres in 1757, and several members of the royal family acquired such pieces. Louis XV probably intended this purchase for Marie Leszczyńska, as the Queen owned two vases with similar decoration.
Clark Gable and Stereoscopic photograph of the central section of the Palace
This batch of photographs, donated by Monsieur Alain Roger-Ravily, is of great interest as it tells us more about Versailles in modern times. The American actor Clark Gable is immortalised in front of Latona’s Parterre, testifying to the attraction of Versailles for celebrities from all over the world, just like Fred Astaire before him and John Travolta who came later. This donation also contains stereoscopic photographs on albumen paper, for example this view of the central section showing the Louis-Philippe, turret, which was destroyed in 1898.
Reparations made to the King on behalf of the Doge of Genoa in the Hall of Mirrors, 15 May 1685
This batch of 23 drawings that the Palace has acquired is part of a substantial set produced at the request of Louis-Philippe by around thirty artists for the Historic galleries of Versailles published by order of the King and dedicated to Her Majesty the Queen of the French (Galeries historiques de Versailles publiées par ordre du Roi et dédiées à S. M. la reine des Français) by Charles Gavard, published between 1837 and 1854. All these drawings, like Reparations made to the King on behalf of the Doge of Genoa in the Hall of Mirrors shown here, illustrate episodes in the reign of Louis XIV, between 1657 and 1691; seven are related to his family history and diplomatic events.
Portrait of Tiberio Fiorilli as Scaramouche
Pietro Paolini, 1635-1681
Born in 1608 in Naples, Fiorilli became famous for his interpretation of the burlesque character Scaramouche on both the Italian and French stages for over half a century. The figure of Scaramouche (Scaramuccia) is based on Il Capitano, the Neapolitan troublemaker who was always keen to start a fight but would then slip away. Fiorilli kept the black costume, typical of Spanish noblemen, but made some changes to the character by removing his sword and mask. Fiorilli’s role in the history of 17th century theatre has only recently been appreciated and now this painting puts him in his rightful place. In fact, the Neapolitan actor is reputed to have been Molière’s teacher, and his contribution was key to the successful establishment of Italian theatre in France. This portrait of Scaramouche is therefore doubly interesting for Versailles, as it conjures up both a pictorial trend that was popular at that time and a character for whom Louis XIV personally had a deep affection.
The Allegory of Sculpture working on the bust of King Louis XIV
Baudrin Yvart, 1666
This work was submitted as the painter’s reception piece to the Académie Royale on 11 August 1663. It was only delivered in 1666, however, the year the Académie de France in Rome was founded by Colbert. Here we see the allegory of Sculpture working on the bust of Louis XIV, clothed as a Roman emperor. On the ground are three busts including one of the philosopher Seneca recalling the usual references to Antiquity for artists in the 17th century. The column and green drapery give the scene a very theatrical atmosphere. This is a very precious piece as it is the only painting that can definitely be attributed to Yvart, a loyal collaborator of Charles Le Brun. In addition, the classical theme of the allegory of the arts in the service of Louis XIV emphasises the magnificence of the King’s ambitions at the start of his reign.
Fred Astaire dances for the GIs at Versailles, 18 September 1944
Photograph published by ACME Newspictures, black and white print on photographic paper, press photo
Donated by Monsieur Didier Doré, November 2017
This photo shows the actor and dancer Fred Astaire dancing for American troops in front of the Palace of Versailles façade on the garden side, at the Liberation.
Fire-dogs for Madame Elisabeth at Versailles
Claude-Jean Pitoin, 1778, gilded bronze
Purchased through the patronage of the Society of the Friends of Versailles (legacy of Madame Simone Bataille), in September 2017
This pair of chased and gilded bronze fire-dogs was delivered in 1778 for the apartment of Madame Elisabeth, sister of Louis XVI, by the bronzeworker Claude-Jean Pitoin, son of Quentin-Claude Pitoin. Father and son were both chasers at the Furniture Store-House. Note the extremely high quality of the chasing on these fire-dogs and the application of different shades of gold which play with the light and create effects of relief. This pair was subsequently moved to Fontainebleau before becoming part of the Greffulhe family’s collection. It is a perfect illustration of the royal family’s taste in the 1780s for interior furnishings.
Tea and chocolate set belonging to Marie Leszczynska
Meissen porcelain, 1737
The Palace of Versailles was able to acquire eight pieces from a tea and chocolate service (nécessaire) produced by the prestigious porcelain manufacturers, Meissen, in Germany, and given to Marie Leszczynska by Auguste III, King of Poland, in March 1737. The purpose behind this gift was to ease diplomatic tensions between France and Poland after the War of the Polish Succession. All these pieces bear arms of allegiance to the Queen (arms of France and Poland) and are adorned with abundant gilding and various forms of decoration: fantasy chinoiserie, military and maritime scenes. These pieces can now join the large rinsing bowl acquired by Versailles in 2014. However, this is still only a small part of the entire service, which consisted originally of fifty-six pieces.
The Orangery at the Palace of Versailles
Hubert Robert, 1777-1798, oil on canvas
In 1777, Hubert Robert delivered several views of the Palace and the Park of Versailles which were both documentary and poetic, and this View of the Orangery of the Palace of Versailles, oil on a small format panel, is one of this series. In the foreground, the scene is set in the south gallery of the Orangery, then the artist shows the start of the great transversal central gallery. At the top of the steps, where the two galleries cross, is the statue of Isis, part of Louis XIV's collection, and installed in the rotunda of the Orangery in 1694. On its pedestal it looms extremely large. The statue’s presence means that the work can be dated to pre-1798, the year it was removed from the rotunda. Hubert Robert is one of the painters who has really understood the poetry of the spaces at Versailles. In around 1783, he also contributed to creating the Queen’s Hamlet, built by the architects Mique and Caraman.
Charles Gravier, Count of Vergennes, minister
Antoine-François Callet, 1780, oil on canvas
This portrait of Vergennes (1719-1787), presented to the 1781 Salon, was commissioned from Callet, Louis XVI's portrait artist, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is adorned with the badge and the sky blue sash of the Order of the Holy Spirit, wearing a cream-coloured waistcoat embroidered with cornflowers, and he holds a note addressed “To the King”, thus showing his allegiance to the Sovereign. The minister’s file cabinet is topped by a medallion bearing the profile of Louis XVI supported by three spirits. In accordance with established practice for ministers, the model appears surrounded by his work tools: pen and inkstand, and memoirs. Vergennes is famous for having played a leading role in American Independence, having signed the first “Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce” with Franklin on 6 February 1778.
Menus served to the King by Héliot, Equerry in Ordinary in Madame la Dauphine’s kitchen staff
Donated by the Society of the Friends of Versailles, in June 2016
This is a collection of the 138 menus served to King Louis XV between 8 September 1745 and 13 May 1756 at Choisy, Trianon and La Muette. Each menu is presented separately; they describe suppers, dinners and Médianos served to the King, with the date. It was perhaps from this collection that Carême took the five menus he mentioned to illustrate culinary changes during the reign of Louis XV. It is difficult to determine the exact status of this document, as it may simply be a notebook for Héliot’s sole use.
General de Gaulle visiting Versailles, 28 August 1963
Donated by Monsieur Roger-Ravily: Photographies Associated Press, black and white photograph April 2016
This photo sets the scene for General de Gaulle’s visit to Versailles accompanied by his Minister for Cultural Affairs, André Malraux. By taking the decision in 1962 to restore the Grand Trianon, de Gaulle confirmed Versailles’ role as the national palace. He and Malraux shared a certain idea of Versailles, which the Minister described as an “exemplary place in western civilisation”. In doing this, the general made Versailles an iconic place for France and for the country’s power, where important figures like Presidents Kennedy and Nixon were received.
Invitation to the formal ball given for the marriage of the Dauphin
Jean-Michel Moreau the Younger, 1770, pen and ink on vellum
Appointed draughtsman of the Menus-Plaisirs in 1770 then Engraver for the King’s Cabinet in 1778, Moreau the Younger produced and engraved drawings for the major events in the reigns of Louis XV then Louis XVI. It was almost certainly soon after his arrival as draughtsman of the Menus-Plaisirs in 1770 that he produced this preparatory drawing for the invitation cards to the Formal Ball held to mark the marriage of the Dauphin and Archduchess Marie-Antoinette on 18 May 1770 in the newly built Royal Opera House. This drawing follows the traditional style of invitation cards inherited from Cochin: a frame of flowers and cherubs playing musical instruments, the arms of the Premier Gentilhomme de la Chambre du Roi, who was in charge of festivities. This is an invaluable insight into the work of the Menus-Plaisirs, a department of the King’s household responsible for “the King’s pleasures”.
Louis XIV’s bureau by Alexandre-Jean Oppenordt (1639-1715)
After an absence of 264 years, King Louis XIV's bureau has returned to the Palace of Versailles. Listed as a National Treasure, it was acquired by the Établissement public du château, du musée et du domaine national de Versailles in November 2015.
This bureau with a folding top (bureau brisé), delivered in 1685, is made of oak, with ebony and Rio rosewood veneer. The King’s monogram is omnipresent in the brass and engraved red tortoiseshell marquetry. The bureau was one of a pair commissioned by the Royal Estates Buildings for the room where the King used to write, a private chamber behind the Hall of Mirrors located where King Louis XVI's bathroom now stands. Its counterpart is currently held by the Metropolitan Museum of New York.
There are a number of documents that reveal the names of the craftsmen who worked on this piece, in particular Alexandre-Jean Oppenordt, Cabinetmaker in Ordinary to the King. The exuberance of the arabesques on the top are very reminiscent of compositions by the designer of the King’s Chambers, Jean I Bérain. Considered old-fashioned by 1751, it was sold and reappeared in England in the 19th century in the collections of Baron Ferdinand James Anselm de Rothschild (1839-1898), where it was transformed into a slant-top desk.
The acquisition of this bureau is thanks mainly to the work of the Society of the Friends of Versailles and AXA. This is one of the very rare pieces of cabinetry created for Louis XIV, and especially so since it was made for Versailles. It enhances the museum’s collections immeasurably. After restoration, it will be displayed in the Hall of Plenty close to the Medal Cabinet.
Before it is shown to the public, this famous piece of furniture requires some restoration. It is envisaged that it should be returned to its original function with a folding top. A scientific committee has been set up to examine this proposal.
Portrait of Christoph Willibald, Chevalier von Gluck (1714-1787)
Signed and dated at the bottom left J.S.Duplessis/pinx parisis 1775
Oil on canvas - H.101; w. 85 cm
Bought at public auction using the right of pre-emption, lot no.46, Sotheby's Paris sale on 17 June 2015
The Palace of Versailles acquired this portrait of the German musician Gluck at auction. In all likelihood, this is a signed copy of the work by Duplessis shown at the Salon in 1775 and currently held by the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
The musician was Marie-Antoinette’s singing teacher in Vienna but he also had a Europe-wide career. In 1774-1775, he enjoyed unprecedented fame. It was during this period that the sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon created an effigy of the musician and Duplessis painted his portrait, showing him seated with his hands on his harpsichord, his face turned upwards gazing into the distance.
This portrait of Gluck will be presented as part of the new tour route devoted to Marie-Antoinette in the Captain of the Guard’s Apartment, alongside images of Grétry and Paisiello painted by Madame Vigée Le Brun, which complete the gallery of portraits of the “Queen’s artists”.
Tureen stand from the service "with the frieze rich in colours and rich in gold" belonging to Marie-Antoinette
Royal Sèvres porcelain Manufacture
1784 – Soft-paste porcelain - W.42.5 cm - In blue: LL interlaced; date-letter gg (1784); Y (for Edmé-François Bouillat)
Bought at public auction using the right of pre-emption, lot no. 227, AGUTTES sale on 28 May 2015
Since 1900, the Palace of Versailles has regularly acquired pieces from the service “with the frieze rich in colours and rich in gold” commissioned at the beginning of 1784 by Queen Marie-Antoinette. With this recent acquisition, the collection now has 53 pieces from this service, which are displayed in the corner cupboards in the Queen’s private chambers on the second floor of the Palace.
This stand is approximately the same size as a ragout tureen; in its central medallion it has a bouquet of roses in full bloom surrounded by a frieze of pearls on a blue background. The ends are contoured and gilded to show off to advantage the frieze of roses and cornflowers against a wine-coloured background framed by gold pearls and garlands of laurel. This is only interrupted by the cleverly alternating cartouches decorated with pansies.
The Founding of the Hôtel des Invalides in 1674
Pierre Dulin (Paris, 1669-1748)
Oil on canvas
H. 48 cm; W.74 cm
Bought at public auction using the right of pre-emption, lot no.45, RIEUNIER-de MUIZON, 30 March 2015
This painting by Pierre Dulin is a design for the tapestry cartoon of the Founding of the Hôtel des Invalides in 1674, commissioned in 1710 to complete the series of tapestries depicting the History of the King.
The episode shown here happened more than thirty years earlier: in 1670, Louis XIV decided to build the Hôtel des Invalides. This institution would house and care for sick soldiers and veterans. Here, Dulin depicts events that happened at different points in time, such as the founding and approval of the plans (1670-1674), the construction of the Hôtel (1671-1678) and the completion of the dome (1706). At the centre of the painting we see the figure of Louvois, Minister for War, accompanied by Minerva (goddess of Wisdom and War) and by Architecture, who is kneeling. The Minister shows the King the plan of the buildings, which are under construction in the background. Among those present, we can recognise the building’s two architects, Libéral Bruant and Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the King and Louvois. On the right, Glory leads a group of infirm soldiers to the King. In the sky, Fame, holding a banner, sounds her trumpet.
This design for the Founding of the Hôtel des Invalides will be added to the set of preparatory designs for tapestries already held by the Palace. It will be displayed in the Louis XIV rooms alongside those by François Marot and Claude-Guillaume Hallé depicting The first promotion of the Knights of Saint Louis on 10 May 1693 (MV 2149) and Reparations made by the Doge of Genoa on 15 May 1685 (MV 2107).
Glass cooler from the "pearls and cornflowers" service
Royal Sèvres porcelain Manufacture - 1781
Soft-paste porcelain - H.10.5 cm – Blue painted marks: mark of the Manufacture with two interlaced Ls; date-letters DD for 1781
Bought at public auction using the right of pre-emption, lot no.44, SVV PESCHETEAU-BADIN, 16 March 2015 with the participation of the Forum Connaissance de Versailles via the Society of the Friends of Versailles
Commissioned in July 1781 for the Petit Trianon, the service with “pearls and cornflowers” was delivered to Queen Marie-Antoinette on 2 January 1782 for a total sum of 12,420 livres.
With this new acquisition, the collections at the Palace of Versailles now have thirteen pieces from this service, which originally consisted of 295 pieces.
Portrait of Marie-Thérèse of Savoy, Countess of Artois
Work purchased thanks to the patronage of Fondation de Luxembourg, acting on behalf of Fondation La Marck, February 2015
At the Sotheby’s auction in Paris on 11/2/2015, as part of the dispersion of the collections of Château Réveillon (Burgundy), property of the Dukes of Mortemart, the Palace of Versailles acquired a Portrait of the Countess of Artois (1756-1805), dated circa 1775, the work of François-Hubert Drouais (1727-1775).
The purchase of this oil painting on canvas is a significant addition to our collection of 18th century paintings. It completes the suite of portraits of the royal family painted by this artist after his appointment as First Painter to the Count of Provence in 1771: the Count of Provence, the Countess of Provence, Madame Clotilde, Louis XV, the Count of Clermont.
The Palace already had a portrait of the Countess by Gautier-Dagoty, another by Leclercq, and a pastel by Boze showing her circa 1785, but it had no image of the quality of this work by Drouais.
The marriage of Princess Marie-Thérèse of Savoy (1756-1805), daughter of Victor-Amédée III of Sardinia, to Charles-Philippe, Count of Artois, was celebrated at Versailles on 15 November 1773.
Allegorical portrait of Madame Louise
At the auction organised at Eric Pillon’s auction house in Versailles on 08/02/2015, the Palace of Versailles acquired this Allegorical portrait of Madame Louise, daughter of Louis XV.
The princess is shown in court dress, before she entered the Carmelite convent in 1770. This type of portrait of a royal princess in an allegorical style is a valuable addition to the Versailles collection, an iconography that is rare in the national collections.
Coachman’s whip from the Coronation coach of Charles X
Donated by Mr Hubert de Chaisemartin, November 2013
This French-style coach whip was used during the Coronation ceremony of Charles X, in Reims, on 29 May 1825. Charles X’s carriage was pulled by eight horses; a royal privilege, the two front horses were guided by the postilion, who rode the left-side horse and the other six were controlled by the coachman. He held the whip in his right hand, a third of the way up, with his elbow close to his body.
This whip comprises a gilded and varnished wooden stick, it is flexible and tapered towards the top, embellished with six bands with alternating decoration. The lash, which in this case is absent, was mounted on the loop that can be seen at the end. It was made of leather cut into thin plaited strips and ended with a thong, a small plaited rope or knotted string with which to touch the horses’ shoulders. At the base of the stick, the grip is covered with crimson silk-velvet decorated top and bottom with balls of gold wire. At the end, the cap is made of gold, engraved with a fleur-de-lys with this inscription: “Charles X, Sacré le 29 Mai 1825” (Charles X, crowned 29 May 1825). The trim matching the King’s Coach, the exceptional dimensions, the very flamboyant style and the inscription on the gold cap all suggest that this whip was indeed the one used by the coachman on the King’s coach for the coronation of Charles X, and could indicate that at the end of the ceremonial, the object was presented as an honorary gift to a dignitary who then had it engraved as a souvenir of the event. The very fact of adding an inscription to an everyday object gives it use value and shows the importance and the symbolic value of this whip at the ceremony.
This unusual piece is an addition to the collections of the Museum of Coaches at Versailles.
Vase-clock belonging to Louis XVI
Dated 1775, this vase-clock with a beau-bleu (beautiful blue) background, and a clock face signed de Roque, Paris, was acquired by Louis XVI from the Royal Sèvres porcelain Manufacture during 1777. It was intended for the fireplace in his newly installed Bathroom in the first-floor apartments. It was sent to the Tuileries in January 1792, and was probably sold during the Revolution; all trace of it was lost until 1927, when it appeared at the sale of the collections of Anthony de Rothschild. It now has a square base, probably added during the 19th century, as was the case for many Sèvres pieces from the previous century.
The acquisition of this vase-clock, with its extremely unusual shape and its royal provenance, is of very great importance for expanding the Palace collections. It is part of a policy that has been implemented over several decades, a policy of systematically purchasing royal pieces of Vincennes-Sèvres porcelain that were at Versailles in the second half of the 18th century. These pieces can be identified from the Palace inventories which were drawn up at the outbreak of the Revolution and the sales records at the Manufacture. The acquisition of this clock reinforces what we already know of Louis XVI’s very sincere appreciation of pieces from the royal Manufacture, founded at Vincennes in 1740 during the reign of his grandfather.
Portraits of the Duke of Berry and the Duke of Burgundy by Fredou
Between 1760 and 1762, Jean-Martial Fredou produced eleven portraits of the children of the Dauphin, son of Louis XV, and Maria Josepha of Saxony. The pastel portrait of the Duke of Burgundy, completed on 15 March 1760 and held in the Palace of Versailles collections (INV.DESS 726), was the inspiration for several other oil-painted versions by Fredou. One of these was given by the Dauphin to the Marquis of Sinety. In 1760, he had been appointed deputy governor for the Duke of Berry and in 1762 sub-governor for the Count of Provence. The portrait of the Duke of Berry (future Louis XVI) was also the subject of a drawing by Fredou as part of the 1760-1762 commission. The portrait was painted as a match for that of the Duke of Burgundy, which was also given to the Marquis de Sinety, and is in all likelihood a variant of this still unknown drawing. The identical frames, which are probably the original ones, confirm that these two portraits were produced as a matching pair.
The Palace of Versailles had no oil painting of the Duke of Burgundy and no portrait at all of the Duke of Berry as a child. This acquisition fills an important gap in our iconography.
Visit by Queen Victoria to the Queen’s Hamlet in Petit Trianon, on 21 August 1855 by Karl Girardet
This small painting by Karl Girardet is a sketch in preparation for a watercolour that was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1855 and which is now in the British Royal Collection. It commemorates the visit by the Queen and Prince Albert, accompanied by the Imperial couple, to Trianon, on Tuesday 21 August 1855, during the British sovereign’s visit to Paris.
Here we can clearly see the Queen and the Empress in an open carriage, which has stopped in front of the Queen’s House, and the Emperor and the Prince Consort on horseback on either side. The escort is provided by the Hundred Swiss and postilions from the Emperor’s House in full dress. Beneath the gallery that links the Queen’s House to the Games House is the band of the Guides of the Imperial Guard, which played while the two couples ate lunch.
There are very few old painted representations of the Trianon Hamlet. The Palace of Versailles has two views of the Mill and the Queen’s House with the Marlborough Tower, produced by the studios of Guérard and Wallaert, which date from the Bourbon Restoration, and one view of the interior of the Queen’s Theatre in the time of the July Monarchy, by Mme Asselineau, but none from the Second Empire, the time when the Trianon was undergoing something of a revival driven by Empress Eugénie. This acquisition will fill this gap with a work that will be placed in the Petit Trianon attic, in the area devoted to the Second Empire and the Empress.
Three vases belonging to Madame Victoire
Vases purchased thanks to the patronage of LVMH-Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton group, March 2013
In 1772, Madame Victoire, one of Louis XV’s daughters, acquired these three vases for her bedroom in the Palace of Versailles. In fact, she bought a set of five vases with a dark green background from the Royal Sèvres porcelain Manufacture. The other two vases in the set are currently in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
These three vases are exceptional for their painted decoration and their shape. The cartouches are the work of Charles-Nicolas Dodin, one of the best painters of figures at the Sèvres Manufacture in the 18th century. The Palace of Versailles devoted an exhibition to him in 2012. Concerning the form of these vases, there are as yet none like it in the national collections. The central vase, à baguettes, has a painted cartouche based on a painting made in 1737 for Louis XV called The Charms of Country Life. On the two vases with laurel leaves, we see The Lovers Surprised, based on an engraving by Gilles Demarteau, and Spring, inspired by one of the Seasons pictures painted in 1755 for Madame de Pompadour.
These vases will be returned to their original place, above the fireplace in Madame Victoire’s bedroom.
These vases were acquired thanks to the patronage of LVMH. This set has been recognised as a “National Treasure”, a work of major heritage interest.
Maria Josepha of Saxony in the Savoyard style by Jean-Marc Nattier
In 1751, Jean-Marc Nattier produced this oval portrait of the Dauphine Maria Josepha of Saxony. It was given to the Duchess of Brancas, lady-in-waiting to the Dauphine until 1762. The Dauphine’s face is exactly the same as that painted by Nattier for the large portrait of the Dauphine in court dress.
Her costume, however, is very different: the young Dauphine is en marmotte, which means that she is wearing a kerchief knotted under her chin. This headdress is part of the iconography of Parisian women in the Savoyard style, which became popular in the 1740s to 1750s. At first, the Savoyard peasant woman was seen as symbolic of virtuous poverty, but then this figure gradually became more mischievous. From the 1760s, there was some ambivalence: whether she was a virtuous peasant from the mountains or an impudent city-dweller, the Savoyard could also be a beggar-woman, who was suspected, especially if she were pretty, of offering more than just songs.
This portrait of the Dauphine en marmotte is unique iconographically, since we know of no other portrait of ladies in the royal family dressed in the Savoyard style. The Dauphine seems to have adopted this fashion. We should remember that this portrait was probably executed when she was pregnant with her third son. The peasant costume could therefore suggest virtuous fertility, even though this type of representation could be shocking. Since it was given to a lady-in-waiting, this small portrait is not an official representation and is proof of the ties between the Dauphine and the ladies of her household.
Saint John the Baptist kissing the hand of the infant Jesus attributed to Jacopo Amigoni
This painting of St. John the Baptist kissing the hand of the infant Jesus probably comes from the court of Saxony, brought to Versailles by the Dauphine Maria Josepha of Saxony, mother of Louis XVI, Louis XVIII and Charles X, when she married the Dauphin in 1747.
This canvas is an example of the Dauphine’s taste for religious scenes, of which Versailles already has two other examples by Charles-Antoine Coypel (Sainte Piame, MV 8610, and Sainte Landrade, MV 8624). This was painted by the Venetian Jacopo Amigoni, and is imbued with the tenderness and delicacy so typical of the Bolognese School in the previous century.
On her death in 1767, the Dauphine bequeathed this painting to her first chaplain, Aymar de Nicolaï, who had supported her during some of the most difficult times in her life, such as the death of her son Louis-Ferdinand in 1765. Now that the painting is back at Versailles, it will conjure up the decor of the Dauphine’s apartments.
The Rock and the Belvedere at Versailles by Claude-Louis Chatelet
The Belvedere and the Rock in the English gardens at the Petit Trianon are faithfully depicted here by Claude-Louis Chatelet. The painter has added a bridge, however, and a pergola with columns between the pavilion and the rock, whereas in reality there is only a wooden footbridge. This oil on canvas is based on a watercolour that Chatelet had painted for the selection of plans and views of the Petit Trianon given by Marie-Antoinette in 1786 to one of her brothers, Archduke Ferdinand, Duke of Breisgau, Governor of Lombardy, when he came to the Trianon (Biblioteca Estense, Modena).
The painting shows a daytime scene, and is very similar to the Illumination of the Belvedere and the Rock at the Petit Trianon, held in 1781 in honour of the Count of Provence, the King’s brother, or the Emperor of Austria Joseph II (MV 7796), also by Chatelet, dated 1781 and held at Versailles. In this painting there is no pergola, and the wooden footbridge can be clearly seen.
The Rock and the Belvedere will join La Fête de nuit (MV 8384, donated by Baroness Liliane de Rothschild) and L’Illumination, which hang on the second floor of the Petit Trianon, from where one has a view of the Belvedere.
Jupiter chariot between Justice and Piety by Noël Coypel
This study by Noël Coypel was in preparation for painting the central panel in the Queen’s Guard Room. It probably dates from 1671, when construction work began on the State Apartments and when the sketches were submitted to Louis XIV and Colbert for approval.
The subject is Jupiter’s chariot surrounded by the allegories of Justice and Piety. In the foreground, we see a personification of the planet itself in the guise of a young women who holds a garland of flowers with which she leads four children, symbolising the planet’s four satellites, discovered by Galileo in 1609.
The sketch differs in several ways from the finished painting, the most important being the gesture Jupiter makes as he holds up the sceptre, which no longer appears on the ceiling. Thus this sketch shows the final changes made before the room was decorated and is a matching pair with the other study by Noël Coypel, The chariot of Saturn between Providence and Secret, which was acquired in 1994.
Punch bowl from the service with the bleu céleste (heavenly blue) background belonging to Louis XV
This purchase was made possible thanks to the patronage of KPMG SA, January 2012
This punch bowl is part of large dinner service described as “with the heavenly blue background” produced for Louis XV between 1753 and 1755 at the royal Manufacture, which was at that time located in the grounds of the Château de Vincennes. It is made up of 1,749 pieces of soft-paste porcelain and is decorated with flowers and fruit, inside cartouches outlined in gold. The heavenly blue background was created by the chemist Hellot especially for this commission. After delivery, the service was used by the royal family until the end of the Ancien Régime.
This punch bowl is exceptional not only for its beautiful decoration and the scale of the table service of which it is part, but also for its excellent condition and the fact that this was a new design when it was commissioned: the shape was inspired by the craze in England for a new drink called punch, which was served at the end of a meal at the same time as the dessert. It will join the seven pieces from the same service which are already at the Palace, in what is known as the Porcelain Dining Room.
This acquisition was made possible thanks to the patronage of KPMG.
Portrait of Madame de Lamballe by Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun
A deep friendship developed between the Princess de Lamballe and Marie-Antoinette from their meeting at the marriage of the Austrian princess and the future Louis XVI in 1770 until Madame de Lamballe’s death during the September Massacres in 1792. Until now, the Palace of Versailles had no portrait of the Princess de Lamballe dating from this period.
When Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun painted the Princesse de Lamballe’s portrait in 1782, the princess was thirty-three years old. Vigée-Le Brun used a much-loved formula and one that she had used several times for different models, including the Queen: the favourite is wearing a simple loose-fitting muslin dress and a straw hat. This portrait is similar to others painted by Vigée-Lebrun of ladies in the Queen’s entourage and which are already held by the Palace of Versailles, especially that of Marie-Antoinette’s other great friend, the Duchess of Polignac.
Portrait of the Countess Du Barry as Flora by François-Hubert Drouais
The purchase of this portrait was made possible thanks to the support of the Society of the Friends of Versailles, May 2011
As official painter to Madame Du Barry, François-Hubert Drouais (1727-1775) painted her many times. Notably, he exhibited two portraits at the Salon in 1769 showing her as Flora and in hunting costume. Between 1770 and 1774, Madame Du Barry ordered seven or eight replicas or copies of the portrait as Flora to give to people in her entourage, each one slightly different. It is probably the first version of this portrait, the one that was exhibited at the 1769 Salon, that the Palace of Versailles has acquired here.
This work will enhance the collections at Versailles in more ways than one. It will be added to the beautiful set of portraits by François-Hubert Drouais that are already held here. More importantly, when this portrait was acquired, the Palace of Versailles no longer had any painted representation of Madame Du Barry, even though she was an important figure in the last years of Louis XV’s reign.
Pastel portrait of the Countess of Artois by Joseph Boze
Joseph Boze was a better pastellist than painter, and his speciality was oval portraits in pastel. He moved to Versailles in 1785, and in the same year he was awarded some important portrait commissions by the royal family. Marie-Thérèse of Savoy was sister-in-law to Louis XVI, and is aged twenty-nine in this portrait, drawn in shades of grey-blue which accentuate her melancholy air. Not only is the treatment of the fabrics charming with its detail and realism, but the pastel technique softens her face, despite the fact that she was described by her contemporaries as having coarse features. The Countess of Artois was apparently satisfied with her portrait and ordered two copies which she gave to ladies in her entourage.
This portrait is now the latest representation that we have in Versailles of the Countess of Artois, but also the most faithful and accurate likeness of her face. It will be added to the beautiful set of pastels by Boze that are already held at the Palace of Versailles.
Desk chair originating from the Royal Furniture Treasury
Today, this chair is the only desk chair identified as being part of the deliveries made to the Royal Furniture Treasury in the middle of the 18th century. It is therefore a unique item of reference against which to identify other desk chairs in future as being part of the royal furniture. The chair is characteristic of pieces produced in Paris at the time when Rococo was at its peak. Its proportions differ slightly from those of a salon armchair, particularly in the lowering of the back. The sculpture is of excellent quality and highlights the structural elements of the chair. This acquisition fills a gap in the types of furniture held in the Royal Furniture Treasury at Versailles. It is also one of very few chairs identified from the Rococo period that originated from the Royal Furniture Treasury. It will join the flat-top desk that was part of the same delivery to Fontainebleau in 1745 and which has recently been deposited by the Mobilier National.
This chair has been restored with the participation of the Kinnarps company.
Key to the Royal Chapel
Donated by Madame Nelly Munthe, in memory of Liliane de Rothschild, through the Society of the Friends of Versailles, 2010
The main door of the Royal Chapel at Versailles allows communication between the nave and the lower vestibule. It is possible that its magnificent key has been used on very few occasions, or it may even have simply had a purely symbolic function.
The model for this key was made by Grettepin circa 1710. He was probably called to Versailles by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, as he was to produce a large number of sculptures for the Chapel. Robert de Cotte, manager of the building project after 1708, asked him to design the key. It was probably from Grattepin’s model, in wax or clay, that the smelter Jacques Desjardins, who had made the metalwork elements for this door, produced the definitive version in gilded bronze.
Apart from the bit and the ribbed shaft, most of the decoration on the key is concentrated on the bow: there are two elegant scrolls framing a royal cipher formed by two interlaced Ls, features which represent some truly exceptional goldsmithing techniques. This is surmounted by a royal crown with fleurs-de-lys.
Acquisition of the Savonnerie Carpet from the Royal Chapel at Versailles
This carpet corresponds to the central section of one of the five carpets that made up the large carpet in the nave of the Royal Chapel at Versailles which was blessed in June 1710. Louis XIV had commissioned these carpets from the Savonnerie Manufacture. The first three for the nave were delivered in 1726 and the next two in 1728. Each of these carpets was 9m30 in length and comprised three almost square compartments. The total height of the five carpets was just over twenty-two metres. The carpet we have here shows the arms of France in a central cartouche surrounded by chains of the Orders of St. Michel and the Holy Spirit, surmounted by a closed royal crown, and flanked by two unfurled wings, with royal staffs, the hand of justice and the sceptre arranged above. The cartouche is set against a pale yellow background, the sides decorated with natural garlands of fruit and flowers. This is an exceptional carpet, both for its high quality and its perfect condition. It was probably sold by the Directoire, and was then found in the collections of the Rothschild family in Vienna in the 1860s.
The acquisition of this carpet, classified as a “work of major heritage interest”, was made possible thanks to the patronage of Total.
Pair of glass coolers from the “Cherubs” service belonging to Madame Du Barry
The decor on these two wine coolers is the same as that on a small 37-piece service, which includes 12 plates, commissioned by Mme Du Barry in 1770 and delivered on 1st September 1770. The decor consists of cherubs and landscape features inside cartouches surrounded by a myrtle wreath on white and a Taillandier ground.
The service included 2 knife handles, which suggests that it was commissioned for 2 people: Louis XV and Mme Du Barry. In addition to the 12 plates, there were also 6 fruit dishes of which 2 were round, 2 square and 2 shell-shaped, 1 triangular tray, 5 ice cups, 1 sugar bowl and mustard pot with their matching trays, 1 basket salt cellar, 1 oval basket, 3 bottle coolers, 2 half-bottle coolers, 2 liqueur bottle holders at 192 livres each and 2 glass coolers at 144 livres each.
This pair of glass coolers will be added to pieces from the famous dinner service for two; they were acquired by EPV with the Society of the Friends of Versailles.
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.
From the 4th of May to the 3rd of August 2019, the Upper Stone Gallery of the Palace of Versailles will be presenting a unique collection of architectural projects, which were developed for the Palace and its gardens between the 17th and 19th centuries.