Jointly organised by the Palace of Versailles and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition Visitors to Versailles (1682-1789) is the first large-scale collaboration project between the two internationally-renowned cultural establishments. On display first at Versailles from 24 October 2017 to 25 February 2018, the exhibition will then be held in New York from 9 April 2018 to 29 July 2018.
Versailles, a royal destination
With nearly 10 million visitors every year, Versailles is one of the most visited historic sites in the world. The palace and gardens of Versailles have attracted visitors ever since the small initial hunting lodge was turned by Louis XIV into one of the most stunning residences in Europe, open to everyone according to the King’s will.
Versailles, combining centre of power and public space
Versailles is a cosmopolitan site par excellence, having welcomed French and foreign travellers, princes and ambassadors, artists, writers and philosophers, architects and scholars, tourists of the Grand Tour and daytrip visitors from far and near. Many of them have described their experiences and compiled their observations in memoirs and journals, some published and some still unpublished to this day.
Whether they came to ask for a favour, to admire the splendour of Court or to visit the palace, all visitors had a chance to sight the king every day during the procession taking the royal family to mass. Royal marriage ceremonies as well as certain important religious celebrations also provided great opportunity to come to Versailles.
As a centre of intense diplomatic activity, Versailles welcomed delegations from all over the world. From the ambassadors of Siam in 1686 to the ambassadors of the Indian Kingdom of Mysore in 1788, representatives from almost every nation in Europe, Asia, Africa and America came to Versailles.
A remarkable exhibition
The exhibition Visitors to Versailles (1682-1789), the first on the subject, will show who these visitors were through more than 300 works from the late 17th century up to the French Revolution. Mixing painted and sculpted portraits, Court attire, travel guides, tapestries, Sèvres and Meissen porcelain and parade weapons, the exhibition will reveal what the visitors discovered upon arriving at Versailles, the sort of welcome awaiting them, what they saw and their impressions, the gifts or souvenirs they left with.
Thus, visitors today will discover the Palace through the eyes of those who have discovered it just like them, as a visitor to Versailles, over the course of history.
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.
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