From 19 March to 23 June 2024, the Grand Trianon is hosting an exhibition dedicated to an exceptional commission placed by Napoleon I with the Lyon silk manufacturers for silks to refurnish the Palace of Versailles.
Organised in partnership with the Mobilier National, the exhibition presents the historical context of the commission, the manufacturing techniques used and the story of the creation of these 80km of silks. As it was never used due to the fall of the Empire, this textile collection is in an exceptional state of conservation.
Having expressed the desire to refurnish Versailles, Napoleon placed a commission with the silk manufacturers in Lyon in February 1810. It came at a time of economic crisis for the silk manufacturers, who produced and delivered no less than 80 km of fabric to the Imperial Household in just two years. The exhibition organised by the Palace of Versailles and the Mobilier National explores the history of this major commission through an exceptional collection of 120 silks.
The first part of the exhibition presents the historical and economic context of the commission through original samples and archive documents showing the role played by different figures. Advances in the textile industry are also evoked through a loom fitted with the Jacquard mechanism and the presentation of research techniques in the fields of chemistry and dyeing.
The second part is dedicated to the architectural changes that Napoleon envisaged for Versailles, for which he placed the commission. Debates between architects and changes in taste between the Ancien Régime and the early 19th century are also evoked through drawings by Jacques Gondoin.
A tribute to the know-how of Lyon silk manufacturers
Through a collection of 120 silks, the exhibition showcases the Lyon manufacturers’ proposals for the decoration of Versailles. The 80km of silks were delivered in 1813. Never used during the First French Empire, they testify to the surprising originality of the colours and motifs chosen. Thanks to this large commission, the Lyon silk manufacturers enjoyed an economic upturn and vied to satisfy the Emperor and his wife with bold designs.
The exhibition also evokes the fate of these silks during the July Monarchy and the Second French Empire.
The Emperor’s apartment in the Grand Trianon will exceptionally be open to the public during the exhibition. Samples of the original Lyon fabrics are presented alongside textile recreations.
Muriel Barbier, Head Curator of Heritage - Heritage and Collections Director at the Château of Fontainebleau.
Noémie Wansart, Scientific Curator, Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon.
access and admission
Admission to the exhibition is included in the price of the “Passport” or “Estate of Trianon” tickets. The exhibition is held in the Grand Trianon and will be open to the public during the Estate of Trianon’s opening hours.
The Mobilier National has supported artistic and craft professions since the 17th century. Its role is to ensure the conservation and restoration of these unique collections and perpetuate and pass on exceptional skills. As a major heritage institution, it is also a key stakeholder in the creation of contemporary works and the promotion of French decorative arts.
- The exhibition will be held during the high season and the low season. Please check the opening times for the Palace.
- Low season: 12pm - 5:30pm, from Tuesday to Sunday. Last admission at 5pm.
- High season: 12pm - 6:30pm, from Tuesday to Sunday. Last admission at 6pm.
- Buy an “Estate of Trianon” or “Passport” ticket to access the exhibition (including those eligible for free admission).
The audioguide of the exhibition is available in the mobile app.
We advise visitors to download the app free of charge before they arrive and open it to load the exhibition audioguide in advance.