Born in 1710 in Versailles, Louis XV was the son of the Duke of Burgundy and Marie-Adélaïde of Savoy, and Louis XIV’s great-grandson. He became heir to the throne or “Dauphin” on the death of his father in 1712 and king at the age of five in 1715 on the death of the Louis XIV. In 1722, shortly after the government and Court returned to Versailles, the young king was crowned in Reims. This ceremony marked the beginning of a long reign that would stretch over fifty years, a chapter in which France’s cultural and artistic model gained traction across Europe and the philosophy of the Enlightenment emerged.
This landmark exhibition seeks to reveal more about Louis XV whose reign and personality remain somewhat of a mystery: who was Louis XV and what was he like? What were his passions? What were the arts like in his day, what were his personal tastes and what did his day-to-day life look like?
Part one, the man in private, looks at the King’s childhood, his upbringing, entourage and family. It provides a greater understanding of how the character of the monarch known as the “Bien-Aimé” or beloved was first forged. Timid and melancholic by nature, Louis XV preferred the intimate atmosphere of his private apartments to public life and surrounded himself with a close circle of trusted men and women. A devout believer, he paradoxically maintained relationships throughout his life with a series of mistresses, some of whom – madame de Pompadour especially –, had a significant influence on the King.
Part two, dedicated to the passions of the king, focuses on his personal passions, first and foremost among which were the sciences, books, botany, hunting and also his taste for architecture. He funded epic maritime expeditions, turned the Trianon into a garden for botanical experiments, commissioned cutting-edge scientific devices and ordered geographers and astronomers to draw up maps of France.
The final part, entitled Louis XV and the arts of his time, highlights the style so closely linked to his reign by showing what the world he lived in actually looked like. Visitors are invited to discover genuine masterpieces of Rococo art and to gain an understanding of the foundations of this multi-faceted style which, released from all restrictions of symmetry and formal rules, revolutionised the artistic creation of the 18th century. The exhibition also reveals the key works which surrounded the King and those closest to him in their daily lives.
To mark the opening of this exhibition, the apartments of madame Du Barry, precious testimony to the intimate Versailles of Louis XV, have been re-opened to public after restoration work lasting eighteen months. Visitors can also discover the traces of Louis XV throughout a wide range of areas within the Palace.
Yves Carlier, general heritage curator, the Palaces of Versailles and Trianon national museum
Hélène Delalex, heritage curator, the Palaces of Versailles and Trianon national museum
Exhibition set design
With the patronage of :