An exceptional apartment
Madame du Barry’s apartment is nestled on the Palace’s second floor, within striking distance of the King’s private apartments. In 1770, Louis XV decided to move his mistress to this prestigious, much-coveted location serviced by a network of private staircases. On Madame du Barry’s request, the main rooms were decorated in white and gold – the privilege of princes. The other half of the apartment boasted a dazzling collection of multi-coloured décor, rare and invaluable witnesses to 18th-century tastes, few of which still remain today. Far from the spectacle of court, the mistress’ extraordinary refinement shines through here in these private spaces she decorated with cutting-edge furniture and art.
A much-needed restoration
The apartment had gone without restoration for over seventy years. It was last restored from 1943 to 1947, when a number of works were carried out and the apartment was returned to the layout Madame du Barry would have enjoyed back in 1770. Over the past few years, the paintwork had aged and warped and the décors and ceilings had suffered as a result of leaks. Tucked away under the eaves, the humidity and intense temperature changes on this south-facing floor had resulted in the rooms ageing at rapid pace — a new restoration was in order. This campaign was a continuation of the efforts made in the 1940s, with most work aiming to achieve an identical restoration, merely correcting a few inconsistencies.
The now-complete restoration sets out to plunge visitors into the refined, intimate atmosphere that these rooms would have once exuded, in a quintessential expression of 18th-century art de vivre.
The work allowed professionals to conduct structural consolidations and upgrade all lighting networks to current safety standards and norms, and to insulate the attic and roof break, thereby upgrading the apartment’s energy efficiency. Touched up on the woodwork sculptures, the old gilding has now been cleaned, restored and enriched in the apartment’s main rooms. The “regal white” glue-size painting was also marked out and refreshed using traditional techniques. Finally, major works were carried out on the rooms adorned with colourful décors: rare and precious testimonies to 18th-century tastes. The stucco cornices were restored and filled in, and research based on surveys of the panelling was carried out to determine the shades to be used for the motifs before work began on the décor.
Alongside the architectural restoration work, the apartment was refurnished by the Palace of Versailles’ conservation team in order to recreate the feel that would have existed in Madame du Barry’s day. Typical of the most refined 18th century styles, the 1770 furniture is now scattered around the world. In its absence, the apartment was refurnished with pieces from the Palace of Versailles’ collections that would have been used around Madame du Barry’s time, and which are best placed to recreate the everyday surroundings that Louis XV’s mistress would once have enjoyed. Thus, alongside a handful of art pieces commissioned for Madame du Barry (the corner cabinet chairs, a pietre dure table, a porcelain dinner service embellished with a blue ribbon design), new furniture and items from the archives will be dusted off to enhance the overall sense of cohesiveness. New textiles will also be woven, including green damask curtains and door curtains in the dining room, and upholstery for the seating in the corner cabinet.
Ever loyal to its commitment to protecting and handing down heritage, for a number of years now AXA has been working to support symbolic landmarks that promote French culture across a wide global audience. AXA is delighted to be continuing its partnership with the Palace of Versailles and lending its support to restoring Madame du Barry’s apartments.