Museum of the History of France, Palace of Versailles

Shortly after becoming King in 1830, Louis Philippe I decided to transform the Palace, which was empty of furnishings and in poor repair, into a museum devoted to “All the Glories of France,” with paintings and sculpture depicting famous French victories and heroes. The walls of the apartments of the courtiers and lesser members of the royal family on the first floor (second floor U.S. style) were demolished, and turned into a series of several large galleries: the Coronation Room, which displays the celebrated painting of the coronation of Napoleon I by Jacques-Louis David; the Hall of Battles; commemorating French victories with large-scale paintings; and the 1830 room, which celebrated Louis-Philippe’s own coming tol power in the French Revolution of 1830. Some paintings were brought from the Louvre, including works depicting events in French history by Philippe de Champaigne, Pierre Mignard, Laurent de La Hyre, Charles Le Brun, Adam Frans van der Meulen, Nicolas de Largillière, Hyacinthe Rigaud, Jean-Antoine Houdon, Jean-Marc Nattier, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Hubert Robert, Thomas Lawrence, Jacques-Louis David, and Antoine-Jean Gros. Others were commissioned especially for the museum by prominent artists of the early 19th century, including Eugène Delacroix, who painted Saint Louis at the French victory over the British in the Battle of Taillebourg in 1242. Other painters featured include Horace Vernet and François Gérard. A monumental painting by Vernet features Louis Philippe himself, with his sons, posing in front of the gates of the Palace.

The overthrow of Louis Philippe in 1848 put an end to his grand plans for the museum, but the Gallery of Battles is still as it was, and is passed through by many visitors to the royal apartments and grand salons. Another set of rooms on the first floor has been made into galleries on Louis XIV and his court, displaying furniture, paintings, and sculpture. In recent years, eleven rooms on the ground floor between the Chapel and the Opera have been turned into a history of the palace, with audiovisual displays and models.

Historical Galleries
In the XIX th century Versailles know a new destiny and becomes a museum dedicated to “all the glories of France,” according to Louis Philippe wishes, became king of the French in 1830. The collections, consisting mostly of paintings and sculptures are enriched until the beginning of XX th century.

Today, the museum as Louis-Philippe had wanted it is more but some rooms still exist and are accessible only with the guided tour “Versailles through the centuries”.

After the Revolution of 1830 which expelled from power Charles X, the last brother of Louis XVI, his cousin Louis-Philippe d’Orléans was proclaimed King of the French. By a decision taken in 1833, the new sovereign showed his desire to find a new assignment at Versailles. He took away his status as a royal residence (a quality that no longer corresponded to reality since 1789) and turned the castle into a museum. Passionate about history, discipline which became then a real science, he decided to collect all the painted, sculptured, drawn and engraved images illustrating events or characters of the history of France since its origins.

To do this, Louis-Philippe drew from the collections of the old royal, princely, private and institutional collections, which he completed with copies and retrospective works commissioned from contemporary artists. He commissioned his architect Frédéric Nepveu to design and carry out the necessary transformations. Nepveu, interpreter of the royal will, was brought to effect great upheavals in the castle, especially in the wings of the North and Midi, where all the apartments which, under the Old Regime, welcomed princes and courtiers, was sacrificed (however, the most distinctive woodwork and decorative elements were removed for preservation). From residence, the castle became a museum.

For Louis-Philippe, this museum, inaugurated in June 1837 and dedicated “to all the glories of France” was to symbolically contribute to the reconciliation of the supporters of the different regimes that had succeeded each other since 1789 and thus strengthen its own legitimacy of king of all the French, gathered around the national history of which the new sovereign claimed the heir and the continuator.

After the fall of Louis-Philippe in 1848 and the Second Republic, it was Napoleon III who finished the museum, but the war of 1870-1871 marks a new stop to the development of the whole. Versailles was occupied by the Prussians from September 1870 to February 1871, and the German Empire was solemnly proclaimed in the Hall of Mirrors on January 18, 1871. The National Assembly has just settle in March 1871, joined by the ministries during the Commune and the Third Republic is established on January 30, 1875. At the end of the XIX thcentury, the curator Pierre de Nolhac endeavors to return to Versailles his character of royal residence and to reorganize the collections. He dismantles some of the installations of the Louis-Philippe museum, begins a redeployment of the collections and puts in place an active acquisition policy.

Today Versailles therefore offers two faces both distinct and complementary: the royal residence of the Old Regime and the Museum of the XIX th century.

The halls of the crusades
The creation, in 1837, of these five rooms installed in the North wing is fully in the vogue of the Middle Ages which developed under the reign of Louis-Philippe. The theme of the Crusades comes directly from recent historical works (such as Joseph-François Michaud’s monumental History of the Crusades, published between 1812 and 1822). He encouraged the king to commission an iconographic collection of nearly one hundred and fifty paintings intended to be placed in an exceptional neo-Gothic decoration, all of whose elements (painted and carved woodwork, furniture, lighting) were designed on purpose. Among the commissioned artists is Eugene Delacroix, who painted the Crusader Entrance in Constantinople.(completed in 1840). The painting was transferred to the Louvre in 1885 and replaced at Versailles by a copy.

In the largest room, Louis-Philippe has the cedar door from the Hospital of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in Rhodes and offered him by Sultan Mahmoud II.

The halls of africa, crimea and italy
Under this term is meant a set of seven rooms on the first floor of the North Wing. The first three, to which a monumental staircase allows access, were consecrated, by the will of Louis-Philippe, to the illustration of the conquest of Algeria between 1830 and 1847. The so-called room of Constantine shows the seat and the capture of the city in October 1837. On either side of this room, two other rooms are dedicated to the taking of the Smala of Abdelkader May 16, 1843 (illustrated by the huge painting of Horace Vernet which measures more than 20 meters long 5 meters high), the other to French success in Morocco, a prelude to the Treaty of Tangier of 1844.

After the Revolution of 1848 and the fall of Louis-Philippe, Napoleon III took up the extension of this ensemble to celebrate its own military triumphs obtained in Crimea (seizure of Sevastopol, 1855) and in Italy (victory of Solferino, 1859). Finally, III e Republic concludes this monumental collection by the evocation of the 1870 war (the load of Reichshoffen by Aimé Morot, 1887).

These rooms are now used as temporary exhibitions and are rarely visible in their entirety.

The halls of the empire
The ground floor of the wing of the South, under the Battles gallery, is occupied by a set of thirteen rooms dating from the first developments undertaken by Louis-Philippe at Versailles. After some hesitation, the king chose to illustrate the military campaigns of the Directory, the Consulate and the Empire. The paintings – many of which were Napoleon’s own orders – are placed in a rich decor of wood paneling and painted panels which also contribute to the subject of the enfilade, even if the current hanging – resulting from many modifications – do not corresponds more always to the chronology initially intended by Louis-Philippe.

The penthouses of north and midi
The penthouses of the North Wing and the South Wing have been entirely refurbished under Louis Philippe and now offer long stretches where most of the museum’s collections of paintings are displayed, in chronological order that leads to from the French Revolution (Chimay attic, above the Queen’s apartment) to the celebration of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 at the end of the North wing.

Battles Gallery
The Battles gallery is the most important element of the historic galleries created in the Palace of Versailles by Louis-Philippe. It occupies almost the entire floor of the south wing of the castle and is devoted to the illustration, in thirty paintings, of nearly fifteen centuries of French military success, from Clovis to Napoleon.

The Battles Gallery is the largest room in the Castle (120 meters long, 13 meters wide). It occupies almost the entire first floor of the South wing. Designed and made from 1833, it is solemnly inaugurated on June 10, 1837 and marks the highlight of the visit of the Museum of the History of France .

Louis-Philippe gathers thirty-three paintings depicting the great battles that have marked national history, from the victory of Clovis at Tolbiac to that of Napoleon at Wagram in 1809. All the dynasties that reigned over France are evoked: Merovingians, Carolingians, Capetians, Valois and Bourbons. In a skilful manner, Louis-Philippe was anxious to add to it the illustration of the victories of the Revolution and the Empire. His message is simple: France has been fighting against enemies from within and without; it is now glorious, peaceful and ready to enter a new era based on peace and prosperity.

All the others were made for the gallery between 1834 and 1845 by the painters of the moment, Alaux, Bouchot, Couder, Delacroix , Devéria, Feron, Fragonard son, Frank, Heim, Lariviere, Mauzaisse, Picot, the Scheffer brothers , Schnetz, Schopin, Steuben and Vernet. The architecture of the gallery, developed by Frédéric Nepveu, probably with the advice of Pierre-Léonard Fontaine, evokes the projects of this one for the Great gallery of the Louvre under the Consulate and the Empire. It is a solemn space, punctuated by pillars, illuminated by vaulted windows and richly decorated with painted and gilded marble and stuccoes. The gallery is also conceived as a pantheon of national glories as it presents a series of eighty busts of officers killed in battle as well as bronze tables bearing the names of princes, constables, marshals and admirals to also killed or wounded. fatally for France.

Since its inauguration, the gallery has remained intact, complete with all the works commissioned by the Citizen King for its ornament. It remains one of the most impressive testimonies of Louis Philippe project for Versailles and one of the finest examples of the great museums of developments in the XIX th century.

Palace of Versailles

Ranked 30 years at the World Heritage Site, the palace of Versailles is one of the finest achievements of French art in the XVII th century. The former hunting lodge of Louis XIII was transformed and expanded by his son Louis XIV who installed his court and his government in 1682. Until the French Revolution, kings succeeded one another, embellishing the castle each in their turn.

The Château now has 2,300 rooms spread over 63,154 m2.

In 1789, the French Revolution forced Louis XVI to leave Versailles for Paris. The Castle will never be a royal residence, and knows the XIX th century a new destiny: in 1837, he became Museum of the History of France, by the will of King Louis-Philippe, who ascended the throne in 1830. The The rooms of the Château welcome new collections of paintings and sculptures representing both the great characters that illustrate the history of France and the major events that mark it. These collections are enriched until the beginning of the 20th centurycentury. It was then that, under the influence of his most eminent curator, Pierre de Nolhac, the castle reconnected with its own history by finding, in the whole of the central body, its aspect of royal residence of Ancien Régime.

The Palace of Versailles has never had a protective function in the sense of the medieval castle. From the Renaissance, the term “castle” refers to the rural situation of a sumptuous residence, as opposed to the urban palace. We thus speak of the “Palais du Louvre”, in the heart of Paris, and the “Château de Versailles”, in the countryside. Versailles was then a village, destroyed in 1673 to make way for the new city wanted by Louis XIV. Today the centerpiece of Versailles urban planning, the Château now seems far from the countryside that would distinguish it from a palace. Yet, on the garden side, to the west, the estate of Versailles still adjoins wood and agricultural fields.