The Grand Gallery, Palace of Versailles

The Grand Gallery is a set of three highly decorated reception rooms, dedicated to the celebration of the political and military successes of Louis XIV, and used for important ceremonies, celebrations and receptions.

The hall of mirrors
The Hall of Mirrors (French: Grande Galerie or Galerie des Glaces) is the central gallery of the Palace of Versailles in Versailles, France. Within the hall, the state of Germany was declared in 1871 and the Treaty of Versailles signed by the victorious powers of World War I in 1919.

The most emblematic place of the Castle, the Hall of Mirrors or Grand Gallery replaces a vast terrace opened on the garden that the architect Louis Le Vau had conceived. Uneasy and especially exposed to bad weather, this terrace which separated the apartment of the king in the north and that of the queen in the south, is quickly condemned. The successor of Le Vau, Jules Hardouin-Mansart imagines a more suitable solution and replaces the terrace with a vast gallery. Work began in 1678 and ended in 1684.

As the principal and most remarkable feature of King Louis XIV of France’s third building campaign of the Palace of Versailles (1678–1684), construction of the Hall of Mirrors began in 1678. To provide for the Hall of Mirrors as well as the salon de la guerre and the salon de la paix, which connect the grand appartement du roi with the grand appartement de la reine, architect Jules Hardouin Mansart appropriated three rooms from each apartment as well as the terrace that separated the two apartments.

The principal feature of this hall is the seventeen mirror-clad arches that reflect the seventeen arcaded windows that overlook the gardens. Each arch contains twenty-one mirrors with a total complement of 357 used in the decoration of the galerie des glaces. The arches themselves are fixed between marble pilasters whose capitals depict the symbols of France. These gilded bronze capitals include the fleur-de-lys and the Gallic cockerel or rooster. Many of the other attributes of the Hall of Mirrors were lost to war for financial purposes, such as the silver table pieces and guéridons, which were melted by order of Louis XIV in 1689 to finance the War of the League of Augsburg.

After the victory over the three league powers , represented at the Salon de la Guerre, the gallery exalts throughout its seventy-three meters the political, economic and artistic successes of France. Political achievements: the thirty compositions of the vault painted by Le Brun illustrate the glorious history of Louis XIV during the first eighteen years of his personal government, since 1661 until the peace of Nijmegen. Thus, military and diplomatic victories as well as reforms for the reorganization of the kingdom are treated in the form of allegories to the Antique. Economic prosperity: by their size and their number, the three hundred and fifty-seven mirrors adorning the seventeen arcades facing the windows testify that the new French ice factory is able to delight in Venice the monopoly of mirrors, then objects of luxury. Artistic success: the marble pilasters of Rance are decorated with golden bronze capitals of a new model called “French order”, created by Le Brun at the request of Colbert , it presents national emblems: a flower of lily surmounted by the royal sun between two Gallic roosters (cock calling itself gallus in Latin).

The Ice Gallery served daily as a place of passage, waiting and meetings, frequented by courtiers and the public of visitors. It served only exceptionally as a setting for ceremonies, when the rulers wanted to give the greatest brilliance to entertainment (balls or games) offered at princely weddings or at diplomatic receptions. On these latter occasions, the throne was then installed on a platform at the end of the gallery, on the side of the Salon de la Paix, whose arch was closed. The staging of power has rarely reached such a degree of ostentation. Thus the Doge of Genoa in 1685, the ambassadors of Siam (1686), Persia (1715) and the Ottoman Empire (1742) had to cross the whole gallery, under the eyes of the Court massed on each side on bleachers to reach the king.

It is also here that was signed June 28, 1919 the Treaty of Versailles which ended the First World War. Since then, the Presidents of the Republic continue to receive the official hosts of France.

The war room
It is from 1678 that Hardouin- Mansart undertook the construction of the war room. The decoration, completed by Le Brun in 1686, exalted the military victories that led to the peace of Nijmegen. The walls are covered with marble panels decorated with six trophies and gilt bronze falls. The wall on the side of the salon of Apollo is occupied by an oval bas-relief in stucco depicting Louis XIV on horseback trampling on his enemies. This masterpiece from Coysevoxis surmounted by two Golden Fame and supported by two captives chained. Beneath, in the bas-relief concealing the opening of a false chimney, Clio, muse of History, records for posterity the king’s deeds. The dome ceiling represents in the center La France armee , sitting on a cloud and surrounded by Victoires. A portrait of Louis XIV adorns his shield. In the arches are represented his three enemies vanquished: Germany on his knees, with an eagle; threatening Spain, with a roaring lion and Holland overthrown on another lion. The fourth arch represents Bellone, goddess of war, in rage between Rebellion and Discord.

The peace room
The Salon de la Paix presents the same decoration of marble panels and trophies of weapons of gilded and chiseled bronzes that the war lounge which is symmetrical to it. However, Le Brun has adorned the dome and the bones of the benefits of peace given by France to Europe. This salon was, from the end of the reign of Louis XIV , separated from the gallery by a movable partition and considered part of the Queen’s apartment which he then constituted the last room after the room. It was there that under Louis XV , Marie Leszczynska gave every Sunday concerts of secular or religious music which played an important role in the musical life of Versailles, and that, during the following reign,Marie-Antoinette played her game. When necessary, the partition separating the room from the gallery was dismantled and the living room was once again part of the Grand Apartment

In the 17th century, mirrors were among the most expensive items to possess at the time; the Venetian Republic held the monopoly on the manufacture of mirrors. In order to maintain the integrity of his philosophy of mercantilism, which required that all items used in the decoration of Versailles be made in France, Jean-Baptiste Colbert enticed several workers from Venice to make mirrors at the Manufacture royale de glaces de miroirs. According to legend, in order to keep its monopoly, the government of the Venetian Republic sent agents to France to poison the workers whom Colbert had brought to France.

The Hall of Mirrors’ dimensions are 73.0 m × 10.5 m × 12.3 m (Length x Width x Height) (239.5 ft × 34.4 ft × 40.4 ft) and is flanked by the salon de la guerre (north) and the salon de la paix (south). Construction on the galerie and its two salons continued until 1684, at which time it was pressed into use for court and state functions. The ceiling decoration is dedicated to the political policies and military victories of Louis XIV. The central panel of the ceiling, Le roi gouverne par lui-même (“The king governs alone”), alludes to the establishment of the personal reign of Louis XIV in 1661. The present decorative schema represents the last of three that were presented to Louis XIV. The original decorative plan was to have depicted the exploits of Apollo, being consistent with the imagery associated with the Sun-King, Louis XIV. However, when the king learned that his brother, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, had commissioned Pierre Mignard to decorate the ceiling of the grande galerie of his brother’s residence at Château de Saint-Cloud, Louis XIV rejected the plan. The next decorative plan was one in which the exploits of Hercules — as allegories to the actions of Louis XIV — were to be depicted. Again, as with the first plan, the Hercules theme was rejected by the king. The final plan represents military victories of Louis XIV starting with the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659) to the Treaty of Nijmegen (1678–1679). In a departure from the decoration of the ceilings in the grand appartement du roi, Le Brun has depicted Louis XIV directly, and has ceased to refer to the king in allegorical guises. In this way, themes such as good governance and military prowess are rendered with Louis XIV himself as the key figure.

During the 17th century, the Hall of Mirrors was used daily by Louis XIV when he walked from his private apartment to the chapel. At this time, courtiers assembled to watch the king and members of the royal family pass, and might make a particular request by intoning: “Sire, Marly?”. This was the manner in which one was able to obtain a much sought-after invitation to one of the king’s house parties at Marly-le-Roi, the villa Louis XIV built north of Versailles on the route to Saint-Germain-en-Laye. However, of all the events that transpired in this room during the reign of Louis XIV, the Siamese Embassy of 1685–1686 must be cited as the most opulent. At this time, the galerie des glaces and the grands appartements were still appointed with silver furniture. In its heyday, over 3,000 candles were used to light the Hall of Mirrors. In February 1715, Louis XIV held his last embassy in the galerie des glaces, one in which he received Mehemet Reza Bey, ambassador of the Shah of Persia.

In the successive reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI, the Hall of Mirrors continued to serve for family and court functions. Embassies, births, and marriages were fêted in this room; however, perhaps the most celebrated event of the 18th century occurred on 25 February 1745: the celebrated bal des Ifs (Ball of the Yew Trees). It was during this costume ball that Louis XV, who was dressed as a yew tree, met Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson d’Étiolles, who was costumed as Diana, goddess of the hunt. Jeanne-Antoinette, who became Louis XV’s mistress, is better known to history as the Marquise de Pompadour.

In the 19th century, at the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War, the Prussian king, William I, was declared German emperor — thus establishing the German Empire — on 18 January 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors by Bismarck and the victorious German princes and lords. This was seen as a victory with heavy symbolism for the Germans and a stinging insult for the defeated French. French Prime Minister Clemenceau chose the Hall of Mirrors as the location wherein was signed the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I on 28 June 1919.

The Hall of Mirrors is still used for state occasions of the Fifth Republic, such as receptions for visiting heads of state.

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 m 2 .

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.