"Hall of Mirrors" at Versailles restored (re Dutch wars)
France reveals restored Versailles Hall of Mirrors
Mon Jun 25, 2007 11:57 PM IST135
By James Mackenzie
PARIS (Reuters) - One of France's most brilliant architectural showpieces,
the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, revealed its face on
Monday after a painstaking restoration to remove layers of accumulated grime.
"The Hall of Mirrors is the heart of the Palace of Versailles," said
Frederic Didier, chief architect of France's historical monuments.
"It's an absolutely magical place and one of the main impacts of this
restoration is to bring the life back to the heart of the Palace."
The Hall, built in 1684 on the orders of the "Sun King" Louis XIV, was
intended from the beginning as a dazzling setting to project the power and
majesty of the French monarchy.
The gallery witnessed both the proclamation of the German Empire in 1871
after the Franco-Prussian War and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles
that formally ended World War One.
The decor is a high point of European art in the 17th century, a period
when France's power was at its height.
But over the years, the gold-coated stucco and mirrors had become tarnished
and the luminous colouring of the paintings had darkened.
"The last restoration was 50 years ago, and it was showing worrying signs
of age," said Didier.
"It's the first time we've had the chance to restore the Hall in its
entirety and to give it back a unity and coherence that it had lost for a
very long time."
Around 100 restorers and technicians worked for three years to clean up the
site in a 12 million euro ($16 million) project funded by the French
construction group Vinci.
"We worked on everything," said Didier. "We changed the parquet to hide the
technical installations, we restored the marble and the bronzes, the
mirrors and of course, the stucco and paintings on the ceilings."
Louis XIV used the gallery for particularly important ceremonial occasions,
as well as for balls in which hundreds of courtiers crammed onto its
"Louis XIV wanted to give what he saw as the superiority of the French
monarchy above all others an appropriate setting," said Jean-Jacques
Aillagon, head of the body that runs the palace.
The 73-metre-long hall is dominated by a vaulted ceiling covered with
paintings by the artist Charles Le Brun that depict a series of Louis XIV's
triumphs against the Dutch and other enemies as well as far-sighted
The ceiling paintings and the walls are framed in elaborate gilded
decorations, and a wall panel of 357 mirrors reflects the vast palace
gardens seen through the windows opposite to give the hall its name.
"It's a mixture of political projection and fantastic artistic
intelligence," said Aillagon.
© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.
aka Terry F