The Palace of Versailles has attracted travelers since it was transformed under the direction of the Sun King, Louis XIV (1638–1715), from a simple hunting lodge into one of the most magnificent public courts of Europe. French and foreign travelers, royalty, dignitaries and ambassadors, artists, musicians, writers and philosophers, scientists, grand tourists and day-trippers alike, all flocked to the majestic royal palace surrounded by its extensive formal gardens.
Versailles was always a truly international setting. Countless visitors described their experiences and observations in correspondence and journals. Court diaries, gazettes, and literary journals offer detailed reports on specific events and entertainments as well as on ambassadorial receptions that were also documented in paintings and engravings.
Visitors to Versailles (1682–1789) is was previously on view at the Château de Versailles through February 25, 2018.
Opening April 16 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Visitors to Versailles (1682–1789) will track these many travelers from 1682, when Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles, up to 1789, when Louis XVI (1774–1792) and the royal family were forced to leave the palace and return to Paris. (Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, The Tisch Galleries, Gallery 899, 2nd floor)
Through paintings and portraits, furniture, tapestries, carpets, costumes and uniforms, porcelain, gold boxes, sculpture, arms and armor, engravings, and guidebooks, the exhibition will illustrate what the visitors encountered at court, what kind of welcome and access to the palace they received, and, most importantly, what they saw and what impressions, gifts, and souvenirs they took home with them.
Visitors to Versailles (1682–1789) is organized by Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide, the Henry R. Kravis Curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Met, and Bertrand Rondot, conservateur en chef, Château de Versailles. Design is by The Met Design Department. Design direction is provided by Emile Molin and Brian Butterfield. Exhibition design is by Alejandro Stein; graphic design is by Ria Roberts and Frank Mondragon, with support from Tal Pritzker; lighting design is by Clint Ross Coller, and production is by Maanik Chauhan and David Stith.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press. The book will be available for purchase in The Met Store (hardcover, $65). The catalog is made possible by the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The exhibition will also feature a unique audio experience that will evoke and bring to life what it was like to visit the palace during the ancien régime when Versailles was the seat of the court. This audio experience is sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
A series of events and performances will complement the exhibition. On April 21 (at 7 p.m.), the early-music vocal group TENET and the contemporary Metropolis Ensemble will present a program with two world premieres by cellist Timo Andres and musician Caroline Shaw. Opera Lafayette will perform Opera in Versailles on May 3 (7 p.m.).
Master chef and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi will create a Versailles-themed menu of dinner and desserts on June 19 and 20 (7 p.m.).
The role of the Palace of Versailles in 17th- and 18th-century Europe will be discussed in a Sunday at The Met program on April 22 and a half-day symposium on April 30. The Short Course The Kings of Versailles will take place April 14, 21, and 28 (2 p.m.); registration required.
The exhibition is made possible by The International Council of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Additional support is provided by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, Beatrice Stern, the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund, the Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund, The Florence Gould Foundation, The Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Foundation/French Heritage Society, and The Al Thani Collection. It is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Palace of Versailles.