Getting a decent view of the works of art while visiting the Palace of Versailles is an exercise in futility. Try standing back in the Palace to get an appreciation of a six-metre long tapestry without a bunch of noisy school kids or intrepid tourists getting in the way.
Well now it is possible, but not at the Palace of Versailles. Rather, it is in Canberra, Australia that you can get the best view. That’s right. The grandeur of the Palace of Versailles has come to Canberra, at the National Gallery of Australia, at least temporarily, until April 17, 2017.
For the first time, more than 130 treasures including royal paintings, intricate tapestries, luxurious gilded furniture and objects from the famous Hall of Mirrors have travelled from France to entice visitors into a world of power, passion and luxury through this major exhibition.
“Every object tells a story evoking the lives, loves, taste and ideas of the kings, queens, mistresses and courtiers who lived at Versailles through so many great moments in French history,” NGA director Gerard Vaughan said.
This grand tapestry is by far the largest work made for the interior of the Palace of Versailles, measuring a massive six metres long. Part of a series of wall hangings made for the monarchy by the great Gobelins workshop, it includes incredible detail depicting important events in the life of the King.
This bust of Louis XIV is an exceptionally important work of art. Aside from its great value it depicts the face of the king responsible for the largest palace ever built. To place this into perspective, Buckingham Palace would fit into the grounds of Versailles many times over. It was the grandest of visions realised by the power-hungry Louis XIV, who referred to himself as the Sun King.
This magnificent statue of Latona and her children was the centrepiece of one of the main fountains in the formal gardens at the Palace of Versailles. A specialised freight plane transported the entire 1.5-tonne statue to Australia in three pieces. A Versailles restorer reassembled the pieces in Canberra using a mixture of the same marble dust to make the joins invisible. Don’t think that the Latona Fountain in the Versailles Gardens is now missing its famous statue. A copy in 1980 replaced the fountain you see today at Versailles.
Marie-Antoinette is synonymous with the opulence of Versailles. The luxury of her fashion, possessions and lifestyle knew no bounds. The Queen commissioned several portraits of herself but was never satisfied with any of them until she found a painter who she felt could accurately capture her likeness. This formal portrait by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun catches the youthfulness, grace and radiance of the 22-year-old queen.
To create an immersive and unforgettable experience, the National Gallery of Australia worked exclusively with the master perfumer, Francis Kurkdjian, to scent the foyer of the exhibition space with a fragrance inspired by Louis XIV.
For Versailles tragics, like Ruth and I, this exhibition was an oasis in the desert. At last, we could get up close and personal to the Palace of Versailles, and linger as long as we liked without being pushed along by the next tour group. You can also hear experts speak on a range of topics, listen to music from Versailles and get creative with a variety of programs for all ages accompanying the exhibition.
National Gallery of Australia
Parkes Place, Parkes, Canberra ACT 2600 AUSTRALIA
+61 2 6240 6411
Open every day: 10.00 am – 5.00 pm