|Palais du Luxembourg (French)|
Luxembourg Palace at sunset
|Current tenants||French Senate|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Salomon de Brosse|
The Luxembourg Palace (French: Palais du Luxembourg, pronounced: [pa.lɛ dy lyk.sɑ̃.buːʁ]) in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, north of the Luxembourg Garden (French: Jardin du Luxembourg), is the seat of the French Senate.
The formal Luxembourg Garden (French: Jardin du Luxembourg) presents a 25-hectare green parterre of gravel and lawn populated with statues and provided with large basins of water where children sail model boats. In the southwest corner, there is an orchard of apple and pear trees and the théâtre des marionnettes (puppet theatre).
The palace was built as a royal residence for Marie de Médicis, mother of king Louis XIII of France and of Gaston, duc d'Orléans, just near the site of an old hôtel particulier owned by François-Henri de Montmorency, duc de Piney-Luxembourg, which is now called the Palais du Petit-Luxembourg (see below), home of the president of the French Senate.
Marie de Médicis desired to make a building similar to her native Florence's Palazzo Pitti, and to this effect had the main architect Salomon de Brosse send architect Clément Metézeau to Florence to obtain drawings. Marie de Médicis bought the structure and its fairly extensive domain in 1612 and commissioned the new building, which she referred to as her Palais Médicis, in 1615. Its construction and furnishing formed her major artistic project, though nothing remains today of the interiors as they were created for her, save some architectural fragments reassembled in the Salle du Livre d'Or. The suites of paintings she commissioned, in the subjects of which she expressed her requirements through her agents and advisors, are scattered among museums.
Marie de Médicis installed her household in 1625, while work on interiors continued. The apartments in the right wing on the western side were reserved for the Queen and the matching suite to the east, for her son, Louis XIII, when he was visiting (floor plan).
A series of twenty-four triumphant canvases commissioned from Peter Paul Rubens were installed in the Galerie de Rubens on the main floor of the western wing. A series of paintings executed for her Cabinet doré ("gilded study") was identified by Anthony Blunt in 1967. Construction was finished in 1631; the Queen Mother was forced from court shortly after, following the "Day of the Dupes" in November 1631. Louis XIII commissioned further decorations for the Palace from Nicolas Poussin and Philippe de Champaigne.
In 1642, Marie bequeathed the Luxembourg to her second and favourite son, Gaston d'Orléans, who called it the Palais d'Orléans, but by popular will it was still known by its original name.
Upon Gaston's death, the palace passed to his widow, Marguerite de Lorraine, then to his elder daughter by his first marriage, Anne, duchesse de Montpensier, La Grande Mademoiselle. In 1660, Anne de Montpensier sold the Luxembourg to her younger half-sister, Élisabeth Marguerite d'Orléans, duchesse de Guise who, in turn, gave it to her cousin, king Louis XIV, in 1694.
In 1715, the palace became the residence of Marie Louise Elisabeth d'Orleans, Duchess of Berry (1695-1719). The widowed Duchess was notoriously promiscuous, having the reputation of a French Messalina, relentlessly driven by her unquenchable thirst for all pleasures of the flesh. The Luxembourg palace and its gardens thus became stages where the radiantly beautiful princess acted out her ambitions, enthroned like a queen surrounded by her court. In some of her more exclusive parties, Madame de Berry also played the leading part in elaborate "tableaux-vivants" that represented mythological scenes and in which she displayed her appetizing young person impersonating Venus or Diana. According to various satirical songs which scurrilously evoked her amours „the Lady of the Luxembourg” hid several pregnancies, shutting herself up from society when about to give birth. Her taste for strong liquors and her sheer gluttony also scandalised the court. On 21 May 1717, Madame de Berry received Peter the Great at the Luxembourg. She welcomed the visiting Tsar splendidly dressed in a magnificent sack-back gown which showcased her voluptuous bosom as well as her mischievous face but also helped conceal her growing corpulence for she was then in an "interesting condition".
On 28 February 1718, the Duchess of Berry threw a magnificent party for her visiting aunt, the Duchess of Lorraine. The entire palace and its gardens were elaborately illuminated. The lavish banquet was followed by a masked ball. Madame de Berry made a dazzling appearance before her guests. She was then in the full splendor of her youthful beauty and pride and acted as if she were the very incarnation of the goddess of love, mirth, beauty and sensual pleasures. However, just over one year after this magnificent moment of festive glory, the Luxembourg palace became the stage of a shameful tragicomedy which ended in the harrowing demise of the haughty princess. The tempestuous life of Madame de Berry, the "Venus of the Luxembourg Palace", soon met a premature end. On 2 April 1719, after a grueling four-day labour, shut up in a small room of her palace, the young widow was delivered of a stillborn baby-girl, supposedly fathered by her lieutenant of the guards, the Count of Riom. Ill-prepared by her debauchery and raucous behavior, Berry's delivery was extremely troublesome and almost killed her. The Church refused her the Sacraments thus adding moral infamy to the physical tortures of the labouring woman. Saint-Simon wrote a very sarcastic description of this scandalous childbirth. Hoping to regain her health and undeceive the public that she had been confined, Madame de Berry left Paris and the Luxembourg palace. She died in her castle at La Muette on 21 July 1719 and, according to Saint-Simon, was found to be again pregnant.
In 1750, the palace became a museum—the forerunner of the Louvre—, and was open two days a week until 1779. In 1778, the palace was given to the comte de Provence by his brother Louis XVI. During the French Revolution, it was briefly a prison, then the seat of the French Directory, and in 1799, the home of the Sénat conservateur and the first residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, as First Consul of the French Republic..
Palace as parliament
From 1799 to 1805 the architect Jean Chalgrin transformed the palace into a legislative building. He demolished the grand central staircase (escalier d'honneur), replacing it with a senate chamber on the first floor, which incorporated and destroyed Marie de Médicis' chapel on the garden side of the corps de logis. Chalgrin also enclosed the flanking terraces, making space for a library. At the same time he created a neo-classical escalier d'honneur in the west wing, a single monumental flight enclosed by an ionic colonnade and covered with a coffered barrel vault, the construction of which resulted in the destruction of the long gallery that had formerly housed the cycle of paintings by Rubens.
Beginning in 1835 the architect Alphonse de Gisors added a new garden wing parallel to the old corps de logis, replicating the look of the original 17th-century facade so precisely that it is difficult to distinguish at first glance the old from the new. The new senate chamber was located in what would have been the courtyard area in-between.
The new wing included a library (bibliothèque) with a cycle of paintings (1845–1847) by Eugène Delacroix. In the 1850s, at the request of Emperor Napoleon III, Gisors created the highly decorated Salle des Conférences (inspired by the Galerie d'Apollon of the Louvre), which influenced the nature of subsequent official interiors of the Second Empire, including those of the Palais Garnier.
During the German occupation of Paris (1940–1944), Hermann Göring took over the palace as the headquarters of the Luftwaffe in France, taking for himself a sumptuous suite of rooms to accommodate his visits to the French capital.
His subordinate, Luftwaffe Field Marshal Hugo Sperrle, was also given an apartment in the Luxembourg palace, and spent most of the war enjoying the luxurious surroundings. "The Field Marshal's craving for luxury and public display ran a close second to that of his superior, Goering; he was also his match in corpulence", wrote armaments minister Albert Speer after a visit to Sperrle in Paris.
The palace was a designated "strong point" for German forces defending the city in August 1944, but thanks to the decision of Commanding General Dietrich von Choltitz to surrender the city rather than fight, the palace was only minimally damaged.
From 29 July to 15 October 1946, the Luxembourg Palace was the site of the talks of Paris Peace Conference.
To the west of the Luxembourg, and communicating with it through interior courts, the sixteenth-century original hôtel of the duc de Piney-Luxembourg was rebuilt during the same years, the smaller palace now called the Petit-Luxembourg; it is composed of two main blocks, or corps de logis separated by a courtyard that is entered through a grand convex portal flanked by Tuscan columns. Since 1958, the Petit-Luxembourg has been the official residence of the President of the French Senate (président du Sénat).
Marie de Médicis passed it to the Cardinal de Richelieu, who occupied it while his own grand palace, the Palais-Cardinal, (which became the Palais-Royal after Richelieu deeded it to the Crown), was constructed in the rue Saint-Honoré. Once there, he ceded the Petit-Luxembourg to his niece the duchesse d'Aiguillon. By inheritance it passed to Henry III Jules de Bourbon, prince de Condé, whose widow Anne, princesse palatine de Bavière, made it the habitual residence of her widowhood, making adjustments to suit her status that included the grand staircase and salon by Germain Boffrand (1709–1713) and adding another hôtel for her household, with her kitchens and stables, on the other side of rue de Vaugirard; an underground passage linked the two residences.
Under Napoleon, the Conseil d'Etat (Council of State) was seated at the Petit-Luxembourg from 25 December 1799.
In fine weather, Parisians fill the Jardin du Luxembourg
Napoleonic marble plaque inserted in 18th-century boiserie at the Petit-Luxembourg
- The history of the Luxembourg Palace is discussed in R. Coope, Salomon de Brosse (London, 1972).
- Concrete by Peter Collins, Kenneth Frampton, Réjean Legault, p.166
- The Architecture of the Renaissance by Leonardo Benevolo, p.706
- Ayers 2004, p. 130.
- Design on the land by Norman T. Newton p.163
- Remarked upon in correspondence of the Florentine resident Giovanni Battista Gondi, in Deborah Marrow, "Maria de' Medici and the Decoration of the Luxembourg Palace" The Burlington Magazine 121 No. 921 (December 1979), pp. 783–788, 791.
- Marrow 1979.791.
- They are conserved in the Louvre.
- Blunt, "A series of paintings illustrating the History of the Medici Family executed for Marie de Médicis", The Burlington Magazine 109 (1967), pp. 492–98, 562–66, and Marrow 1979.
- Dicken's Dictionary of Paris, 1882, p. 143.
- Carré, Henri. Mademoiselle. Fille du Régent. Duchesse de Berry 1695-1719, Paris, Hachette, 1936.
- E. de Barthélémy (ed.), Gazette de la Régence. Janvier 1715-1719, Paris, 1887, p.180. The Duchess of Berry was heavily pregnant at the time of Peter the Great's visit. She secretly gave birth a few weeks later in her castle at La Muette where she had secluded herself until the time of delivery. In spite of all efforts to conceal it, Madame de Berry's maternity was well known. It inspired the satirists who lampooned Berry's penchant for lovers writing up a long list of all possible fathers for her secret baby
- Mémoires complets et authentiques du Duc de Saint-Simon sur le siècle de Louis XIV et la régence, Volume 15, Paris, 1829, pp.404-405.
- Pevitt, Christine, Philippe, Duc d'Orléans: Regent of France Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1997
- Andrew L. McClellan, "The Musée du Louvre as Revolutionary Metaphor During the Terror", The Art Bulletin, vol. 70 (June, 1988), pp. 300–313 (300).
- Ayers 2004, p. 131.
- "Le Petit Luxembourg" at the website of the Conseil d'État.
- Contemporary references call it the Petit-Bourbon to distinguish it from the Hôtel de Bourbon.
- dates from Wend von Kalnein, Architecture in France in the Eighteenth Century (Yale University Press) 1995:39; see also Ayers 2004 p. 132; "Welcome to the French Senate".
- Ayers, Andrew (2004). The Architecture of Paris. Stuttgart; London: Edition Axel Menges. ISBN 9783930698967.
- Hustin, Arthur (1904). Le Palais du Luxembourg. Paris: P. Mouillot. Listings at WorldCat. View at Google Books.
- List of works by James Pradier Sculpture
- Media related to Luxembourg Palace at Wikimedia Commons