Grand appartement de la reine
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The grand appartement de la reine is the Queen's grand apartment of the Palace of Versailles.
Forming a parallel enfilade with that of the grand appartement du roi, the grand appartement de la reine served as the residence of three queens of France — Marie-Thérèse d’Autriche, wife of Louis XIV; Marie Leszczyńska, wife of Louis XV; and Marie-Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI. Additionally, Louis XIV’s granddaughter-in-law, Marie-Adélaïde de Savoie, as duchesse de Bourgogne, occupied these rooms from 1697, the year of her marriage, to her death in 1712.
When Louis Le Vau’s envelope of the château vieux (old palace) was completed, the grand appartement de la reine came to include a suite of seven enfilade rooms on the main floor in the left wing with an arrangement that mirrored almost exactly the grand appartement du roi in the right wing. The configuration was:
- Chapel — corresponding to the salon de Diane in the King's grand apartment
- Salle de gardes — corresponding to the salon de Mars in the King's grand apartment
- Antichambre — corresponding to the salon de Mercure in the King's grand apartment
- Chambre — corresponding to with the salon d’Apollon in the King's grand apartment
- Grand cabinet — corresponding to the salon de Jupiter in the King's grand apartment
- Oratory — corresponding to the salon de Saturne in the King's grand apartment
- Petit cabinet — corresponding to the salon de Vénus in the King's grand apartment
As with the decoration of the ceiling in the grand appartement du roi, which depicted the heroic actions of Louis XIV as allegories from events taken from the antique past, the decoration of the grand appartement de la reine likewise depicted heroines from the antique past and harmonized with the general theme of a particular room’s decor.
With the construction of the Hall of Mirrors, which began in 1678, the configuration of the grand appartement de la reine changed. The chapel was transformed into the salle des gardes de la reine and it was in this room that the decorations from the salon de Jupiter were reused. The salle des gardes de la reine communicates with a loggia that issues from the escalier de la reine (Queen's staircase), which corresponded (albeit a smaller, though similarly-decorated example) to the escalier des ambassadeurs (Ambassador's Staircase) in the grand appartement du roi. The loggia also provides access to the appartement du roi, the suite of rooms in which Louis XIV lived. Toward the end of Louis XIV’s reign, the escalier de la reine became the principal entrance to the château, with the escalier des ambassadeurs used on rare state occasions. After the destruction of the escalier des ambassadeurs in 1752, the escalier de la reine became the main entrance to the château.
From 1682, the grand appartement de la reine included:
- Salle des gardes de la reine
- Antichambre (formerly the salle des gardes)
- Grand cabinet
- Chambre de la reine
With the death of Louis XIV in 1715, the court moved to Vincennes and later to Paris. In 1722, Louis XV reinstalled the court at Versailles and began modifications to the château’s interior. Among the most noteworthy of the building projects during Louis XV’s reign, the redecoration of the chambre de la reine must be cited.
To commemorate the birth of his only son and heir, Louis, in 1729, Louis XV ordered a complete redecoration of the room. Elements of the chambre de la reine as it had been used by Marie-Thérèse and Marie-Adélaïde de Savoie were removed and a new, more modern decor was installed.
During her life at Versailles, Marie Leszczynska (1703–1768) lived in the grand appartement de la reine, to which she annexed the salon de la paid to serve as a music room. In 1770, when the Austrian archduchess Marie-Antoinette married the dauphin, later Louis XVI, she took up residence in these rooms. Upon Louis XVI’s ascension to the throne in 1774, Marie-Antoinette ordered major redecoration of the grand appartement de la reine. At this time, the queen’s apartment achieved the arrangement that we see today.
- Salle des gardes de la reine — this room remained virtually unchanged by Marie-Antoinette.
- Antichambre — this room was transformed into the antichambre du grand couvert. It was in this room that the king, queen, and members of the royal family dined in public. Occasionally, this room served as a theater for the château.
- Grand cabinet — this room was transformed into the salon des nobles. Following the tradition established by her predecessor, Marie-Antoinette would hold formal audiences in this room. When not used for formal audiences, the salon des nobles served as an antechamber to the queen’s bedroom.
- Chambre de la reine — this room was used as the queen’s bedroom, and was of exceptional splendor. On the night of 6/7 October 1789, Marie-Antoinette fled from the Paris mob by escaping through a private corridor that connected her apartment with that of the king.
- This chapel was the second of chapels built in the château of Versailles
- Owing to the construction of the Hall of Mirrors — the central project of Louis XIV’s 3rd building campaign — and the death of Marie-Thérèse in 1683, the grand cabinet, the oratory, and the petit cabinet were destroyed for the construction of the Hall of Mirrors and the Salon de la paix. Of these three rooms, only fragments of the ceiling decoration of the Grand cabinet have survived; no evidence regarding the decoration of the oratory or the petit cabinet has been found. See Nicole Reynaud and Jacques Villain, “Fragments retrouvés de la décoration du Grand Appartement de la Reine Marie-Thérèse,” Revue du Louvre, #4-5 (1970): 231-238.
- On an interesting note, not only were women depicted in the decoration of the grand appartement de la reine, but women contributed to the decoration of these rooms. Most notable of these ladies would be Madeleine de Boulogne, who painted the over-door painting in the salle des gardes.
- With the creation of this room, a new chapel — the château’s third — was built in the adjacent room to the east. In 1682, when the third chapel was built (where the salon d’Hercule is now located), this room was renamed la grande salle des gardes de la reine. In the 19th century, this room was rebaptized salle du sacre owing to the installation of Jean-Louis David’s Coronation of Napoléon I.
- The decoration of this room was an important expression in French interior design. It heralded the transition from the Regency style, which prevailed from the death of Louis XIV through to 1732 (with the decoration of the Salon de la princesse at the Hôtel de Soubise), and the Rococo (or style Louis XV), the style that prevailed for the greater part of the reign of Louis XV.
- It was via this room that the Paris mob, which stormed the château during the night of 6/7 October 1789, gained access to the château. During the mêlée, members of the garde Suisse, which formed part the queen’s bodyguard, were killed in their attempts to protect the queen.
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