The glories of Versailles, from giant Gobelin tapestries to Marie Antoinette’s gilded harp, make their way to Australia
by | 09 December 16
Versailles at the height of its power and glory is at the centre of an exhibition opening at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) next month. The show of around 130 loans from the Château de Versailles focuses on the palace’s history from 1682 (when it officially became the seat of French political power) until revolution brought the ancien régime (but not the palace at Versailles) tumbling down.
Among the loans are paintings, furniture, tapestries and, most notably, a 1.5-tonne fountain statue of the Roman goddess Latona and her children, which is being transported from Versailles to the capital of Australia. Other items include Jean Varin’s marble bust of Louis XIV (1665-66) and a reliquary that belonged to the Sun King’s mother, as well as a portrait of Marie Antoinette and her gilded harp.
Gerard Vaughan, the director of the NGA, has great expectations of the exhibition. “The name recognition for Versailles was higher than we have ever had before,” he says, referring to pre-exhibition market research. He attributes the palace’s fame to the number of Australians who visit Paris.
Vaughan says the French government first proposed the show, in part to mark the centenary of the First World War. The tens of thousands of Australian soldiers who died fighting on the Western Front in France during the war gives this unprecedented French-Australian cultural exchange added significance.
• Versailles: Treasures from the Palace, NGA, Canberra, 9 December-17 April 2017