Versailles. and antiquity

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2 Versailles and antiquity 2 Louis XIV was just 26 when he decided in 1664 to extend the small palace built by his father Louis XIII in Versailles. He was a young king who had a passionate love of the arts. He wanted to express this love for beautiful things in a dazzling display in Versailles. And, for him and the people of this period, beauty meant antiquity.

3 So what exactly is antiquity? Antiquity is the period in human history that came after Prehistory and lasted from the appearance of writing until the very beginning of the Middle Ages. In Europe, it began in the 4th millennium BC (around the year , that is years ago!), and finished in the 5th century AD (about years ago). This period saw brilliant civilisations flourish, including the Greek and Roman cultures, which built great temples, invented a rich mythology, and produced astonishing marble statues with perfect physical features and fine clothing. Beauty and power Louis XIV wanted to have all these very ancient masterpieces for Versailles: his agents brought them back from Italy, Greece and even Egypt (which had also had a brilliant antique civilisation). He also commissioned the top artists of his own time to produce works of art as beautiful as those from antiquity. He wanted to create a new Rome in Versailles and to impress the whole world, especially the other kings of Europe, with the splendour and refinement of the palace. And it is this passionate devotion to beauty that we can see in this exhibition, in the paintings, the sculptures and various objects. Observe this statue of Louis XIV: he is dressed like a Roman emperor but one detail is out of place. Which one do you think it is? His short skirt. His sandals with gaiters. His long hair, more fashionable in the 17 th century than in the time of Julius Caesar. 3

4 A god for the Sun King In fact, this name of the Sun King was given to Louis XIV long after his death. But he himself had chosen the emblem of the sun to symbolise his own glory. So it is not surprising that he identified himself with Apollo, the god of Greek and Roman mythology who drove the chariot of the sun. Famous for his radiant beauty, Apollo was a dazzling young god with long hair. He was the one who inspired the poets, musicians and singers. He was also the god of healing and fortune-telling. Greek mythology tells all kinds of stories about him: how he killed the monstrous snake called Python, how he took his revenge on those refusing to obey him, and his great love for the nymph Daphne who transformed herself into a laurel tree to escape from him, etc. Observe this painting showing Apollo to find one of the objects that this god always has with him (what we call an attribute): 1 a trident a lyre a halberd (combined spear and battle-axe)

5 Fancy-dress ball The Marquise de Pompadour disguised as a heroine of mythology. Look at the painting and circle the goddess she took her inspiration from. 1 Venus, goddess of love (whom the Greeks called Aphrodite). 2 Diana, goddess of hunting and sister of Apollo (called Artemis in Greek mythology). 5

6 By Jove! Names of gods, goddesses, strange creatures and figures from Greek and Roman antiquity are hidden in this grid. Can you spot them? Alexander Apollo Ariane Bacchus Diana faun Hercules Mercury Minerva Venus 6

7 An echo of Egypt Observe these fine gilt andirons in the form of a sphinx (andirons or firedogs are used to support logs in fireplaces). The artist who made them for Versailles was certainly inspired by some Egyptian works of art that Louis XIV had brought to him from the land of the Pharaohs. But what was the special thing about the sphinx? 1 It replaced wooden horses on merry-go-rounds in Egypt. 2 It guarded tombs and asked very difficult riddles. Weird creatures People in antiquity liked to invent incredible creatures, hybrids (meaning made up of two different creatures): the sphinx, of course. But also the centaur, half-man and half-horse; the siren, half-woman and half-fish, etc. It s up to you now to draw your own imaginary hybrid creature! 7

8 Spot the 7 differences In this painting by René Antoine Houasse, called Minerva Teaching the Art of Sculpture to the People of Rhodes, seven small mistakes have been included. Open your eyes and spot them! Conception Orianne Charpentier et Elodie Coulon , Rédaction : Orianne Charpentier. Conception graphique : Delphine Chedru. RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Hervé Lewandowski Château de Versailles (dist. Rmn-GP)/Jean-Marc Manai RMN Grand Palais (château de Versailles) / Gérard Blot, RMN Grand Palais (château de Versailles) / Gérard Blot, RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Hervé Lewandowski, RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Hervé Lewandowski, RMN Grand Palais (château de Versailles) / Droits réservés, RMN Grand Palais (château de Versailles) / Gérard Blot

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