More than 7 million people make the journey to the Palace of Versailles every year to experience a phenomenon central to French history – Louis XIV’s architectural masterpiece, the centre of his court of absolute rule and the embodiment of luxury – and now Canberrans don’t have to travel much further than a stones throw away with Versailles: Treasures from the Palace now exclusively on display at the National Gallery of Australia.
This exhibition is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, offering a glimpse into the decadence and richness of this period in French history.
“We are very excited to be working with Versailles to bring exclusively to Canberra a truly astonishing exhibition,” NGA Director Gerard Vaughan says.
The show-stopping exhibition embodies the opulence, luxury and beauty of such a central era – bringing to life the reign of three lavish kings; Louis XIV, XV, XVI, their lovers and queens, and arguably one of the most iconic individuals – Marie Antoinette.
Boasting a collection of over 130 treasures, ranging from paintings, intricate tapestries, gilded furniture items, monumental statues and other objects from the royal gardens and personal items from Louis XIV to Marie Antoinette, Versailles is the greatest cultural experience of the summer that you must check out!
Highlight pieces include works such as the marble bust of Louis XIV, the monumental Gobelins tapestries, Dauphin’s fine writing desk, two candelabra from the Hall of Mirrors (as the Versailles Palace insisted one would simply not be enough!) and Marie Antoinette’s handcrafted chair and harp.
But the star of the exhibition is likely to be Latona and Her Children, a massive two-metre, 1.5-tonne marble statute from the main fountain at the palace. Latona is showcased unaccompanied in a room surrounded by a high-tech multimedia and soundscape display recreating the extravagant world of Versailles.
NGA director Gerard Vaughn’s goal was to help the audience understand what her life was like at Versailles. The exhibit creates a holistic experience of being transported to the Versailles Fountain rather than bringing Latona as an art object to just be simply viewed in another room.
To enhance the already sumptuous experience, the NGA has added sensory elements to the exhibition. Orchestral music from the day has been sourced, as Louis XIV had his own composer and a full orchestra on hand at all times, and is sounded through many of the exhibition rooms.
The gallery even commissioned an actual French perfumer to create a scent, with notes of orange blossom (Louis XIV’s favourite) to incorporate the fragrance through the exhibit, further enriching the immersive nature of the Versailles exhibition experience.
It is the first time the NGA has incorporated scent into a major exhibition. The bouquet will be most notable in the exhibition foyer, where two candelabra from the famous Hall of Mirrors will be on display. The scent is disseminated using systems by Australian company, AllSense.
Every object tells a story evoking the lives, loves, tastes and ideas of the kings, queens, mistresses and courtiers who lived at Versailles through so many great moments in French history.
Versailles: Treasures from the Palace
On at National Gallery of Australia in Canberra until 17 April 2017