The Splendours of Louis XIV Masterpiece
The Works of Le Vau / Mansart / De Cotte and Charles Lebrun
The first building campaign (1664–1668) commenced with the Plaisirs de l'Île enchantée of 1664, a fête that was held between 7 and 13 May 1664. The campaign involved alterations in the château and gardens to accommodate the 600 guests invited to the party. The second building campaign (1669–1672) was inaugurated with the modification of Louis XIII's hunting lodge by Le Vau. The decoration of the rooms, which was conducted under Le Brun's direction, depicted the heroic actions of the king and were represented under the allegorical form of Alexander the Great, Augustus, Cyrus, etc. With the signing of the Treaty of Nijmegen in 1678, which ended the Dutch War, the third building campaign at Versailles began (1678–1684) under the direction of the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart. In addition to the Hall of Mirrors, he designed the north and south wings and the Orangerie, but also collaborated with Le Nôtre's in landscaping the palace gardens. Soon after the defeat of the War of the League of Augsburg (1688–1697), Louis XIV undertook his last building campaign at Versailles. The fourth building campaign (1699–1710) concentrated almost exclusively on construction of the royal chapel designed by Mansart and finished by Robert de Cotte between 1689 and 1710.
Rare Architectural Drawings and Paintings
Versailles became the home of the French nobility and the location of the royal court — thus becoming the centre of French government. Louis XIV himself lived there, and symbolically the central room of the long extensive symmetrical range of buildings was the King's Bedchamber, which itself was centred on the lavish and symbolic bed, set behind a rich railing not unlike a communion rail. Indeed, even the principal axis of the gardens themselves was conceived to radiate from this fulcrum. All the power of France emanated from this centre : there were government offices here as well as the homes of thousands of courtiers, their retinues and all the attendant functionaries. By requiring that nobles of a certain rank spend time each year at Versailles, Louis also prevented them from developing their own regional power at the expense of his own, and kept them from countering his efforts to centralize the French government in an absolute monarchy.