Monday, 27 February 2017

Palace of Versailles, France




The life of the French Queen Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) has been the subject of numerous publications. Director and screenplay writer Sofia Coppola based her film MARIE ANTOINETTE, on Marie Antoinette - The Journey (2002) by Antonia Fraser.
   
Marie Antoinette, 0:51:26
The film starts when 14-year old Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) is being forced into an arranged marriage by her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria (Marianne Faithull), with the heir apparent to the French throne, the future King Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman). The movie was almost entirely filmed on location, including many historic locations. The production was given unprecedented access to the Palace of Versailles. Filming took place between January and April 2005, during off season, although the palace attracts millions of tourists throughout the year. During our visit it was very busy, especially inside the palace.



In line for the Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016

  
Marie Antoinette arrived in May 1770 in Versailles at the Cour de Marbre (‘Marble courtyard’), awaited by a large number of curious members of the court. The palace, originally a hunting lodge, was reconstructed and enlarged into a royal residence in the seventeenth century by King Louis XIV. In French it is called a ‘château’ (castle) instead of a palace because it is located outside of the city. In the years that followed, the city of Versailles has expanded to a degree that the palace is now directly connected to the city.

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Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016

Marie Antoinette and the dauphin were married on May 16, 1770, in the Royal Chapel of the palace. Construction of the chapel, of course dedicated to St. Louis, had been completed in 1710. Every day a mass was held. In the film the chapel is seen a few times. Visitors have no access but are able to look inside.

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Royal Chapel, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Royal Chapel, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016

The most famous room in the palace is the Hall of Mirrors, originally a terrace that was turned into a gallery by the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart between 1678 and 1684. It consists of a long wall with mirrors and a long wall with windows. The Hall of Mirrors was used as a meeting place and for special occasions, such as the marriage of Marie Antoinette. Several scenes were filmed in the Hall of Mirrors. During our visit a work of art, consisting of enlightened circles, was on display.

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Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016

The exterior of the palace is prominently featured in the film, from a distance and in detail. The facades have been decorated with statues and columns. Already in 1792, during the French Revolution and a year before the death of Marie Antoinette, the palace became a national museum.

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Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Palace of Versailles, 5 August 2016
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Palace of Versailles, 5 August 2016
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Palace of Versailles, 5 August 2016
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Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Palace of Versailles, 5 August 2016
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Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Palace of Versailles, 5 August 2016

The symmetric gardens of the palace are also seen on various occasions in the movie. They were designed by André Le Nôtre after a commission by Louis XIV. It took about 40 years to construct the gardens and a large number of fountains, including the Apollo fountain. The sun god, Louis XIV’s inspiration for being named Sun King, is seen while he arises with his chariot from the water. The fountain was made between 1668 and 1671 by Jean-Baptiste Tuby after a design by Charles Le Brun.

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Gardens of Palace of Versailles, 5 August 2016
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Gardens of Palace of Versailles, 5 August 2016
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Apollo fountain, Palace of Versailles, 5 August 2016
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Gardens of Palace of Versailles, 5 August 2016
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Gardens of Palace of Versailles, 5 August 2016

A short scene between Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI is set at the landing of the princes’ staircase in the south wing. The staircase itself is hardly visible. In the film more rooms in the palace are seen, including the bedroom of Marie Antoinette. Unfortunately these apartments were closed during our visit due to renovation.

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South wing, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
Marie Antoinette, 0:47:02
South wing, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016

In the north wing, the Galerie de Pierre (‘Stone gallery’) leads to the chapel, a long hall with a wall of statues and a wall of windows. The gallery is see three times in the film when Marie Antoinette is passing, sometimes watched by gossiping members of the court. Like the chapel the gallery was not open to the public during our visit but it was possible to look inside.

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Galerie de Pierre, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Galerie de Pierre, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Galerie de Pierre, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016

In the gardens of the palace are several buildings, including Petit Trianon (‘Little Trianon’), a small castle built between 1762 and 1768 after a design by Ange-Jacques Gabriel by the order of Louis XV (Rip Torn) for his mistress Madame de Pompadour. She died before completion and the Petit Trianon was occupied by her successor, Madame du Barry (Asia Argento). After he became king, Louis XVI gave the castle to Marie Antoinette. The moment he gives her the key is depicted in the film. Later on, she meets her lover, Swedish Count Axel von Fersen (Jamie Dornan), at the Petit Trianon.

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Petit Trianon, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Petit Trianon, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Petit Trianon, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016

Petit Trianon is open to the public, little trains bring visitors from the palace to the various buildings in the gardens. Inside the building is the famous portrait of Marie Antoinette, painted by Louise Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun in 1784. She made more than 30 portraits of the queen. The original painting is not seen in the film, instead a copy that resembles Kirsten Dunst, including a reference to the many debts the queen had. She was nicknamed Madame Déficit (‘Madam Debt’).

Marie Antoinette, 1:42:27
"Marie Antoinette" (1784), Louise Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun
Petit Trianon, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016

Louis XV also ordered Ange-Jacques Gabriel to design Le Pavillon Français (‘The French Pavilion’) that was built between 1749 and 1750 near Petit Trainon. Marie Antoinette used it for parties, balls and concerts.

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Le Pavillon Français, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016

Also in the gardens surrounding the palace is Le Hameau de la Reine (‘The Queen’s Hamlet’), by request of Marie Antoinette built for her around 1785 to withdraw herself from daily life at the palace. Together with her lady-in-waitings, she could lead a simple life, as if she was a sheperdess. The small village contains amongst others a mill and a gardener’s house that are seen in the movie as well. The hamlet can be visited but the buildings are not open to the public.

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Mill, Le Hameau de la Reine,
Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Gardener’s house, Le Hameau de la Reine,
Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Gardener’s house, Le Hameau de la Reine,
Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016

Located on an artificial island is Le Temple de l’Amour (‘The Temple of Love’), designed by Richard Mique by order of Marie Antoinette in 1777. Twelve columns carry a cupola and in the middle is the statue “L’Amour taillant son arc dans la massue d’Hercule” (‘Cupid cutting a bow from the club of Hercules’), a copy of the original statue by Edmé Bouchardon. In the film the temple is seen twice, somewhat hidden behind trees.

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Le Temple de l'Amour, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
Marie Antoinette, 1:35:55
Le Temple de l'Amour, Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016

The final scene of the movie is set on the balcony at the Cour de Marbre. On October 5, 1789, a large crowd gathered here to protest the wasteful royal family while their own people have nothing to eat. According to tradition, Marie Antoinette stood on the balcony with her head down while the people were screaming for her head. It was the start of the French Revolution that would end tragic for the queen. On October 16, 1793, she was beheaded in Paris. The film ends with the abduction of the royal family.

Marie Antoinette, 1:52:04
Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
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Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016
Marie Antoinette, 1:52:34
Palace of Versailles, 6 August 2016

Screenshots © American Zoetrope/Columbia Pictures
 

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