The palace of Versailles and its gardens have attracted travelers ever since it was transformed under the direction of the Sun King, Louis XIV, from a simple hunting lodge into one of the most magnificent and public courts of Europe. French and foreign travelers, including royalty, ambassadors, artists, musicians, writers, scientists, grand tourists, and day-trippers, all flocked to the royal palace surrounded by its extensive formal gardens. Versailles was always a truly international setting, and not only drew visitors from Europe and America, but also hosted dignitaries from as far away as Thailand, India, and Tunisia. Their official receptions at Versailles and gift exchanges with the king were among the attractions widely recorded in tourists' diaries and court gazettes.
Bringing together works from The Met, the Château de Versailles, and over fifty lenders, this exhibition highlights the experiences of travelers from 1682, when Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles, to 1789, when the royal family was forced to leave the palace and return to Paris. Through paintings, portraits, furniture, tapestries, carpets, costumes, porcelain, sculpture, arms and armor, and guidebooks, the exhibition illustrates what visitors encountered at court, what kind of welcome and access to the palace they received, and, most importantly, what impressions, gifts, and souvenirs they took home with them.
"Handsomely designed . . . extraordinarily elaborate. . . . [The] splendid audio tour features dramatized vignettes . . . " —Wall Street Journal
"A fascinating window into how the court would have appeared to foreigners and day trippers alike . . . " —Artnet
"Ingenious audio . . . helps bring the visit to life with anecdotes and historical accounts. . . . Immersive and educational." —France-Amérique
"Perhaps the real power of cyber technology in the art world is that it challenges our cultural frameworks afresh." —Financial Times
"A splendid chance to reminisce and reflect upon the riches of the French culture during its most vibrant time of pomp and splendor." —Epoch Times
"[The history of Versailles] is all beautifully written up and lavishly illustrated in this highly recommended book." —Spectator
" . . . an illuminating history . . . " —Burlington
The exhibition is made possible by The International Council of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Additional support is provided by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, Beatrice Stern, the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund, the Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund, The Florence Gould Foundation, The Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Foundation/French Heritage Society, and The Al Thani Collection.
It is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Palace of Versailles.
The catalogue is made possible by the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Read more about Visitors to Versailles in this Now at The Met blog series published in conjunction with the exhibition.
Learn more about the free immersive audio experience, which brings to life the impressions of those who visited the palace and court in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in an atmospheric 3-D soundscape, dramatized from written accounts.
The colors of Sèvres porcelain, the gilding of palace doors, the floral patterns on delicate fans, and other ancien régime details have informed our newest collection, designed after the splendors of Versailles. Visit The Met Store to shop scarves, jewelry, bags, and other gifts fit for royalty. Shop now.
Marquee: Charles-Gabriel Sauvage, called Lemire pere (1741–1827). Figure of Louis XVI and Benjamin Franklin, 1780–85. Porcelain, 12 3/4 x 9 1/2 x 6 in. (32.4 x 24.1 x 15.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of William H. Huntington, 1883 (83.2.260). Now at The Met: Attributed to Étienne Allegrain (French, 1644–1736). View of the Château de Versailles and the Orangerie, ca. 1695. Oil on canvas, 45 1/4 x 64 15/16 in. (115 x 165 cm). Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon (MV 6812)