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The claims of France

The claims of France as an emerging world power and artistic symbol are evident in the Chateau de Versailles and Hotel de Soubise, two of its masterpieces. According to Williams (2007), during this time, France was at the height of its glory. Construction such as these became a clear demonstration as well as an enduring reminder of the king’s and his monarch’s wealth and power (Ayers, 2004) over his subjects and the entire country. This was also a first successful attempt to market French art and architecture to the world, rivalling that of the more pioneer Italian styles.

Renaissance Architecture vs. Rococo style Chateau de Versailles was a model of Renaissance architecture (or Baroque style, because it happened in the latter part of the era). The Rococo style, predominating in the 18th century, was adopted by the Hotel de Soubise. According to Pile (2005), logic, order and a certain reserve compensate for the elaboration and complexity which generally characterizes Baroque style. The French version of the style is more restrained than the Italian counterpart, incorporating traditional French values. In return, the big giants such as Descartes, Pascal, Desargues, Corneille, Racine, Francois Mansart, etc.

produced great works achieving variety through subtle adjustments in rhythm and proportions of mass and wall surface (Millon, 1965). There is a bend toward delicacy of taste and refinement in the architectural elements in the Rococo style; the unconscious blending of the walls and ceilings exhibiting a refreshing and gay ambiance can also be noted (Gelernter, 2001). In effect, there were more light, unified, and elegant spaces than strong and direct ones as compared to the Baroque period. Chateau de Versailles What started out as a hunting lodge on top of a hillock for the temporary retirement of King Louis XIII.

turned out to be a structure that will create a mark in the history of architecture – the Chateau de Versailles. The palace, located just a few miles outside Paris, was built during the time of King Louis XIV, the Sun King, to project the absolute power of the French monarchy (Williams, 2007). It is the collaborated work of the greatest architects and designers during the mid-17th century. With over 2,000 windows, 700 rooms, 1250 fireplaces, 67 staircases and more than 1,800 acres of park, it is considered as one of the largest castles in the world.

Louis Le Vau was behind the idea of enveloping the lodge on its three sides thus, taking on the name “Envelope”. Following his death, Jules Hardouin-Mansart took over the work in the mid 1670’s, boasting of the reconfiguration of the west side of the chateau to create the famous Galerie des Glaces. Landscape architect Andre Le Notre is noted for the magnificent garden. The general choice of decoration almost throughout the palace, specifically that of the suite of state apartments is by painter Charles Le Brun while Robert de Cotte was responsible for the chapel, one of the major highlights of the place.

Came the reign of King Louis XV. , Ange-Janques Bagriel was hired to build the opera house in time for the wedding of Dauphin, the future Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette in 1770. The castle was further transformed into a satellite city. It accommodated the nobles, house court and government officials, and service workers including the guard and military men. Hotel de Soubise Hotel de Soubise, situated in Marais, Paris, is an alteration of much older buildings in the place. The edifice was built in 1375 by Oliver de Clisson, Constable of France.

It was generally designed by architect Pierre-Alexis Delamair while it was Gabriel Germain Boffrand who finished the work in 1740 as instructed by Francois de Rohan, Prince of Soubise. Intended for Rohan’s son, the bishop of Strasbourg, Armand Gaston, the place shows off a curved gateway directly from the street. The hotel’s paired free-standing columns, balustrade abutting the pediment, horseshoe-shaped courtyard with lawns and 56 pairs of double composite columns extending to the facade, and Boffrand’s Cabinet des Fables (which was later transferred to Hotel de Rohan) are recognizable features.

According to Ayers (2004), the latter depicts fables by Aesop and La Fontaine. An open colonnade is formed through the columns; statues were used to brighten up the walls in the upperstory (Fletcher, 1987). The decorations which are quite animated serve two basic purposes. First, they conceal the underlying geometry of the building. Another function is to harmoniously blend the walls and ceilings such that the place appears as one element only. Contrast and Comparison between Chateau de Versailles’ and Hotel de Soubise’ Rooms

The Galerie de Glaces, Salon d’Apollon, and Salon de la Guerre of the Chateau de Versailles will be compared and contrasted with Hotel de Soubise’ rooms namely, Salon de la Princessa, and Salon Ovale, in terms of their design and interior. Consequently, the materials used and choice of furniture and paintings will be cited. According to Watkin in his book, A History of Western Architecture (2005), the Chateau de Versailles lost its forceful exercise of French classicism because of the addition of the Galerie de Glaces, a 75-m long, 10. 5-m wide, and 12.

3-m high ballroom. The addition of north and south wings to the place was a solution to the problem of swelling of courtiers (Fletcher, 1987). The Hall of Mirror, as it is also called, is the biggest room with seventeen mirrors facing the seventeen arcaded windows overlooking the gardens and reflecting the setting sun. Each arch contains twenty-one mirrors with a total of 357 ones used in the decoration of the entire room. The materials used were marble and gilt. The use of mirrors as a decorative tool in heightening lighting was a lean towards Rococo.

Just like in the Salon de la Guerre, silver and gold furniture grace the big hall. Said furniture was the work of Gobelins Factory, a manufacturer of royal furniture, founded by Louis XIV himself and his finance minister, Colbert and managed by LeBrun. Other furnishings of the hall include stuccoes on the ceilings, white-and-gold brocade curtains, two enormous Savonnerie carpets, solid-silver tables, 41 silver candelabra, velvet chairs, porphyry vases, and 17 crystal chandeliers.

The ceiling paintings are another common feature of the two rooms; the Galerie de Glaces’ ceiling was composed of 30 separate paintings. Done by LeBrun, all were allegorical depiction of the king’s royal deeds, victories and accomplishments such as wars over Germany, Holland, and Spain. This is a deviation from the themes more commonly used i. e. mythological events. Another room that also contain such paintings is the Salon de Diane, one of the apartments of the king. Wearing the attire resembling that of the Sun King is the favourite attire of Louis XIV.

This is predominant in the paintings. It is stated by Ayers (2004) that another symbolism is found in the Hall of Mirrors. This is the red-marble order devised by LeBrun which combines the essential elements of the Corinthian style with the French cock and the Bourbon fleur de lis. Many of the 17th century French superpower monarchy’s celebrations were held in the Hall of Mirrors. It also served as a testimony to the 1871 proclamation of the German empire by Otto van Bismarck and the 1918 signature of the Versailles treaty which ended world war.

To the North of the Galerie de Glaces is Salon de la Guerre which represents the summit of Louis-Quatorze style. Its southern counterpart, Salon de la Paix, displays the same style. In addition to mirrors, paintings, marble and gilt, both rooms abound in chandeliers. There is a lavish fireplace and mantel from which sits a huge oval decorative panel (Pile, 2005). According to Ayers (2004), the former has the most original interiors such that sculpture is the principal element, i. e.

the centrepiece, a Antoine Coysevox’ stucco medallion, which also portrays the victories of the king. Treatment of these two rooms as well as that of the Galerie is decorative and iconographical but handled in a sumptuous manner (Watkin, 2005). Another room in the Chateau de Versailles called the Salon d’Apollon, formerly referred to as the Throne Room or Chambre du Roi and the salle du Trone, has paintings on its ceiling, too. But unlike the above mentioned rooms, these were done by Charles de la Fosse and are not allegorical ones showing the king’s accomplishments.

The paintings show the Sun god, Apollo, riding his chariot, followed by a representation of France with the possession of the seasons. A notable painting by Hyacinthe Rigaud is also located on the chimney hung. It presents the king in his robes, carrying his sceptre, and with his sword and crown on his side; another variation in the common theme prevailing in the other rooms, but is still a reminder of the king’s greatness. Salon de Ovale, one important room in the Hotel de Soubise, was designed by Natiore who is also associated with the Gobelins Factory as LeBrun.

At the corner of the building in the ground floor, it connects with Prince de Rohan’s bedchamber. Just like in the Galerie de Glaces, windows opposite arched mirrors with frames made of gilt overlook to the garden (Boffrand, et al. , 2002). The use of these mirrors as well as ascending bands of scrollwork was a tool to merge the independent units of the room as a single one (Kaufmann, 1966). The ceiling is dome-shaped which holds ornaments, too, in light blue background; a rose painting is notable from which hung the crystal chandelier. Sculptures gilt on a white ground are also present.

This is likewise true for the mouldings and furniture. On another side of the room are two fireplaces. Can be observed also is the white painting of the walls, bas-reliefs, ceilings as well as the putti in the cornice, which extends up to the ceiling; however, in the former, white is mixed with flax grey and buffed, prepared, and varnished (Boffrand, et al. , 2002).. Specifically of note here are Gouthiere’s furnishing objects specifically chimney pieces, landscape works by Paul Brill, paintings by Ambrois Dubois, as well as a portrait of Louis XIII.

The designer also decorated the room with his painting series “Story of Psyche”. According to Kleiner, et al (2006), in the Hotel de Soubise is a typical French Rococo room called the Salon de la Princesse. There is a bold contrast between this room and the Galerie de Glaces in that, in the former, there is softening of the architectural lines. Unlike the hall, which is characterized by massive splendour and elaborate decoration, the room is quieter and simpler and displays light mood and grace.

This is vividly demonstrated in the oval shape of the room, the continuous flow of paintings and ornamentations from ceiling to the wall as well as the reflection in the mirrors. Natoire also did a painting in this room while J. B. Lemoine did the sculptures. The Chateau of Versailles has many implications. The use of mirrors in European interior design is common Baroque style but the great number of the same employed specifically in the Galerie des Glaces made the distinctive wealth possessed by the French monarch during its time.

Mirrors likewise served an illusion of doubling lesser dimensions of the rooms such as paintings and addressed the relationship between length and breadth (Benevolo, 2002). The elegant paintings, sculptures and furnishings in the other rooms of the Salon de la Guerre, Salon d’Apollon, even the Salon de la Paix were illustrations of the king’s high ambition and preference for grandeur. This also served as an advertisement of the French newly acquired leadership in the artistic domain (Ayers, 2004).

The lighter style of the Rococo as seen in the Hotel de Soubise was an act of moving away from the grandeur and intricacy in design which characterized the Baroque period. Even with the latter’s more refined French version, characterized by rationality and seriousness, the Rococo still appeared more private, sensual and graceful as seen in the Salon de la Princesse and Salon de Ovale.


Ayers, Andrew. The Architecture of Paris: An Architectural Guide. Edition Axel Menges, 2004. Benevolo, Leonardo. The Architecture of the Renaissance. Routledge, 2002.

Boffrand, Germain, Caroline van Eck, and ,David Britt . Book of Architecture: Containing the General Principles of the Art and the Plans, Elevations, and Sections of Some of the Edifices Built in France and in Foreign Countries. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. , 2002. Gelernter, Mark. A History of American Architecture: Buildings in Their Cultural and Technological Concept. Manchester University Press, 2001 Kaufmann, Emil. Architecture in the Age of Reason.

Baroque and Post Baroque in England, Italy, and France. USA: Archon Books, 1966. Kleiner, Fred S., Helen Gardner, and Kristin J. Mamiya. Gardener’s Art Through the Ages: The Western Perspective. Thomspon Wadsworth, 2006. Millon, Henry A. Baroque and Rococo Architecture. New York: George Braziller, Inc. , 1965. Sir Banister Fletcher. Sir Banister Fletcher’s A History of Architecture. 19th Ed. John Musgrove. Great Britain: Butler and Tanner, 1987. Pile, John F. A History of Interior Design. Laurence King Publishing, 2005. Watkin, David. A History of Western Architecture. Laurence King Publishing, 2005. Williams, Nicola, et al. France. Lonely Planet, 2007.

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