Musings on Versailles

Last night I managed to upload a few more pictures to flickr from our holiday in September. These were “regular” Versailles – without the kooky Koons touches.

I walked around Versailles with my mouth open. mm wasn’t as impressed. He liked the gardens though and we had a great  afternoon riding around the Grand Lake and into the Trianon. But he thought the main Chateau was a little bit “over the top”.  This made me think about my art history “training” – aesthetically don’t judge, but place in context. For me Versailles was an amazing lightening rod for France – a physical embodiment of all that was great in French arts, architecture, fashion, applied arts. It put Paris and its tradesmen and women on the map. People had to ave what was in Versialle.  But its physical disconnection from Paris meant it also bred an odd “other worldliness” about itself, which led a king to believe he was absolute, and a court that was about as far removed from real life as possible. 

What was amazing was the “reality” that the Queen created in The Hamlet and Le Petit Trianon.  The Hamlet is like an eighteenth century Disney Land.  A hyper-real farm, with bucolic dales and towers and dairys.  It was left in ruin until a recent interest in the life of Marie Antoinette and the cash came flowing in (I have heard especially from wealthy Americans). This cash has also led to the restoration of the Petit Trianon – a small chateu and other surrounding buildings, including a small, perfect theatre where she performed little plays to friends and family. It’s quite amazing to see this little world that apes reality, but is so removed it’s a strange simulation instead.

On the weekend we were listening to ABC News radio and an interview with Ron Suskind. He was recounting talking to one of Bush’s aids who was critical of Suskinds “reality-based community” based on facts and analysis, and that Bush and his government had created an Empire that people like Suskind would be left to study. Bush it appeared like to use his “gut instinct” a lot. I’ve also been watching the Howard Years on ABC and Howard used his “gut” as well (about Tampa, about Iraq and WMDs, and I cannot wait to hear what he says about the AWB and wheat deal with Iraq).  These worlds eventually crumble. If they are not based in the thrust and movement of reality they have to fall as they’re cemented on nothing but the gut.  And while your gut will get you so far, sometimes that “feeling” in your stomach is just what you’ve had for lunch.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Musings on Versailles

  1. Beck

    The thing about Versailles that we have to remember is that it is not Harvey Norman or Nick Scali, it is the precurser to a thousand bad tatse cheap tat furniture stores. It is a hugly influential style that remains current today. It is hard to separate the original from the horror of what followed. The style remains the quintessential “rich” style, sort of timeless, maybe why Americans identify and aspire to it. The kitsch and taundryness that it has come to represent is I guess what Jeff Koons was indicating and hence the disconcerting location of the exhibition.

  2. kelpenhagen

    thank you my aesthetic friend.
    What fascinated me (and something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about – but let’s do it here) was the interior were classic apartments – one running into another with hidden/private chambers in the core. But the new facade that was only completed at the back of the Chateau means the larger corridors surrounding the apartments are light, airy, bright, almost English in their feel – the antithesis of the ornateness of the interior. It’s like there are two palaces.

    And on Koons – is he “indicating” a tawdriness or actually reveling in it / actively participating in it? It was fascinating to see how “embraced” he is again in New York – his inflatables are so “hot” right now – and were being snapped up for big dollars by wealthy collectors when I was there. And the fact that his stuff worked so well in there – the hanging lobster, the vacuum cleaners, even that great self-portrait bust from the “made in heaven series” was like it was made for Versailles.

    And when I saw Michael and Bubbles, I thought of YOU and “the sacred heart of Jesus”!

    Also HAVE to talk to you about the hamlet… maybe we can have tea and cake on Sunday with Chrisp?

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