Tag Archives: history

The Palace of Versailles: visiting a royal past

Versailles has been quite in fashion this month. First, after setting its new J’adore campaign in the Galeries des Glaces, Dior released its “Secret Garden – Versailles” video.

Then Chanel showed its latest cruise collection in the gardens last week. This reminds me of my short trip to Versailles to see a fashion exhibition last summer. Papa Ritournelle had dragged me there as a child and I was too young to appreciate his encyclopedic knowledge in history. But reading Stefan Zweig’s excellent biography of the legendary queen after seeing Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette made me realize what a fascinating place the Palace is.

Let’s now push the gates to start our visit.

It is on this balcony that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette appeared in front of an angry mob during the French Revolution in October 1789. People were aiming at the queen with their rifles but were soon impressed by her bravery.

King Louis XIV, who reigned on France from 1654 to 1715, is responsible for the magnificence of Versailles. During a traumatic childhood episode, the king’s authority was threatened and he had to flee Paris with his family. As an adult, the Sun King decided to have the Palace of Versailles lavishly modernized and adorned with the most beautiful gardens. The noble elite were compelled to inhabit the Palace, consolidating a system of absolute monarchical rule in France. They lived far away from the realities of the country leading up to the French Revolution.

The chapel is one of the key features of the Palace. Marie Antoinette married Louis XVI at this altar at the tender age of 15.

Then, you are certainly already acquainted with the lavish Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) and its tall mirrors and heavy chandeliers. The gallery faces the peaceful Grand Canal. A perfect setting for balls and other festivities.

You then enter the King’s Private Apartments. The king’s awakening and going to bed were ceremonies to which being invited was a great privilege.

Likewise, the queen had her own apartments reserved for her personal use. Near the bed you can see an open door, a secret passage through which Marie Antoinette escaped in October 1789 when an angry mob marched on Versailles.

Imagine Marie Antoinette waking up to this view.

I ended my visit at Angelina which has a tea parlor in the Palace. It was my first time tasting their legendary hot chocolate, and let me tell you, it was divine! A sweet pleasure Marie Antoinette would probably have loved herself.

Have you ever visited Versailles? What are your impressions on the Palace?

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Ancient Egyptian treasures at the Louvre

After the party and dinner in the Napoleon III apartments at the Louvre, let’s move on to another department, another continent and another time period! My final stop in this fabulous museum was inspired by Ava, a loyal reader of Ritournelle who runs the blog Hits and Fits with her friend. Originally from California, Ava grew up in Paris and insisted that her parents take her on monthly visits to see the mummies at the Louvre. When I read about this childhood memory in her email, I knew I had to see these treasures from Ancient Egypt for myself.

When entering the Department of Egyptian Antiquities, you are greeted by a large relief covered with mysterious hieroglyphs. What could they possibly mean?

Maybe we’d better ask the scribe.

Or even better, the Egyptian deity Thoth, scribe to the gods, depicted here as a friendly baboon.

Let’s now focus on the Ancient Egyptian burial customs. It is fascinating how the Egyptians could erect monuments like the Pyramids with their relatively basic tools. Much smaller pieces like this sarcophagus are impressive already by their engravings and mass. Stone sarcophagi were commonly used to bury wealthy Egyptians.

However Egyptians ran out of materials to build these sarcophagi and relied on wood instead. The drawings depict the activities that the deceased would enjoy in the afterlife.

Time has not erased the emotions of the deceased expressed on the inner coffins: resigned, worried about an uncertain fate, confident facing the unknown or amused by our stares.

 

 

 

 Waiting in line

Isn’t this pattern beautiful?

And finally, the star of the Louvre Department of Egyptian Antiquities: the mummy and its mask.

Canopic jars were used to store the viscera of the deceased for the afterlife. The one with a hawk head preserved the intestines and the one with a jackal head contained the stomach.

Scarab charms played an essential role in Egyptian burial rituals. Placed on the chest, it was supposed to prevent the heart from testifying against the deceased during the judgment of the soul by Osiris.

Admiring these treasures at the Louvre is an incredible experience, but I wish I could have seen them in their original environment in Egypt!

As I exited the museum, these two intriguing pieces caught my eye. I found out they were actually antique sarcophagi from Lebanon. It is interesting to see how they were caught between two cultural influences: Egypt for their shape and Greece for the sculptures of the faces.

Ava was fascinated by Ancient Egypt in her childhood. And you, did you have a favorite time period?

Après avoir visité les appartements Napoléon III du Louvre, place à un autre département, un autre continent et une autre époque ! La deuxième partie de mon tour dans ce fabuleux musée m’a été inspirée par Ava, une lectrice fidèle de Ritournelle qui tient le blog Hits and Fits avec une amie. Ava la Californienne a grandi en France et suppliait régulièrement ses parents de l’emmener voir les momies au Louvre. Quand elle m’a raconté ça par mail, j’ai eu envie de voir ces chefs-d’œuvre de l’Antiquité de mes propres yeux.

L’introduction au département des Antiquités Egyptiennes se fait par les mystérieux hiéroglyphes. Devinez leur signification ? Peut-être vaut-il mieux demander l’avis du scribe. Ou encore mieux, consulter Thot, le dieu des scribes ici représenté sous la forme d’un babouin bien sympathique.

Venons-en maintenant aux rites funéraires. Les Pyramides nous fascinent en partie par l’ingéniosité des Egyptiens qui ne disposaient pas d’outils sophistiqués pour leur construction. Mais je trouve qu’on peut déjà admirer ce sarcophage entièrement gravé qui doit peser un poids considérable. La pierre était un matériel destiné aux Egyptiens fortunés. Cependant, les matériaux sont venus à manquer pour la construction des sarcophages et les Egyptiens ont alors utilisé principalement le bois. Les dessins représentent les activités qu’exercerait le défunt après sa mort.

Au-delà de la beauté des cercueils admirablement bien conservés, les expressions des morts nous touchent encore à travers les millénaires : résignés à passer dans l’autre monde, inquiets de leur sort, sereins face à l’inconnu ou amusés à la vue de notre regard inquisiteur.

Et enfin, la pièce-clé des antiquités égyptiennes du Louvre : la momie et son masque funéraire. Pour être honnête, je n’ai pas tellement envie de voir ce qu’il y a sous les bandelettes… (Recherchez « mummy remains » sur Google Images et vous verrez ce que je veux dire.)

Les vases canopes étaient destinés à recueillir les viscères embaumés des défunts. Celui à tête de faucon contenait les intestins et celui à tête de chacal l’estomac.

Les scarabées étaient d’une importance essentielle dans les cultes funéraires. Déposés sur le buste, ils assuraient que le cœur ne témoignerait pas contre les défunts lors du jugement de l’âme par le dieu Osiris.

Voir ces chefs-d’œuvre de l’histoire à Paris est une grande chance, mais je regrette de ne pas pouvoir les admirer dans leur environnement initial !

En me dirigeant vers la sortie, j’ai aperçu ces pièces intrigantes. Il s’agit de sarcophages antiques du Liban. On peut y voir le croisement des influences égyptiennes pour leur forme et grecques pour la sculpture du visage.

Ava était fascinée par l’Egypte Antique quand elle enfant. Et vous, y avait-il une époque de l’histoire que vous préfériez ?

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