Tag Archives: Neo-Classical

The Gilded Monuments of Paris

Courtyard at Palace of Versailles, Photo T. Zeleny
Cour d’honneur, Palace of Versailles,  Photo T. Zeleny
Palace of Versailles, Court Yard Detail, Photo Romi Cortier
The Mask of Apollo Clock, Palace of Versailles,  Photo Romi Cortier
Les Invalides, Paris,  Photo Romi Cortier
Les Invalides, Paris, Photo Romi Cortier
Paris, Photo Romi Cortier
Pont Alexandre III, Bridge Detail:Pegasus Being Led by Fame, Paris, Photo Romi Cortier
Paris Opera House Detail, Photo Romi Cortier
Paris Opera House Gilded Detail La Poesie (Poetry) , (Charles Gumery)  Photo Romi Cortier
Paris, Bridge Detail, Photo Romi Cortier
Pont Alexandre III, Bridge Detail: Pegasus Held by the Fame of Combat, Paris, Photo Romi Cortier
Palace of Versailles, Gate Detail, Photo Romi Cortier
Royal Gate, Palace of Versailles,  Photo Romi Cortier

The Gilded Monuments of Paris are easy to see while visiting the City of Lights, however, finding their proper names is a far more difficult task. It’s taken several hours of research to find the proper names for these exquisite works of art, that I so easily photographed while visiting in 2011. The good news is what I’ve learned while doing research.

The Royal Gate, which stands at the entrance to the cour d’honneur at Versailles, was replaced in 2008.  At a price of 4 million British Pounds (about 7 million US Dollars), this replica took two years to recreate.  Weighing 15-tons, it  took a plethora of historians and top craftsmen to recreate Jules Hardouin-Mansarts original masterpiece from 1680 that was destroyed during the French Revolution.

Louis XIV (the 14th) who resided at the Palace of Versailles, was known as the Sun King. If you’ll take a closer look at the clock presiding over the cour d’ honneur, you’ll notice what looks like a face, framed by the sun. This was a reference to Louis XIV. Known as the Mask of Apollo, this clock marked the rhythm of the time with 3 bells that weighed from 209 pounds to over 2500 pounds. The bronze and embossed copper were regilded in 1999, with a newly approved ‘Royal Blue’ background approved by Versailles archives.

Les Invalides, officially known as L ‘Hotel national des Invalides (The National Residence of the Invalids) contains museums and monuments relating to the military history of France. The most famous detail about this building is who’s buried there.  Napoleon Bonaparte,  known as Napoleon I, was the Emperor of the French from 1804-14, and again in 1815. Napoleon died 6 years later of ‘stomach cancer’ while in exile.  In 1840 his remains were moved to Les Invalides and encased in a tomb sculpted from blocks of red quartzite, in an open rotunda about 2 stories below street level. Therefore, when you walk into Les Invalides and look down over the railing… you’re quite literally bowing down to Napoleon in death.

The Palais Garnier, or Paris Opera House, was built by Charles Garnier during the Second Empire (1861-75). World famous for it’s opulence, this monumental structure is considered ‘typical’ Beaux-Arts. The gilded figure La Poesie (Poetry) sits atop the right Pavillion of the Opera House, and is matched by L’Harmonie (Harmony) on the  left. Both are made of gilt copper electrotype.

And lastly, those gorgeous gilded statues known as “Fames” on  Pont Alexandre III.  Besides looking stunning, they’re very important stabilizing counterweights that support the bridges arch, without interfering with the views. There’s a total of 4, one for each corner, and they sit atop massive masonry socles. Watch the video below to learn more about this elegant bridge.


Chairs from the Grand Trianon at the Palace of Versailles

French NeoClassical Chair in Blue
Louis XVI / French NeoClassical Chair in Blue Silk in the Room of Mirrors. Photo Romi Cortier
French Neoclassical Chair in Mauve
Louis XVI / French Neoclassical Chair in Mauve. Photo Romi Cortier
Gilded French Neoclassical in Yellow
Gilded French Empire Fauteuil (open arms) in the family room of Louis-Philippe. Photo Romi Cortier
Gilded French Neoclassical Chair in Crimson Red
Gilded French Neoclassical Chair in Fuschia in the room of Malachite. Photo Romi Cortier

These chairs from the Grand Trianon at the Palace of Versailles speak volumes about their inhabitants during this critical time in Frances history. The reign of Louis XVI (the 16th, last of the three Louis’s including the 14th and 15th)  ended abruptly in 1789 with the French Revolution.  Louis XV (the 15th)  had a design dictum of Rococo, curvaceous with natural wood grains. The furniture above was a reaction to that period. Therefore, the look of the furniture became a reference to the Romans and the Greeks, which was inspired by the discovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Sleek straight lines with right angles, fluted columns, oak and laurel leaves, wreaths,  pastel tones… logical simplicity. Madame du Pompadour had an interest in all that was new and fashionable and helped influence this look that is now typically referred to as ‘French Neoclassicism’. The period was short lived, from roughly 1760 – 1789.  After the French Revolution in 1789, the outraged citizens held an auction to sell off much of the furniture of the Royal Court… an auction that lasted 365 days!