Friday, 26 September 2014

Mesdames' Apartments, Versailles



The daughters of King Louis XV of France, known as the "Mesdames" were allocated apartments leading off Lower Gallery at Versailles in 1752. But only two of the princesses, Adelaide and Victoire, who neither married nor entered a convent, inhabited them until the Revolution.



Princess Victoire (1733-1749) was the seventh child and fifth daughter of Louis XV. As a daughter of the King  she was a Fille de France. Originally known as Madame Quatrieme ( her elder sister died before she was born), she was later known as Madame Victoire. Born at Versailles Princess Victoire was sent away to the Abbey of Fontrevraud, but allowed to return to court at the age of fifteen.

Madame Victoire by Jean-Marc Nattier as "water"

Madame Victoire's Apartment had originally been used by Louis XIV as his bathing suite. What became her first antechamber  in 1769 had been Louis XIV's bathroom, his octagonal bath is now in the Orangery. Madame Victoire's  State Cabinet was originally the Octagon Chamber of Louis XIV's Bath apartment. In 1763 the Mesdames had the room redecorated retaining only the cornice, woodwork in the corners of the room and fireplace of the original decor. A harpsichord, by Blanchet  is a reminder that Madame Victoire was an accomplished musician and that Mozart dedicated his first six sonatas for the harpsichord to her.


In 1767 the antichamber of the Bath Apartment became Madame Victoire' bedroom. The wood work is the work of Antoine Rousseau. In 1769 Perdiez delivered the two corner cupboards which were sold during the Revolution and went to Russia and then to England, from where they were bought back to Versailles in 1982.


The small library, with a false ceiling was originally part of the next door room. This most intimate of little rooms still has shelves lined with books displaying Madame Victoire's coat of arms. The chairs came from Madame Victoire's  Palace of Bellvue, destroyed after the Revolution.


Madame Adelaide, Daughter of France, was the fourth daughter and sixth child of Louis XV. She was to outlive her parents, and all her siblings.

Madame Adelaide by Jean-Marc Nattier as "air"

Madame Adelaide's Private Cabinet had been famous in its earlier incarnation as Madame de Pompadour's Red Laquer Cabinet. After she became the King's mistress in 1745, Madame de Pompadour was allocated the suite of rooms later to be occupied by Madame Adelaide.



Madame Adelaide's Bedchamber had once been the bedroom of the Count of Toulouse, legitimatized son of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan from 1724 until 1737, and then by his son the Duke of Penthievre from 1744 to 1750. Then it became the bedchamber of Madame de Pompadour who died there on 15th April, 1764. Madame Adelaide and her sisters had tried, unsuccessfully  to prevent their father's liason with Madame de Pompadour. They famously despised his last maitresse-en-titre Madame du Barry.



It was Madame de Pompadour who gave Madame Adelaide's State Cabinet its present appearance and the fireplace made of Serancolin marble  was installed for her.


The Hoquetons Salon, so-called after the uniform of the Palace guards who used this room, decorated in 1672 with  trompe-l'oiel representing arms and trophies and statues in false niches. The room had been divided to form two ante-chambers for the use of the Dauphine and for Madame de Pompadour and after her Madame Adelaide. But the division has not been restored.


By 1770 Mesdames Adelaide and Victoire were described as bitter old hags, who spent their days gossiping and knitting in their rooms. They did however alternate with the Countess of Provence in accompanying Marie-Antoinette on official visits. They lived on at Versailles until the day after the Palace was stormed by the army of hungry Parisian women on 6th October 1789, when they left with the rest of the Royal Family. The Mesdames took up residence at the Chateau of Bellvue until in 1791 they left France for Italy. Madame Victoire died in Trieste in 1799, and Adelaide a year later in Rome.