As a political monarch, King Louis XIV took “grand entertainment” to the height of magnificence, making Versailles a venue for monumental, extraordinary and fantastical parties and shows. The king had a shrewd understanding of the human mind and understood that “this society of pleasure, which gives members of the Court an honest familiarity with [the sovereign], and touches and charms them more than can be said,” (Louis XIV, Memoirs for the Instruction of the Dauphin, 1661) was necessary for the political framework he had built. Everyday life in Court required multiple forms of entertainment, and extraordinary royal events needed to surprise and enthral the court, the kingdom—all of Europe. Each of his successors maintained the tradition of splendid, creative shows in their own way, according to their own tastes and the fashions of the time.
This exhibition will present the infinite variety and ingenuity of entertainment in the court, whether put on by the king or enjoyed by the court. These included all forms of public shows, comedies, operas, concerts, fireworks and light displays, as well as private performances in which Seigneurs and Ladies of the court went on stage themselves. The was a large amount of gambling, leading to fortune or ruin, as well as physical activities in which members of the court had to shine, including hunting, dancing in balls and masked balls, pall-mall and real tennis.
Covering three monastic reigns, from Louis XIV to the revolution, the exhibition does not aim to be exhaustive, but focuses on the courtier’s point of view. A large selection of clothing, paintings, objects and graphics from French and foreign public and private collections convey the wide range of entertainment and the refinement associated with them. The exhibits are accompanied by large visuals, 3D images and immersive scenes that invite visitors to rediscover the atmosphere in the venues — some of which no longer exist — and imagine what it would be like to be in the king’s court.
THIS EXHIBITION BENEFITS FROM THE PATRONAGE OF SAINT GOBAIN AND IS SUPPORTED BY THE SOCIÉTÉ DES AMIS DE VERSAILLES, SAMSUNG AND EPSON.