Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles

The Hall of Mirrors (French: Grande Galerie or Galerie des Glaces) is the central gallery of the Palace of Versailles in Versailles, France.

As the principal and most remarkable feature of King Louis XIV of France's third building campaign of the Palace of Versailles (1678–1684), construction of the Hall of Mirrors began in 1678.[1][2][3][4][5][6] To provide for the Hall of Mirrors as well as the salon de la guerre and the salon de la paix, which connect the grand appartement du roi with the grand appartement de la reine, architect Jules Hardouin Mansart appropriated three rooms from each apartment as well as the terrace that separated the two apartments.[2][3][7]

The principal feature of this hall is the seventeen mirror-clad arches that reflect the seventeen arcaded windows that overlook the gardens. Each arch contains twenty-one mirrors with a total complement of 357 used in the decoration of the galerie des glaces.[7] The arches themselves are fixed between marble pilasters whose capitals depict the symbols of France. [8] These gilded bronze capitals include the fleur-de-lys and the Gallic cockerel or rooster. Many of the other attributes of the Hall of Mirrors were lost to war for financial purposes, such as the silver table pieces and guéridons, which were melted by order of Louis XIV in 1689 to finance the War of the League of Augsburg.[7][9][10][11]

Within the hall, the German Empire was declared in 1871 (Deutsche Reichsgründung)[12] and the Treaty of Versailles signed by the victorious powers of World War I in 1919.

Construction

Gilded sculptured guéridons were commissioned to replace part of the silver furniture melted in 1689 to finance the War of the League of Augsburg.

In the 17th century, mirrors were among the most expensive items to possess at the time; the Venetian Republic held the monopoly on the manufacture of mirrors. In order to maintain the integrity of his philosophy of mercantilism, which required that all items used in the decoration of Versailles be made in France, Jean-Baptiste Colbert enticed several workers from Venice to make mirrors at the Manufacture royale de glaces de miroirs. According to legend, in order to keep its monopoly, the government of the Venetian Republic sent agents to France to poison the workers whom Colbert had brought to France.[7]

The Hall of Mirrors' dimensions are 73.0 m × 10.5 m × 12.3 m (length × width × height; 239.5 ft × 34.4 ft × 40.4 ft) and is flanked by the salon de la guerre (north) and the salon de la paix (south). Construction on the galerie and its two salons continued until 1684, at which time it was pressed into use for court and state functions. The ceiling decoration is dedicated to the political policies and military victories of Louis XIV. The central panel of the ceiling, Le roi gouverne par lui-même ("The king governs alone"), alludes to the establishment of the personal reign of Louis XIV in 1661. The present decorative schema represents the last of three that were presented to Louis XIV. The original decorative plan was to have depicted the exploits of Apollo, being consistent with the imagery associated with the Sun-King, Louis XIV. However, when the king learned that his brother, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, had commissioned Pierre Mignard to decorate the ceiling of the grande galerie of his brother's residence at Château de Saint-Cloud, Louis XIV rejected the plan. The next decorative plan was one in which the exploits of Hercules — as allegories to the actions of Louis XIV — were to be depicted. Again, as with the first plan, the Hercules theme was rejected by the king. The final plan represents military victories of Louis XIV starting with the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659) to the Treaty of Nijmegen (1678–1679). In a departure from the decoration of the ceilings in the grand appartement du roi, Le Brun has depicted Louis XIV directly, and has ceased to refer to the king in allegorical guises. In this way, themes such as good governance and military prowess are rendered with Louis XIV himself as the key figure.[3][7][13]