Versailles

Recently, I had a little time off from my classes and guests in town, so I had a proper and convenient excuse to leave my work behind and to travel to the palace of Versailles.  As much as I had heard about it over the years, I was still completely unprepared for it’s stunning beauty and seemingly endless treasures.

The first of many favorite things that I encountered on this trip, was “The Albani Centaur”, made of Roman marble during the 1st – 2nd c AD, after a Greek original of the 3rd c. BC.  I was immediately taken with the sculpture, and fortunately, as the guard was busily texting on his cellphone, I got a good photograph of it for future reference.

"The Albani Centaur" Roman marble 1st - 2nd c AD, after a Greek original of the 3rd c. BC.

“The Albani Centaur” Roman marble 1st – 2nd c AD, after a Greek original of the 3rd c. BC.

The second of the artworks that captured my imagination was this amazing ceiling painting by François Lemoyne, the “Apotheosis of Hercules”.  Apparently, he prepared for this project for two years, with countless life drawings and studies before he began working on the ceiling itself.  Then, while he was painting it, his wife died.  Due to a combination of grief , harsh and unfair criticism from his peers at court, and exhaustion from the work itself, he brutally killed himself about six months after it was finished.  What a very sad ending for such an incredible artist! Fortunately for us however, his work lives on, his masterfully painted figures continue frolicking in the clouds and dancing through the centuries…

 

The "Apotheosis of Hercules" by François Lemoyne

The “Apotheosis of Hercules” by François Lemoyne

Next up on my “favorite things tour” of Versailles, was the incredible “Bassin de Latone”, designed by André Le Nôtre, with its strange and wonderful “frog people” which, I assume, when the fountain is working spout water toward Latona and her children on top.  Unfortunately, I did not get any close up pictures of the frog people due to technical limitations. I would love to return one day, if only to spend the afternoon drawing these bizarre and wonderful figures inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphosis.

 

Bassin de Latone, André Le Nôtre

Bassin de Latone, André Le Nôtre

Of course there were many other things there that sent me into a dream state, like the fountain of Apollo, and the little fantasy hamlet of the queen with its rather surreal and quaint French cottages and gardens.

Certainly, Versailles is more than worthy of another trip, and perhaps even with a box of paints in tow, for an attempted capture of the magic dwelling there…