Château de Versailles : The Color Palace

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I recently completed a process to test and choose 12 paint colors on a historic 102 year old home; after my client asked “John, how did you get your start as a color consultant?” I could speak “ad nauseam” regarding the science of color, the aesthetics of color, and recite the fashionable use of color in architect, textiles, and fine art since Babylon…but I could not answer her question because I had never considered it. I can answer easy questions like; when did you fall in love with your wife? or when did you first shoot par at the Golf? My short answer is you are born with a color sense; my long answer is below:

In 1976 my Parents brought me to Versailles (a day trip) during a Paris holiday. I was very young and gifted with a heighten sense for seeing and describing color; this was a counter balance; I had issues speaking and stuttering. My Father (then a 26 year old soldier who the year before had married my mother and taken her young boy as his namesake) explained to me that Château meant “Castle” in French; and this the most famous of all French Châteaus . I Loved Castles, and I had explored three in the German Countryside before Versailles. The Schwienfurt library had 3 books on castles and I had memorized and reproduced (tracing and freehand) all of the illustrations. Château de Versailles is not a Medieval Fortress; and initially I was disappointed. But the images remain in my Memory as clear as yesterday and as bright, deep, and textured as the Kodrachrome slides my parents still keep from the trip. We spent four hours, with a stop for sandwhiches Mother packed, and we walked half the interior and gardens on a crisp spring day. The Palace has 2300 rooms, 2000 sculptures, 6000 paintings, and 5000+ pieces of furniture. No place have I seen has come close in a “color sense” to these grounds. People never lived in the Louvre or the Met. I did not verbalize what I was seeing or feeling then; but I can now:

“People lived HERE with these beautiful colors! Every Room speaks with painted walls in every color, every color marble, stone, lacquered woods, polished golds and silvers…”

I have a Color Codex in my mind from Versailles and as I later studied and understood color theory, interior design, and art history; I realized I had already seen (and felt) what I was learning!!

When people refer to the Iconic Tiffany Blue; i think of the sitting room of Marie-Antoinette with walls and cushions in that Cloudy Blue. I recently completed custom staining and clear coating a grand walnut staircase in Seattle (a professional achievement to be trusted with this task), and it reminded me how I wished so badly to touch the wood on the barricaded grand stair cases at Versailles (67 total)

I was entrance My environments consisted

From Color in design
Louis XIV moved the court, and therefore the center of political power, to Versailles in 1682. Louis was born in 1638. His reign began in 1643 upon the death of his father, Louis XIII. He was four years old. As a child king rule was under a regent, his mother, but also her husband the Prime Minister, Jules Mazarin. Louis did not take full reign until the passing of Mazarin in 1661. He was then 23 years of age. Once in full power his reign was that of absolute monarchy. The Palace of Versailles reflects the lavish style of his reign.

Colors at the Palace and the Nearby Complexes

During the reign of Louis XIV from 1643 to 1715, a period of 72 years, the Baroque style was the principle style of architecture, furniture, and “decor”. The colors of the Baroque period tend toward deep and rich colors, but also subdued colors. The heavily carved and rectangular Baroque style of furniture gave way to the curvilinear Rococo style prior to and during the reign of Louis XV from 1715 to 1774. Colors became lighter and softer – pastel in tone. The succeeding reign of Louis XVI, from 1774 to 1791, had already seen the rise of the Neoclassical style of architecture and furniture. The colors used during this period are, for the most part, brighter and more saturated than those of the Rococo period.

Changes and Furniture at Versailles

The Palace of Versailles underwent various transformations during the reigns succeeding Louis XIV. Then, at a point after the French Revolution of 1789, most all of the furniture of Versailles was sold off. Further changes to the interior layout occurred during the 1800′s, until in 1892 a conservator was appointed and a campaign of research, conservation, preservation, and restoration began. Beginning in the 1950′s the French government began an aggressive campaign to seek out and acquire original furniture and artwork for the restoration of the Palace.