Blog Template Theology of the Body: A French Excursion: The Religious Art of Versailles

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A French Excursion: The Religious Art of Versailles

... At the end of my time in Mexico, I flew to Paris, where I joined a dear friend from Vienna and spent some time collecting images at the Louvre and the National Museum du Moyen-Age.

The thing about post-Revolutionary France is that it can be very difficult to find antique religious art in the urban centers, given that so much of it was destroyed in the latter post-Catholic centuries; for example, the religious holdings in French archives are rather scarce. What France does have is a proliferation of propoganda about its late, god-fearing monarchs who were so rudely deposed by regicide. My experience of walking through Versailles was that of a kind of nostalgia for the days when a good monarch presided over his subjects for the good of their souls, doing his paternal part to prepare them for Heaven by providing for a well-regulated and virtuous civic life. Ah, the far-reaching effects of the Reformation...

From the top:

1) A magnificent frescoe by Veronese entitled "Christ at the House of Simon the Pharisee," which was a gift from the Venetian people to Louis XV. The king comissioned the painting of the repentent woman bathing Christ's feet as decoration for the largest salon in the palace (the Hercules Drawing Room), which also contains a lovely image of Eliezer and Rebecca. The themes of penitence and servanthood are unmistakable.

2) An image of The Last Supper hangs in the Salon de Mars, recalling the Prince of Peace; the image is juxtaposed with another vivid image of mercy, 3) which shows Les Pelerins d'Emmaus, the captive family of Darius being granted clemency by their benevolent conqueror, Alexander. Nice atonement theory.

4) The famous Hall of Mirrors is also pretty cool.

5) An external view of the gorgeous Chapel at Versaille, taken from the front courtyard. You can see that the chapel was deliberately built to be taller than the highest point of the palace, indicating the monarch's submission to Christ and the Kingdom of God.

6, etc.) Views of the interior of the Versaille chapel, where the Bourbonne kings heard Mass with their families and courts every day.

(The random painting in the middle is my favorite- it is an image which is supposed to celebrate the role of the praying wife. The painting is entitled "Ex Voto pour la Guerison de Louis XIV" (1658) and as you can see, it shows the French queen on her knees, supplicating Christ for her husband while he is away. She in turn is surrounded by saints, who are praying for her.)