Did you ever wonder during world history class, how anyone could hate someone to the extent of sending them to guillotine? After having learned about the guillotine as a child, I had always wondered how people could come up with such a gruesome contraption and wish that ill fate upon another person. The dry world history textbook didn’t really draw a clear picture of what went down at the Versailles and brushed over the reason why Marie Antoinette had met her end at the guillotine. It also never got into any detail about what life at the Versailles had been like. Even after I had seen the movie Marie Antoinette (2006) directed by Sofia Coppola, I had vastly underestimated the riches of the Versailles. So when I stepped into the Palace of Versailles I experienced somewhat of a culture shock; a cocktail of beauty, craftsmanship, art, architecture, and exorbitant lavish extravagance.
The line in front of the golden gate of Versailles very much resembled a long slithering snake. The fact that I had purchased tickets ahead of time didn’t do much for me. The line of ticket holders was just unbearably long. There were ladies with parasols and wise travelers with hats, but the cake goes to these folks who were using a makeshift cone-hat! I had made the rookie mistake of not bringing a hat, and was using a fan to alternate between fanning myself and shading my face. I saw several people selling souvenirs and water, but water I already had. I’d bet you could make a fortune selling hats on a hot day in front of the Versailles, but I didn’t see a single merchant who did. By the time I was done seeing the Versailles my face was raw with sunburn. Sunglasses only cover so much you know.
Money was obviously no object, neither was gold. Have you ever seen a gate that was gold from top to bottom? In fact the Versailles as a whole felt as if they had just dunked everything in a bucket of gold. This gate only marked the beginning of a different world altogether.
I stepped inside the Versailles brimming with excitement as the long wait had ended and I was finally free to explore the famed palace. The first thing I saw was the Royal Chapel and it was a truly magnificent work of art and architecture. I thought it was extremely well preserved and found it surprising that it hadn’t been severely damaged during the French Revolution. Apparently they had sealed the Versailles and auctioned off the furniture and sent some of the artwork to museums.
While there were a great number of paintings hanging on the walls, there were also a great deal of murals as well. It was difficult to rest the eyes on any one thing. Every surface in the room- be it the walls, the ceiling, or the floor- was completely decked out in paintings, mirrors, gold, statues, marble pillars, and chandeliers. Even the picture frames were a work of art! The dimly lit bedchamber of the King was furnished in a deep red, and from the wall hung a portrait of Louis the XIV. I recalled seeing this portrait in my world history book in high school but it had only been the size of a credit card. It was interesting to see the original hanging in his bedchamber. Do you suppose it’s life-size? It was quite a big portrait and the bed appeared rather short in length. Perhaps he was a short man?