The Hall of Battles is longer than the Hall of Mirrors, 394 feet, and is lined with huge paintings of French victories through the ages, including oils by Delacroix and Fragonard. Its creation was the idea of Louis-Philippe I, King of the French and it replaced apartments which had been occupied in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are literally hundreds of busts and 39 paintings, I will not present them all.
This is the interior of the Royal Chapel at the Palace of Versailes. Begun in 1689, construction was halted due to the War of the League of Augsburg; Jules Hardouin-Mansart resumed construction in 1699. Hardouin-Mansart continued working on the project until his death in 1708, at which time his brother-in-law, Robert de Cotte, finished the project. The marble floor is beautiful and to my eye the chapel has a very modern feel, not as much ostentatious gilt as the rest of Versailles. Dedicated to Saint Louis, patron saint of the Bourbons, the chapel was consecrated in 1710. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were married here. The chapel was de-consecrated in the 19th century and has since served as a venue for state and private events. Musical concerts are often held in the chapel of Versailles as seen to the right.
In 2008 the Palace of Versailles instituted a somewhat controversial contemporary art program. The first woman to exhibit is Joana Vasconcelos, born in Paris and working in Lisbon. The Bride is one of her most famous works, although this not exhibited at Versailles. Taking the form of an 18th-century candelabra, it is made entirely of white tampons. Vasconcelos is inclined to see Marie Antoinette as a women's lib heroine. “She is no longer the wife of the king, but a political woman, executed for that reason. Her execution was one of the first steps towards female emancipation. Without her, I wouldn't be here,” she says. Seen above in the 1830 Room is the Lilicoptère, a Bell-47 helicopter, which she has decorated with glass studs and ostrich feathers. But why ostriches? “Because Marie Antoinette loved them and bred them in the gardens of the chateau to decorate her hats,” she says. To me, those are the little details that help bring the Palace of Versailles alive.
Versailles started out as a hunting lodge for King Louis XIII. When Louis XIII was younger, he had accompanied his father King Henry IV on hunting trips to the estate of Albert de Gondi, a French general originally from Florence. At this time, Versailles was a fair distance from Paris, heavily forested, with only about 500 people living around an old castle. In 1622 Louis XIII bought land for his private hunting reserve and in 1624 bought more land to build a small hunting lodge on top of a hill. In 1634 he bought the rest of the land and gradually enlarged the building to a small chateau by 1635.