The Hall of Mirrors is the largest room of the Palace of Versailles. Built between 1678 and 1684, it was first used as a passageway, then on rare occasions for balls or games held for royal weddings or diplomatic receptions. It is probably too the most famous room in the world and is therefore very crowded. To best appreciate its architecture, mirrors and paintings, visit it off season and off week-ends. Happy fews attend spectacular concerts in Hall of Mirrors. Palace of Versailles facts.
The Hall of Mirrors is the most famous and largest room of the Palace of Versailles, the palace commissioned by Sun King, the most powerful monarch of his time in Europe.
Overlooking Versailles Gardens, the 17th century Hall of Mirrors owes its name to the seventeen mirror arches facing seventeen windows overlooking the Park. Each arch contains twenty-one mirrors for a total of 357 mirrors. The Hall of Mirrors' dimensions are 73m × 10.5m × 12.3m . It has beautifully painted walls and ceiling by Charles Le Brun.
Designed by architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart and decorated by painter Charles le Brun, the Hall of Mirrors was built between 1678 and 1684. It was first used as a passageway. It was also used on rare occasions for balls or games held for royal weddings or diplomatic receptions.
It was also the venue on January 18th 1871 of the proclamation of the German Empire (Deutsche Reichsgründung) by Otto van Bismarck, after the French defeat in the 1870 war, and of the 1919 signature of the Versailles treaty which ended WWI.
Visit the Hall of Mirrors and the Palace of Versailles in the morning, on weekdays and off season to avoid the crowd as much as possible. Lucky visitors can attend marvelous evening concerts in the Palace of Versailles. Information.
The Hall of Mirrors paintings by Charles Le Brun have been restored and are a XVIIth century treasure. Details.
A guided coach tour from Paris is one of the best ways to visit the Hall of Mirrors, the Palace of Versailles and Versailles Gardens.
The design of the Hall of Mirrors is the result of a close collaboration between two of the most brilliant artists of the reign of Louis XIV: the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart and the painter Charles Lebrun. It marked also the birth of a form of French artistic supremacy.
Originally, a terrace built by Le Vau overlooked the water parterre and separated the apartments of the King from those of the Queen. Louis XIV wanted to turn it into a sumptuous gallery, which could be used for official ceremonies and receptions of the Court, a construction reminiscent of the power of France and of its King, then the great winner of Europe. Above all, it would serve as a passageway frequented by courtiers, a place of meeting, waiting, and staging of power.
Completed in 1684, the Hall of Mirrors (then called the Grande Galerie) was a real feat during the time of Louis XIV. 21 mirrors faced the windows and reflected the gardens of Le Nôtre, giving the illusion of a gigantic space still unseen in the royal and princely palaces of this 17th century. Mirrors this size had never been blown before. To achieve that, it was necessary to surpass Venice, which then jealously guarded the mirror manufacturing secret.
It was in fact at the end of the 15th century that the so-called mercury mirror making technique appeared in Italy, on the island of Murano, the only one capable of producing mirros of quality and size. The Republic of Venice jealously watched over this production of luxury items of which it retained the monopoly. However, Louis XIV wanted above all to exalt French supremacy. France's economic, diplomatic and military success must be complemented by artistic triumph. It was therefore out of the question to buy the mirrors in Italy.
Colbert, encouraged by Louis XIV, decideds to give it all. In 1665, the Manufacture Royale de glaces des miroirs was created. Venice's supremacy on the market in Europe must be undermined at all costs. Colbert sent spies to Murano, and brought in Venetian workers at a gold price, from 1665 to 1667. There would be in all three poaching expeditions, which would result in sanctions from the Inquisitors of the Serenissima. Indeed, the Republic of Venice threatened with death those who betrayed the secret of the manufacture of mirrors. The beginnings of the Manufacture were difficult: workers mysteriously died. The Venetians got frightened and the Serenissima, distributing pledges of forgiveness in abundance, repatriated the traitors.
Nothing seemed to be able to compete with Venice, which was definitely ready to do anything to keep its monopoly. It was then that Colbert learned, at the beginning of 1668, that a certain Richard Lucas de Nehou owned a mirror parlor in Tourlaville near Cherbourg, in Normandy, and could manufacture mirrors which rivalled those produced in Venice. The Manufacture was immediately transported to Normandy to Nehou, who obtained the exclusive privilege of manufacturing mirror glasses. This solemn act is a testament to the very personal interest the monarch had in the business: it empowered Nehou to exercise his talent to the best of its ability. Finally, the French Manufacture took off. Very quickly, it was able to compete with the factories of Venice, and soon to dominate them. With the 357 mirrors of an exceptional size blown for the Hall of Mirrors, French luxury was definitely the order of the day. These mirrors became the symbol of French manufacturing genius, which was to prevail throughout Europe. We can date from the creation of the Hall of Mirrors the birth of French luxury, and in particular of major national industries such as Lyon silks, Gobelins tapestries, Saint-Gobain glassworks.
In the 17th century, mirrors were among the most expensive items to possess. The Venetian Republic held the monopoly on their manufacture. Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the minister of Sun King, enticed several workers from Venice to make mirrors at the Manufacture Royale de Glaces de miroirs, nowadays the Saint Gobain multinational company.
Construction of the Hall of Mirrors continued until 1684, at which time it was pressed into use for court and state functions. The ceiling decoration is dedicated to the political policies and military victories of Louis XIV. The central panel of the ceiling, the king governs alone, alludes to the establishment of the personal reign of Louis XIV in 1661. The rest of the ceiling represents military victories of Louis XIV starting with the Treaty of the Pyrenées (1659) to the Treaty of Nijmegen (1678–1679). Le Brun has depicted themes such as good governance and military prowess, rendered with Louis XIV himself as the key figure.
The Hall of Mirrors is the most famous sight in Versailles. Many other great sights turn the Palace of Versailles into one of the most beautiful and interesting palaces in the world.