Sydney and Canberra have an embarrassment literally of riches due to the British Museum, the Tate Collection and the Palace of Versailles enabling us to see priceless objects, paintings, and sculpture from the other side of the world.
The double bill of the History of Art in 100 Objects at the National Museum and Versailles, Treasures from The Palace at the National Gallery of Australia are both well worth a weekend away in Canberra.
VERSAILLES, TREASURES FROM THE PALACE is a totally immersive experience with the largest room decorated by huge gobelin Tapestries hanging on the walls and a gobelin carpet highlighting four huge vases.
More than 130 paintings, the aforesaid tapestries, gilded furniture items, and royal possessions, paintings in gold leaf frames, monumental; statues, and a gate from the palace and gardens illustrate the loves of Louis XIV, the Sun King, to the domed Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette as well as their families and mistresses. Small personal items include exquisite Sevres crockery and Marie Antoinette’s harp. Contrasted with this are six metre high gobelin tapestries
To escape the claustrophobia of Paris, Louis XIV commissioned the building of Versailles. However, he insisted that the Palace also have sumptuous and elaborate gardens filled with fountains and water features. Maps of the proposed garden lay outs and the ingenious hydraulic engineering to draw water from a distant and meager water source are fascinating.
To make you feel as if you are visiting the Palace Gardens there is one of its statues with a video of the water features cascading behind it.
As an introduction or an epilogue, depending on your preference, there is a short, marvelous cinematic experience, shot in ultra high resolution, where the camera glides through the Palace and Gardens.
If you go in the morning to this exhibition, after this wonderful and epic exhibition, you can explore further the redesigned National Gallery and nearby the exquisite National Portrait Gallery.
This exhibition at the National Gallery closes on 17 April.
Featured photo – Louis X1V receiving the envoy from Persia in the Hall of Mirrors, 1715. From the studio of Antonia Coypel.