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Art and Court Culture at Versailles

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This seminar investigates the creation, growth, and evolving meanings of the palace and gardens of Versailles from the 17th century to the present. After tracing earlier models including Roman cardinals’ villas, royal palaces, and private French châteaux, the course traces how Louis XIV transformed a modest hunting lodge into a physical expression of absolutist monarchy and the abode of a “Sun King.” The seminar investigates daily life at Louis’s court, including fashions, furnishings, dining and culinary rituals, amorous liaisons, and court intrigues, asking how the king deployed elaborate court festivals and systems of etiquette to encode political power. Other issues include Colbert’s bureaucratic centralization of fine and applied arts; the relation of Versailles to Paris and the Louvre; the coordination of propaganda across media; stylistic experimentation in such outbuildings as the Trianons and the Queen’s Hamlet; and Versailles’s role as a model for other courts. The seminar also studies the palace’s transformation under Louis XV and Louis XVI and its adaptation as a “national” monument/museum in the 19th and 20th centuries. What did Versailles symbolize for later generations, and how has that affected its preservation and restoration? 3 credits.