Versailles: Palace and People

This seminar investigates the creation, growth, and changing meanings of the palace and gardens of Versailles from the seventeenth century to the present. After exploring the project’s relation to earlier French and foreign models, the course examines how Louis XIV and his artists transformed a modest hunting lodge into a physical expression of French absolutist monarchy and a symbolic mirror of Louis’s persona as the Sun King. Topics include the creation of new structures to accommodate the palace’s designation as the seat of government in 1682; the layout, decoration, and function of the state apartments; the creation and renewal of palace furnishings in royally-sponsored workshops; the development of the gardens and the dynamic interaction of palace and park; the rituals and trappings of court life, including official etiquette as well as spaces of recreation and retreat; the role of dress and textiles both as a luxury industry and as a component of social identity and display in a court culture; the palace’s role in royal propaganda, including its depiction in multiple media; and its relation to the wider world, both as a model for other European courts and as a site of cross-cultural exchange. The seminar also examines Versailles’s fortunes after Louis XIV’s death in 1715, both as a royal palace under his eighteenth-century successors (including new structures like the Royal Opera, the Petit Trianon, and the Queen’s Hamlet for Marie Antoinette) and as a national monument, museum, and historic site in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. 3 credits. Based on final research project, this course may satisfy the pre-1800 requirement