Title: Louis Philippe, the royal family and King Leopold I, visiting the great hall of the Crusades of the Palace of Versailles. July 1844.
Author : LAFAYE Prosper (1806 - 1883)
Date shown: July 1844
Dimensions: Height 60 - Width 85
Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas
Storage place: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website
Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved
Picture reference: 93-001203 / MV6873
Louis Philippe, the royal family and King Leopold I, visiting the great hall of the Crusades of the Palace of Versailles. July 1844.
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved
Publication date: August 2005
The "invention" from the Middle Ages to the romantic era
The discovery and study of the Middle Ages, begun in the 18th centurye century, amplified in the XIXe century under the impulse of the triumphant romanticism which linked the Middle Ages, nation and soul of peoples: creation of the Musée des Monuments Français in 1794; Hugo publishes Notre Dame de Paris in 1831; the Louvre acquires two important collections of medieval objects (that of Edmé-Antoine Durand in 1825 and that of Pierre Révoil in 1828); the Cluny museum was inaugurated in 1844; Viollet-le-Duc restores major medieval sites during the Second Empire. This too narrow space was quickly abandoned for the ground floor of the north wing; the “rooms of the Crusades” were opened to the public in 1843. To furnish them Louis-Philippe ordered 150 paintings and more than 300 figures; the doors of the hospital built by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem are brought back from Rhodes to be inserted into the magnificent neo-Gothic decor that they inspired by the architect Nepveu. Louis-Philippe innovates by creating rooms dedicated to the Crusades as historical events and not as a pretext to glorify a character or a state (canvases commemorating the Venetian victories in the Doge's Palace).
A neogothic decor
The typical decor of the Great Hall of the Crusades is faithfully reconstructed. We immediately recognize the prayer leader by Philippe de Villiers de l'Isle-Adam (from the church of the priory of the Temple in Paris, XVIe century); the beautiful monumental chandeliers made by the bronziers Chaumont and Marquis which remained hung for a short time (currently in the Château de Pau); the carved benches; the central pilasters, the work of the stucco artist Crovatto; the painted escutcheons and coffered ceilings made by the painter gilder Joseph Jorand; in the background, the painting by Merry Joseph Blondel, The City of Ptolémaïs handed over to Philippe-Auguste and Richard Coeur-de-Lion, July 13, 1191 ; on the right, the painting by Édouard Odier Lifting of the siege of Rhodes. August 19, 1480.
Placed at the back of the room, the painter turns to look at the members of the royal family. The group in the foreground brings together the Duchess of Nemours with her son Louis-Philippe-Marie-Gaston d'Orléans, comte d'Eu (1842-1922) and her nephew Louis-Philippe-Albert d'Orléans, comte de Paris (1838 -1894); the Duchess of Aumale (bare head and white dress); the Duchess of Orleans (1814-1858) in mourning accompanied by her second son Robert-Philippe-Louis d´Orléans (1840-1910). Just behind them stand the Duke of Montpensier (1824-1890), younger son of Louis-Philippe; the Princess of Joinville (1824-1898); two more from the sons of Louis-Philippe, the Duke of Aumale (1822-1897) and the Prince of Joinville (1818-1900). In the background, on the left, are the Duc de Nemours (1814-1896), who gives his arm to his aunt, Madame Adélaïde, sister of the king; Leopold Ier, King of the Belgians; Queen Marie-Amélie; Louis Philippe ; Queen Louise of Belgium who is also the eldest daughter of the King of the French. The whole royal family gathered and wandered through the newly opened rooms which they showed to the Belgian sovereigns during their official visit in 1844.
The bourgeois king
The spectator is integrated into the composition, he can believe himself invited to follow the visit that Louis-Philippe is commenting on to the sovereigns of Belgium. This feeling of intimacy is reinforced by the curious and friendly looks the Duchess and Duke of Aumale cast in our direction; the newlyweds - represented in the year of their marriage - associate the viewer with their vast family.
No rigid etiquette, no special ceremonies or protocols: the two sovereigns evolve as stepfathers and stepson, much more than heads of state. The meeting takes place in private, apart from a few servants on the left and three other characters on the right; only the royal family occupies the large space of the room, which certainly explains the lack of ostentation and decorum: Louis-Philippe gallantly takes his daughter's arm while Leopold Ier offers his to Marie-Amélie; Louis-Philippe's children and grandchildren evolve nicely, the little ones are placed in the first row, and all three look at the spectator as if to call him to witness the happiness and the bonds which unite the members of their family; groups were formed by affinities: the three young mothers in the foreground compare the progress of their dear little ones; behind them, the three youngest sons of the king and the Princess of Joinville are discussing cheerfully. Placed roughly in the center of the composition, Louis-Philippe is represented as a paterfamilias surrounded by his family: on his right, slightly set back his eldest son (the Duke of Orleans died in 1842) and in front of him in the foreground the very young succession.
However, it is not innocent to present this portrait of the royal family within the neo-Gothic decoration of the great hall of the Crusades. Indeed, these were the crucible where the flower of the nobility was created and illustrated in the ancient sense of the term, namely those valiant and intrepid valiant men whom the King of France knighted at the end of the battles fought against the " infidels ”to take back the holy places from them. Louis-Philippe, king of the French, placed on the ancient throne of the kings of France after two revolutions and an empire, must have been particularly sensitive to these evocations of the auspicious and glorious hours of the epee nobility of which he claimed to be; this immersion in the episode of the Crusades was also a way for the new king to silence the Legitimists, who saw in him only a man usurping the throne.
- Orleans (of)
- Jeanne D'Arc
- Louis Philippe
- July Monarchy
- Middle Ages
- Museum of the History of France
Claire CONSTANS, Les Peintures, National Museum of the Palace of Versailles, Paris, RMN, 1995 Claire CONSTANS and Philippe LAMARQUE, Les Salles des Croisades, Château de Versailles, Paris, Éditions du Gui, 2002.
To cite this article
Delphine DUBOIS, "The hall of the Versailles Crusades"