Step Into the Louvre’s 18th Century Decorative Art Galleries
On June 6, the Louvre will unveil one of its most ambitious capital projects to date: the redesign of its 18th century Decorative Arts galleries. Financed privately to the tune of $33 million ($4 million of which was raised by the American Friends of the Louvre), the new display spans a staggering 23,000 square feet. It promises to be an extravaganza of gold, precious woodcarvings, silverware, and tapestries, taking viewers through the history of royal patronage and the extravagant mores of the court, from the rise to power of the Sun King Louis XIV to the French Revolution.
More than 2,200 pieces constitute the collection, which is to be displayed both in traditional galleries, and as part of the recreations of original interiors. A particular highlight of this new display—masterminded by interior designer Jacques Garcia in collaboration with the museum’s department of decorative arts—is the presentation of the whole Hôtel Dangé-Villemaré drawing room, which hasn’t been shown in its entirety since it was first acquired by the Louvre in the 19th century.
Located on the fashionable Place Vandôme, the Hôtel de Villmaré was built at the turn of the 18thcentury and bought in 1750 by François-Balthazar Dangé. The drawing room, with its intricate paneling and mirrors, has been fully restored as part of the project, and is considered one of the most refined surviving examples of interior from the period.
Several other interiors have been recreated, including the library of l’Hôtel Dangé-Villemaré, the Grand Salon of the Château d’Abondant, and the ceremonial bedchamber at the Hôtel de Chevreuse. The furniture and objects have also been arranged in “decorative settings,” giving a sense of context to their presentation. A large proportion of the pieces come from royal residences: Versailles, the Tuileries, St Cloud, Fontainebleau, and Compiègne, as well as from palaces belonging to members of the aristocracy.
The 35 rooms highlight the instrumental role monarchs played in developing craftsmanship of the highest quality. Louis XIV famously created the Royal Tapestry Manufactory of the Gobelins, while Louis XV and his mistress Madame de Pompadour championed the Royal Porcelain Manufactory of Vincennes, which was later moved to Sèvres. Their production was consumed by the international elite far beyond the limits of the kingdom. The new galleries also put a particular emphasis on the artisans protected by the French kings, among them the legendary cabinet-maker André Charles Boulle.
“The Louvre’s new decorative arts galleries will embody the constant evolution of taste, flowing in a coherent movement from the ascension of a new style during Louis XIV’s reign to the time of Marie- Antoinette at the end of the Ancien Régime,” said Jacques Garcia in a statement. “The galleries will display a multitude of atmospheres, but will always remain true to the sense of the innovation and beauty that characterizes the Grand Siècle of decorative arts which, in France, was the 18th century.”
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