Last week, I wrote an article about Comtesse Jeanne du Barry, King Louis XV’s final mistress and the driving creative force behind the distinct Neo-classical Music Pavilion within the Louveciennes domain. Since then, I’ve discovered that her impact on interior design and the arts transcends the boundaries of the Château of Louveciennes. Indeed, she not only oversaw the transformation but also resided in a sprawling 350sqm apartment, situated near the King’s private apartment, within the iconic Château de Versailles for four years, spanning from 1770 to 1774.
This apartment remained off-limits to the public until last year, following extensive refurbishments. Employing authentic 18th-century techniques, a consortium of builders, craftsmen, and craftswomen was commissioned to restore this apartment to its former glory, striving to remain as faithful as possible to Madame du Barry’s distinct vision. Today, these renovations offer a precious glimpse not only into du Barry’s unique legacy but also into the quintessential art de vivre of the 18th century.
Although the space has hosted various occupants since Jeanne’s hasty departure from Versailles in 1774, just before the passing of the King, her indelible mark endures. Her firm commitment and meticulous attention to detail in curating a living space that embodied her refined taste withstood the tumultuous era of the French Revolution, the passage of time, and even human intervention.
Jeanne du Barry closely supervised and directed the refurbishment works, enlisting the era’s most talented architects and skilled artisans. Throughout those four years, Jeanne’s apartment exuded luxury and sophistication, adorned with cutting-edge furniture and art. Her discerning taste garnered recognition within the royal court and frequently served as a model.
Now, let’s delve into specific features of Madame du Barry’s legacy — some are on display at Versailles, while others grace museums worldwide:
Wall panelling & flooring: At Jeanne’s request, walls and window shutters received ornate golden mouldings, paying homage to royal decorating styles. Floors boast Versailles-style design, adorned with yellow paint as was customary in the 18th century.
The restored bathroom: This lavishly adorned, yet intimate space housed two bathtubs, likely one for washing and the other for rinsing. The floor is adorned with exquisite white marble tiles and black cabochons.
Fireplaces: Remarkably preserved, these fireplaces, adorned with marble, stand as the sole remnants of original fleurs-de-lis within the entirety of Versailles Palace. The fleur-de-lis, an emblem of France, graced the traditional coat of arms until the French Revolution in 1792.
Sèvres porcelain: Madame du Barry’s passion for porcelain led her to acquire dinner services, vases, and ornamental pieces. Her affinity extended to porcelain-mounted furniture, such as a jewellery box and a cabinet, respectively exhibited in Versailles and the Louvre museum.
Medallion chairs: Displayed at the MET, chairs in Madame Du Barry’s Salon de Compagnie (Reception Room) showcased a medallion-shaped back, becoming an emblematic characteristic of Neoclassical seat furniture.
Chaises voyeuses: Crafted by cabinet makers in the mid-18th century for social gatherings, this chair served as a conversation or gaming seat, facilitating participation in or observation of card games.