Monday, December 20, 2010

BCers In Italy, Switzerland & France; Pt 12: Through The Looking Glass At Versailles

IN MY WORLD I've been thinking about the Lewis Carroll books and how our visit to the beautiful Palace of Versailles last October reminded me of a distorted version of the Alice stories.

It is an unexpected afterthought on my part. In truth, the opulence enjoyed by the royal family resulted in the tragic "off with her head" consquences for Marie Antoinette in 1793. Her husband Louis XVI had been executed months earlier during the French Revolution.

The clipped symmetrical trees ...

meticulous vast courtyards and ponds ...

reminded me of scenes surrounding the Queen of Hearts character.

Rows of figures looked like giant chess pieces reminiscent of the Red Queen.

Blooms past their seasonal prime were dug up. The last few (pictured above) might have objected if they could speak like the flowers did in Carroll's tale.

We saw traditional statuesque apparitions mostly of gods and goddesses.

But (as in Carroll books) unforeseen characters also appeared at the palace.

We had the rare opportunity to view historical art in juxtaposition to modern works. Japanese artist Takashi Murakami created a contemporary Oval Buddha. Although I have seen many concepts of buddha, this some 18 foot statue made of bronze and gold leaf is truly unique.

Nearby was an even more unique golden fence and gateway to the royals.

People were constantly in front of the ornate structure taking pictures so I captured only a portion of the entrance way not open to the public.

I took a peek before entering from another location near the gate.

There it was ... the chateau of Versailles that began as a hunting lodge and evolved into a residence and retreat from the main palace in Paris for generations of French kings.

This was the ideal setting from which royalty could overlook their impoverished countrymen and soak in the breathtaking countryside filled with game and ponds stocked with fish.

Although it wasn't quite like going down the "rabbit hole", there was the appearance of a Mad Hatter through the palace doors.

There was much controversy about having Murakami’s creations displayed temporarily at Versailles. Many locals considered the work insulting.

Nonetheless, the artist wanted to bridge historical art with popular culture.

Many were not convinced and felt much the way Alice did in the Wonderland book when she said, "I don't believe there's an atom of meaning in it."

There was unquestionable significance to the artistic expression (pictured above) that I believe is of Louis XVI. The misguided king went from a lavish lifestyle where aides chosen to monitor his bowel movements apparently felt honored to being despised and killed at the guillotine.

Such a horrific ending was likely not dreamed of when the royals slept in their luxurious beds.

What comforts elaborate fireplaces must have brought to hush their worried minds within cold palace walls.

It WAS like stepping Through The Looking Glass when entering the enormous passageway known as The Hall of Mirrors. The stunning construct within the palace began in 1678. It was built to magnify the power of the monarchy to other regions that might have been a threat.

Glass was extremely rare then. To showcase such a luxury item, Versailles sought the famous glass makers of Venice. Hopefully, the legend isn't true that the workmen who built the mirrored walls were killed to keep the art a secret. Despite the paradoxical lifestyles where the wealthy were seemingly blind to cruelty and poverty, Versailles stands alone as an incredible work of art. The glassy glitter of mirror and marble, the chandeliers and gilded statues all reflect a love of beauty so profound it is impossible NOT to carry a torch for the wonderland of Versailles.

Explorers can find more sites from around the globe at My World.

Visit Postcards From Penelope Puddle to view BC scenes.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms


  1. Gorgeous photos, Penelope.
    I can't quite agree with your theory that it all came from a profound love of beauty, but this is not the place for me to put forth my counter-theory, just a place for me to admire the work you and Bill have done photographing these works of art to share with us. And your wealth of descriptive detail is fabulous. I'm lucky if I can remember what country our pictures depict, never mind the history. Your Lewis Carroll theory is particularly apt, also. Very well done!
    Luv, K

  2. Thanks, Kay! I agree it didn’t all come from a love of beauty but that was one of the motivating factors I sensed there.

  3. Fantastic post for the day, Penelope! Your photos are superb! And it is indeed one of the most beautiful places I've ever been! What a great trip! Thanks for sharing the fun and the beauty! Hope your week goes well and wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas! Enjoy!


  4. I'm stunned at the beauty of all the things you saw on your travels. Thanks for sharing.

    Happy holidays.

  5. Spectacular place. Brilliant photos.

  6. Since so far, I've been mostly an armchair traveller, these stunning photos are right up my alley. I am struck almost dumb by the beauty of these old buildings and statues. It is all truly a wonderland!

    Thank you for sharing such magical photos...I have enjoyed them all so very much! Even the unforeseen characters!

  7. I cannot even imagine what it must be like to live so extravagantly! WOW!

  8. Versailles is magnificent as are the many cathedrals in Europe. When I visited these places I couldn’t help but think of the daily struggle to survive endured by most of the people of that era. Now, the working man again is struggling to survive while the few grow more and more affluent. We seem to be coming full circle.

  9. interesting post and your photos are truly impressive. it must have been amazing to see these magnificent artwork up close.

  10. Thank you for this wonderful escape into Beauty, and memories as well.

    Great photography ! Please have a good Tuesday.

    daily athens

  11. I loved the tour of Versailles. Whether it was built from a love of beauty or extreme show-off-ishness, it is still beautiful.
    I agree with those who think the more modern art currently displayed there is out of place. I saw a photo of the buddha on another blog, and it still is not to my taste at all. The others you showed just look like they would be more comfortable somewhere else!

    Thanks for the tour, and merry Christmas!

  12. Amazing. I've never been there (that I can remember) but I'd love to now.

  13. Beautiful shots of the place. The garden and monuments are marvelous. The interiors are awesome.

  14. such stunning opulence! spectacular gardens, marble and glass, gold-gilded gates---wow! thanks for sharing these wonderful photos.

  15. That's a stunning tour through your lens in your world in Versailles that you took me on!

  16. Great entry. Very impressive and informative!!! I did not know that in Versailles there is a Buddha statue made by Japanese. I did not know of Takeshi Murakami, either..
    Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful day.
    Yoshi from Japan

  17. What a wonderful post, so cleverly intertwined with history and literature. It's many years since I visited Versailles, so I thank you for the opportunity to take another look :-)

  18. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece, Penelope! It is so well-written and informative, and the photos are spectacular. I do wish to visit Versailles one day in the future.

    Hope your Christmas celebrations will be joyous and filled with much love....:)


  19. This post was absolutely brilliant, Penelope! I know I will come back to it. The photographs were exceptional (maybe the hall of mirrors a favourite, but so hard to choose), the Lewis Carroll theory so perfect I could see everyone of the analogies you drew (the chess game was particularly vivid) and the expressions of empathy for Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI brought them so close, I could almost feel them breathe.


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