MEULEN, Adam Frans van der
(b. 1632, Bruxelles, d. 1690, Paris)
Construction of the Château de Versailles1669
Oil on canvas, 103 x 138,5 cm
Royal Collection, London
The Château de Versailles, a 17th-century palace built by Louis XIV, was the principal residence of the kings of France and the seat of the government for more than 100 years. The first scenes of the French Revolution were also enacted at the palace, whose gardens, the masterpiece of André Le Nôtre, have become part of the national heritage of France and one of the most visited historic sites in Europe. Although it was a place of entertainment, the grandiose palace was also well equipped as a centre of government. Of about 20,000 persons attached to the court, some 1,000 courtiers with 4,000 attendants lived in the palace itself. About 14,000 soldiers and servants were quartered in annexes and in the town, which was founded in 1671 and had 30,000 inhabitants when Louis XIV died in 1715.
The palace of Versailles led to the French court style in interior decoration and furnishings. Versailles was intended to be the outward and visible expression of the glory of France, and of Louis XIV, then Europe's most powerful monarch. His finance minister, Colbert, set up a manufactory that made works of art of all kinds, from furniture to jewellery, for interior decoration. A large export trade took French styles to almost every corner of Europe, made France a centre for luxuries, and gave to Paris an influence that has lasted till the present day. The vast initial cost of Versailles has been more than recouped since its completion. Even Louis XIV's most violent enemies imitated the decoration of his palace at Versailles. In 1667 Charles Le Brun was appointed director of the Gobelins factory, which had been bought by the King, and Le Brun himself prepared designs for various objects, from the painted ceilings of the Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) at Versailles to the metal hardware for a door lock.