Château de Versailles

Château de Versailles, A View from the Palace Grounds

Whether or not Marie Antoinette actually said, “Let them eat cake,” is up for debate. What isn’t up for debate is the fact that the French Aristocracy of the 17th century had lost touch with the plight of the common folk. In 1682 King Louis XIV moved the center of political power in France from Paris to Versailles. His heir, Louis the XV and his heir, Louis the XVI, expanded the elaborate and exquisite palace in a decadent game of one-upmanship, each seeking to outdo the extravagance of the last. The Château, or Castle, or Palace of Versailles represented the system of absolute monarchy in the divine right of kingship.

The people had no bread. Yet the Kings inlaid gold throughout their palace and threw elaborately expensive balls. For this very reason, it may be possible to understand why, on October 6, 1789 the Royal Family was forced to leave Versailles for the Tuileries Palace in Paris as a result of the Women’s March on Versailles and the erupting revolution. Not long after, in spite of lofty ideals, the people’s French Revolution removed the heads of those who ignored the basic humanity of their subjects instead choosing art and architecture over liberty and life.

As I visited the marvelously decadent and brilliantly ostentatious palace, now a historical museum, I felt that traditional photographic images did not rise to the same level of ornate excess demanded by the creators of Versailles or by the palace itself. So, I look through the lens wishing it were canvas and brush, hoping that the images could transcend the common and rise, with the ghosts of Versailles, to the courts of Art.

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