Versailles: Treasures from the Palace Official Opening

8 December 2016

If you’ve been to the Palace of Versailles you know that it is a French national treasure of vast proportions; almost intimidating to the day tripper intent on doing the rounds to try and get a handle on the scale and magnificence of the Palace and the gardens.

To bring some of that to our National Gallery of Australia has obviously been a mammoth task and while the grandeur, expansive proportions and luminosity of it can’t quite be replicated in the exhibition Versailles: Treasures from the Palace, it is a magnificent display of the opulence,  eccentricities of the kings Louis XIV, XV and XVI, the exquisite treasures they collected, the personal  objects, taste and charm of an era we can’t imagine from our suburban enclaves. It is a wonder to behold.

The impressive statue of Latona and her children, a reconstructed replica from one of the fountains, is surrounded with a sound and light arc wall of running water and fascinating statuary appearing as the water wanes like a tide that could have a deleterious effect if viewed after a few of the Moet goblets of champagne we imbibed at the opening night soiree. But there’s more to see than one visit to this sumptuous collection of Versailles treasures will satisfy that includes paintings, Sevres porcelain, furniture and sculptures with Queen Marie Antoinette’s dainty harp positioned beside the stunning portrait of her in a gown that was not for sitting in.

The exhibition was officially opened by the Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove with one of his short speeches to let us get back to the Moet , and of course the exhibition. The Ambassador of France Christophe Lecourtier and a ‘happy to be invited’ cohort of his staff were there as was the Australian Ambassador to France Stephen Brady and partner Peter Stephens back in town for the opening though both enjoying their very busy posting in the city of lights. Qantas’ Colin Thomas brought his sister and her partner visiting from London and Peter Crisp, glass artist extraordinaire, is soon to open a cafe/restaurant at his Bowning gallery.  

The very elegant and charming Lady (Primrose) Potter has loaned a painting of Marie Antoinette to the exhibition while her daughter Countess “Pitty Pat” Krasicki is keen to contact friend Paul Bangay, who created the red carpet entrance design with sumptuous potted greenery, to get some. Tina Arena as the ambassador for the exhibition was another elegant guest for the official launching and my favourite Queen of any NGA soiree, Barbara Blackman, was happily sitting outside with a goblet of Moet and pleased they didn’t fill it to the top.

 You’ve got to love this town that does openings so well. You catch up, get the gossip, and mingle with an eclectic mix of people. But the star of this show was the exhibition, a once in a lifetime opportunity to indulge in a soupcon of the style, gilt, glamour and extravagance of the French Kings and Queens who lived there.

Versailles: Treasures from the Palace continues at the NGA until 17 April.