Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Royal Treasures from the Louvre

In San Francisco.
By the late 18th century, Paris was acknowledged as the cultural capital of the world, and royalty and the aristocracy developed an unprecedented taste for luxury and comfort. “They lived in smaller rooms and the objects produced for them were finely and intensely decorated because they were so close to the viewer,” says Chapman. Rather than living in public in grand state rooms, the king embraced a more private, less formal mode of entertaining, often without servants. Many of these objects were designed to be used by the owners themselves, such as the magnificent solid gold coffee grinder made for Madame de Pompadour, the famous mistress to Louis XV.

Louis XVI continued to support both the Sèvres porcelain factory and the Gobelins manufactory (which by this time produced tapestries exclusively)—among others—after his coronation in 1775. His queen, Marie-Antoinette, commissioned elaborate furniture and decorative objects for her tiny private apartments at Versailles, and also revived the princely tradition of collecting hard-stone vases. Guided by Enlightenment ideals, the king put parts of the royal collection on view to the public and also acquired the most important hard-stone vases and furniture of the day for the foundation of a new museum in the Louvre. Unfortunately, events overtook him before this project could be realized. Economic hardship, caused by years of bad harvests, foreign interventions, and resistance to reform, fomented unrest in France, and public opinion began to turn against the king and the royal family. This unrest eventually led to revolution and Louis XVI was executed in January of 1793. Just eight months later, the Louvre, now designated as a collection for the people of France, opened to the public. (Read entire post.)

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