This article was brought to you by the National Gallery of Australia.
As the most imitated building of 17th century, Versailles stood for power, wealth, sex and scandal. Centuries later, the palace’s appeal has only grown with modern day creatives still musing upon the palace and its people.
It’s not just the art history world that Versailles has had a massive impact upon. From Karl Lagerfeld’s collections for Chanel to world heritage sites, interior styling to Jay Z lyrics, you’ll be surprised at how far reaching the royal palace’s influence is to this day.
Marie-Antoinette was just 19 years old when she became the Queen of France, making her the perfect subject for Sofia Coppola’s giddy rock ‘n’ roll depiction of a doomed teen queen.
Released in 2006, the retelling of Marie-Antoinette’s reign to the fall of Versailles was certainly very different to what had come before it. Incorporating contemporary music, the lead images took inspiration from a Sex Pistol’s album cover. Combined with Coppola’s signature visual stylings, her too slick aesthetic was likened to an MTV music video at the time and divided audiences. Although the film won an Oscar, some critics complained that though Coppola’s eyes, all that is learnt about Marie Antoinette is her love for Laduree macaroons and Manolo Blahnik shoes.
A decade on from its release, the film has garnered a cult following of its own. Starring Hollywood heavyweights Kirsten Dunst, Rose Byrne and Jason Schwartzman, Marie-Antoinette remains a must see movie, praised for its post-feminist approach.
Big hair, textured fabrics and ornate details… you’ve got the baroque movement to thank for some of fashion’s leading trends, with the Chateau de Versailles credited time and time again as an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
Embracing serious frivolity, Chanel is renowned for its lavish embroidery and gilded accents, both nods to the rococo period. The fashion house even staged one of its most memorable resort collection runway shows at Versailles, with Karl Lagerfeld dubbed The Sun King to model Cara Delevigne’s Marie Antoinette.
Christian Dior, a self-confessed Versailles fan drew many parallels between his work and the palace, naming his most emblematic designs were named after the chateau. Speaking of grace and nobility through his own designs, Dior employed some of the most skilled craftsmen of his era, just as Louis XIV had done.
Criticized for her expensive taste and for owning too many outfits, Marie-Antoinette was the original fashionista. Her rebelliousness unsurprisingly became inspiration for subversive fashion designer and activist Vivienne Westwood.
Architecture & UNESCO World Heritage Sites
It's no accident that Louis XIV's private chamber was located exactly in the middle of the palace. Demonstrating that everything must and does revolve around him, the sentiment was quickly copied by monarchs across the world.
Designed and supervised by French classical architect Louis Le Vau, the construction of Versailles perfectly proclaimed one’s political standing to all. Thanks to lavish geometric arrangements and grand optical illusions, Versailles was an idyllic site of luxury, exuberance and harmony, a perfect fit for a king.
Fast becoming one of the most imitated buildings of the 17th century, European palaces started springing up in its image with notions of self-representation heavily influencing the design of state institutions. Although some have since been destroyed, such as Saxon Palace obliterated in Poland in WW2, others have been credited as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Germany’s Würzburg Residence was designed to portray the position of the Prince-Bishop. Like Louis XVI, the absolute monarch believed a small palace would not measure up to his absolute power. Similar ideas were taking shape in Russia, as Peter The Great ordered the construction of Grand Peterhof Palace, a Versailles of his very own.
Although the estate is home to the Royal Opera, Versailles’ musical influence reaches far past high-end performance, with some of today’s biggest stars name-dropping the chateau.
Rapper Jay-Z’s shouts-out the palace in his track ‘Sweet’. Happy with the life he has chosen, he raps “I can walk down the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles and be so satisfied when I look myself in the eyes. No shame, no sir.”
Indie singer songwriter Sufjan Stevens captured a tender conversation between himself and his dying mother in ‘Forth of July’, calling her “My little Versailles" in one of 2015’s standout tracks.
Some of music’s most iconic performances have also been modeled on Versailles’ image. Jump on youtube and check out Madonna’s game-changing MTV performance of Vogue, all dolled up in aristocratic garb. Complete with gold corset and towering bouffant, Beyonce drew upon Versailles’ baroque stylings for her recent world tour. It’s official; even today’s Queens of Pop love yesterday’s Queen of France.
Making as many waves with his opinions as he does with his music, Kanye West’s status as design aficionado reached new heights after tweeting ‘Versailles is the sh*t.’ With no expense spared in the palace’s creation, it’s easy to understand the charm Versailles holds over today’s rich and famous.
Drawing upon baroque and rococo styling - golden curves, elegant furniture, and ornamental sculptures - it's all about the opulent details. Gilded statement pieces and marble tiles are an on trend way to bring French luxury into the home and tuffted velvet furniture is a timeless, functional nod to the extravagance of the period.
Due to the OTT nature of Versailles, design elements are usually referenced in contemporary decoration rather than directly imitated... Because who has space for 357 mirrors in their hallway?
This article was brought to you by the National Gallery of Australia. Versailles: Treasures from the Palace runs until April 17 – to book tickets and discover the exhibition for yourself, head this way.
For the chance to win 1 of 5 double passes to the exhibition, enter our competition here.