Saturday morning I was up and out of my room early, taking a leisurely stroll around Lake Burley Griffin, killing time waiting for the National Gallery to open. I thought I might upload an image, like we all do these days, documenting our lives on social media. So with phone in hand I tried looking for that photo of Canberra that was more than just a selfie ( a small foible of mine) but wasn’t hackneyed. I’ve seen Telstra Tower, Parliament House old and new and the War Memorial too many times to add to the vast collection of tourist photos hash-tagged out there. I wanted something “arty”. Something clever. Maybe it was too early for such creativity. Because inspiration was not happening. But what I did observe is Canberra’s obsession with the active wear craze that’s sweeping the globe ( and putting a wad of cash into the greedy hands of those American Koch brothers)*. Where was the obesity epidemic? It certainly wasn’t about Lake Burley Griffin. Perhaps moved to chubbier pastures. (Or Raymond Terrace 2324 where I read in The Newcastle Herald this week 70% of the population is overweight or obese. Oh dear). But good on Canberra, well the inner city anyway. It’s probably a different story out in the burbs.
So I wandered around Lake Burley Griffin with all those fit joggers and cyclists (a photo was uploaded but completely uncanberran) and meandered up to the gallery where already people were beginning to accumulate outside the entrance at 9:50am. The queue was fine though. Within 15 minutes I was in the exhibition SURROUNDED by teems of people. Where did they come from? Somewhere between purchasing my ticket and visiting the ladies (where my phone rather loudly announced that I had reached my destination) a herd of people had been dropped right in the exhibition.
And although this was not ideal I was still able to read to my hearts content and feast my eyes on all the beautiful opulent objects on display such as extensive tapestries, parquetry flooring and highly ornate, well, everything. I couldn’t help but wonder while observing such decadence how such a minute portion of the population (less than 2%) can assume the right to live such indulged lifestyles. And all while the masses starved and endured extreme poverty. And paid the taxes to keep these highly coiffed in luxury.What were those three Louis’s thinking? It was bound to end in disaster. But regardless of this little thought I endured (and enjoyed) the extravagance.
The paintings are perfection. Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun an artist for Marie Antoinette brought back fond memories of my art school days where I had to memorise her paintings for exams (well one anyway). So much in this exhibition is impressive however the etchings, intricately exquisite, were a standout for me. Used to document special events such as births or marriages or victory in military operations the feasts, masked balls, fireworks etc were a means of witnessing the King’s “divertissements”.
Israel Silvestre, France 1621-1691
Jean Lepautre, France 1618-1682
Second day: La Princesse d’Elide
from Pleasures of the Enchanted isle, May 1664
Jean Lepautre, France 1618-1682
Fifth day: fireworks on the canal at Versailles
from Divertissments of 1674 1676
Charles-Nicolas Cochin or Cochin the younger
The formal ball, 24 February 1745
from The marriage of the dauphin Louis of France with Marie-Therese, Infants of Spain, 1749.
Below are 2 photographs of the detail in the etchings.
I could use some flowery language to describe these works of art but I think they speak for themselves. I spent a considerable amount of time peering into the detail. It’s a fairy tale really and not surprising the luxurious monarchy came to a rather violent end. But wow we are fortunate that we can delve into this history and wonder at the bold neglect these characters inflicted on the third estate.
Versailles: Treasures from the Palace
until 17 April 2017.
For those interested here is the photograph I shared on Instagram the morning I was looking for inspiration. Not quite the calibre of the engravings but oh well.
This is a link to who the Koch brothers are and how they amassed their fortunes. There are also links to my social media sites and the NGA. Cheers!