Musée d'Orsay: Edouard Vuillard The Chapel, Chateau of Versailles

Edouard Vuillard
The Chapel, Chateau of Versailles

The Chapel at the Chateau of Versailles
Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
The Chapel at the Chateau of Versailles
Between 1917 and 1929
Tempera on paper glued on canvas
H. 96; W. 66 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

La chapelle du château de Versailles [The Chapel at the Chateau of Versailles]

This tranquil painting was paradoxically triggered by the First World War. In the midst of the turmoil, Vuillard found in the exaltation of the classicism of Versailles a way of warding off the adversity of the time and placing his own work in the continuity of a specifically French sensibility. It was also a way of expressing his strong national feeling, because the German Empire was proclaimed at Versailles in 1871.

The exact subject of the painting was provided by a concert organised by the Société des Amis des Cathédrales which Vuillard attended in June 1917; works by Du Mont, Lalande and Rameau were played. It is the memory of the perfect osmosis between this repertoire and the architecture that Vuillard wanted to praise. To do so he left nothing to chance, covering his programme with sketches of the architectural and sculptural elements he could see from his seat, including details of the relief by Claude Poirier, The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The celebration would not have been complete without a female presence. It is here incarnated by a back view of a young woman with a spectacular mane of red and gold hair radiant against the blue of her gown, which brightens up the general grey-mauve tonality of the painting. At the far right of the composition, another blue – the sky blue of the infantry uniform – is a reminder of the price to be paid for this harmonious instant snatched from the tumult of the world.

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