The Museum of the History of France was founded in Versailles in the 19th century. Many of the palace’s rooms were taken over to put up the new collections, and the large Hall of the Battles was created to display paintings and sculptures depicting landmark battles of French history. It’s one of the biggest national history museums in the world.
The museum was created at the behest of king Louis-Philippe. The collections display painted, sculpted, drawn and engraved images illustrating events or personalities of the history of France since its inception. Most of the paintings date back to the 19th century and have been created specially for the museum by major painters of the time such as Eugène Delacroix, Horace Vernet or François Gérard, but there are also much older artworks depicting French history. The collections of the Museum of the History of France now include nearly 6,000 paintings and 1,500 sculptures, dated from the 15th to the 20th century, and almost half are orders of Louis-Philippe.
The museum is now located in the lateral wings of the Palace though all the collections should be organised in the south wing in 2012 as part of ongoing restoration.
The Museum of the History of France was created in 1837 by King Louis-Philippe, who entrusted the organization to the Count of Montalivet. Through the years it was not only a place where the past times were presented but also became a silent witness of important moments in French history.
At the time of its foundation, the museum occupied the whole Palace. The main body, built in first half of the 17th century, served originally as the hunting lodge of Louis XIV. The wings were built in last two decades of the same centenary.
The museum was officially inaugurated on 10 June 1837 as part of the festivities that surrounded the marriage of the Prince royal, Ferdinand-Philippe d’Orléans with princess Hélène of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
The tumultuous times of the Second Republic, constituted after the king’s abdication, brought Napoleon III to power. During the Second Empire, he continued development of the museum.
His efforts were stopped by Franco-Prussian War. At that time Versailles was occupied by the Prussians and the Hall of Mirrors became the place where the German Empire (Second Reich) was proclaimed in 1871.
At the end of 19th century Pierre de Nolhac was announced as a curator of the Palace. He reconstructed the museum facilities and started redeployment of collections.
The whole Palace of Versailles is one of the most eminent constructions of French baroque and baroque in general. Its beauty proves that baroque is connected not only with chubby women. This architectural style is more about diversity so everyone can find something that will interest them.
Front of the palace includes an almost 6 ha, semi-circular square (Place d’Armes) designed for military parades. The square, sized 350 x 220 m, embodies a unique example of radial plan. Three broad avenues converge at Place d’Armes: Avenue de Saint-Cloud, Avenue de Paris and Avenue de Sceaux.
The palace has three courtyards: Cour des Ministres (Courtyard of Ministers), the Cour Royale (royal courtyard) equestrian statue of Louis XIV and the Cour de Marbre (Marble Courtyard) with part of the buildings forming an element of the hunting lodge of the Louis XIII castle, made of white stone and red brick.
Going from Cour Royale and passing the Louis XIV wing, you finally reach the interior of the palace, which houses the Museum of the History of France. Palace of Versailles had served as a model for architects who designed royal residences in other countries (such as Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam or the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg).