Human Interest

The animals of French royalty return to the Palace of Versailles

Versailles, France, Oct 16 (EFE).- Ostriches, chameleons and elephants this week returned to the Palace of Versailles as part of an exhibition that for the first time shows the variety of species that rubbed shoulders with the kings of France on this sprawling former royal estate.

“The Palace of Versailles was populated by animals. They were everywhere,” Alexandre Maral, curator and curator of “The King’s Animals,” composed of more than 300 works from French and international museums, told EFE.

In addition to more exotic species, there were also many pets living at the palace with members of the royal family and courtiers, such as dogs, cats, parrots and monkeys.

“Therefore, it can be said that it was a place where animals lived like kings,” Maral said.

The over 2,000 horses that lived in Versailles and were portrayed in the 17th century by great artists such as Belgian artist Adam François Van der Meulen, were used for hunting, war and to pull the court carriages, but also to represent the king’s power.

The animals were loaded with political symbolism in the Ancien Régime, as demonstrated in the decoration of the palace and gardens, where the fauna symbolizes the greatness of France over other nations.

The paintings in the exhibition show the abundance of monkeys at Versailles, although most of the time they remained confined to the apartments and were absent from the public sphere, as they were considered playthings for children and women.

Birds were frequently included in royal portraits and became the distinctive element of Louis XIV’s animal collection, as they helped project a pacifist image in the relations of the so-called “Sun King”.

“Animals had a political function in Versailles, since it was a place of power, so everything had a political symbolism,” Maral said. EFE


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