Le Salon des Glaces, or Hall of Mirrors. That majestic room sent me daydreaming in class from 5th grade History class, through Art History 101 at Smith College and finally during my crash course two year demi-license at the University of Geneva.
From an art history perspective, it's not too complicated. LeBrun (think the color) did the interiors of Versailles, LeNotre (think the average but fancy coffee shop) did the gardens. And not to forget Jeff Koons who had the audacity and the priviledge of inflating super baloons and hanging pneumatic lobsters in this lavish Hall of Mirrors!
When my oldest son studied Versailles in fifth grade, I reviewed the concepts one more time, making it a fourth. Moreover I insisted that the whole family watch Sophia Copolla's "Marie Antoinette", an alternative period film about this infamous woman, mostly for them to discover the beauty of Versailles, imagine the courtisans, the hunts and especially to see how much Marie Antoinette loved her pastel macarons! We all held our breath waiting for the famed anachronism in the movie: pink high top converse sneakers belonging to Marie Antoinette, tucked beside her pale feet. An adorable moment in the film.
When we decided to celebrate my son's ten year birthday in Paris two weeks ago, the kids were beyond thrilled, more so with the excitement of visiting Versailles over their first trip to Euro Disney. Our five year old daughter searched for courtisans behind the hedges, wondered from which door Marie Antoinette escaped on that fatal day, and asked me how she had really died.
My husband was happy on his golf cart, driving his tribe and in-laws through the symmetrical gardens and ponds landscaped by Le Notre. The birthday boy was stunned by the three immense paintings of Napoleon by David, especially the Crowning of Josephine (just like in his text book). The youngest, who will probably not remember much from this trip, walked into the Salon des Glaces and exclaimed in his classical Arabic: "Mama, hathihi fi al bayt fi Dubai" (mama we have this in our home in Dubai).
Indeed, a few years ago, we were fortunate to have discovered, at the auspiciously named ArtParis in AbuDhabi (now called Art AbuDhabi), a 2m x1m photograph of the Salon des Glaces by Patrick Tourneboeuf, a french photographer. I was taken by the idea of owning such a beautiful and iconic representation of French history. The photograph has a deep perspective with an effect of being in the actual room.
Visiting Versailles in person with grandparents and children was a very emotional and enjoyable experience. It certainly doesn't have that Disney tourism feel that many historical sites have acquired. Now our Tourneboeuf photograph of the Salon Des Glaces will seem even more familiar upon my return to Dubai, and I can remind our kids: We stood in that room!