The first post of the week seen in the Instagram – A collection of this week’s stories, musings and pictures. The first… The first of a new beginning. The first story. Like anything in life, there must be a first step, and sometimes that first step is the most difficult to take, but here I am making that first step in uncovering our world – a feat even more difficult than writing in my case. And so I thought that with the beginning of the journey I would tell you of a lovely Chinese proverb that summarises the feelings I have as I write this first post. It goes along the lines of reading 10,000 books is not the same as walking 10,000 li, and it is in this first post that we travel our first li. Here we begin to walk and write the beginning of a ‘book’ which I hope inspires others to also walk their first li. And I hope that not only through reading and seeing where I’ve travelled, you too will uncover your own world in your own way and share in the journey under each post. So to begin, here we are looking at a statue, one which is tucked into one of my favourite places near Paris – the Palace of Versailles. And it is here in Versailles that we begin the journey of 10,000 li.
Statues are my favourite form of artistic expression…
The way they can capture emotion, stories, myths, legends and the culture of the time really fascinate me. Whenever I think about where I would be if I had pursued my love of art growing up, it would have been a journey of learning to express myself through the medium of sculpture. Though perhaps not in stone work as I’ve always had a deeper interest in metal work and in particular using wire to sculpt. In any case though, being able to walk around Versailles and see all these beautifully sculpted records of history always brings an inspiration to keep up art as a hobby, even if it’s not a career. To be creative and put your thoughts into an art form is in many respects the way to live. I think it is important to slow down in life and be patient with what you are seeking to achieve, just like a sculptor who has no doubt spent hours upon hours toiling at his work to achieve his vision. And with so many sculptures on display at Versailles you can be humbled by the works of artists and sculptors who made the palace as beautiful as it is over the years.
‘Ugh… it wasn’t me! It was that guy… The one with the one with the curly hair… No not the one with the sword! The scholar!’
Whether it is a sculpture, a painting, or a photograph, everything has a story. Sometimes it’s the story in your head that you create, other times it’s the hidden sentiments left by the artist, but no matter the story, it’s not just a picture that paints a 1000 words but anything really. And what’s great about Versailles palace is that each sculpture depicts its own set of stories and gives the opportunity for your imagination to run wild. It’s what so great about the palace grounds, especially when you go into the garden. You are truly walking amongst different stories. From the soldier who points at something, to the scholar, or that man with the sword (the three first posts of Uncover Our World), there are many other sculptures in the park that you can go and admire and read up on the myths and stories they are trying to depict. A lot of them are of greek and ancient roman origin which is great if you love that part of history like I do! The sculptures are the main reason I love to walk around the gardens so look forward to seeing more of them in posts to come!
700 horses? No we need more!
So one of the things I love doing when going to a new place is reading up on the stories and history that often go unmentioned when walking around and looking at plaques. Sometimes even the guide books do not mention the more interesting stories but make it all very factual based. I mean is it really that interesting to know how big the Versailles complex is in square meters? To be honest I couldn’t tell you the answer, but what I can tell you is that at the point of its completion in the 17th Century, there were over 700 horses and over 30 carriage buildings kept in Versailles! And the best part is, this still wasn’t enough to meet all the needs of those living there. Can you imagine that? 700+ great beasts kept in the area? It’s hard enough walking past a local stables and seeing 10 horses let alone 70 times that number. For me it’s this sort of fact that really makes you wonder and understand the size of the place you’re in. So to really enjoy the place you’re in, have a read up on some history before you go!
Okay so sometimes sculptures can go to really weird places… but that’s what makes them so great. A monkey riding a goat; nothing gets more comical than that! Now what’s actually really fascinating about this piece is that it’s based on one of Aesop’s fables: ‘The War between the Birds and the Beasts’. A quick summary of the story is that in the war the bats took the side of the birds and then the beasts depending on who held the advantage. Then at the post war peace conference their conduct and deceit in picking sides was discussed and it was decided that they would be driven out to liven in the dark ruins. The moral is essentially that the deceitful have no friends. Now Aesop’s fables are a must read in general, but moving back to the sculpture, a fun fact is that up until the late 18th Century, there existed a labyrinth with 39 sculptures representing the different fables. I wish I could have seen it! But it’s still fun knowing that these stories which have been around for centuries inspired a creative presence within a royal ground.
So the Chapel you see now at Versailles is actually the 5th one built and was one of Louis XIV’s construction projects. Its build was started in 1689, paused due to war, and then continued from 1699, finished in 1710. It was a focal point of the Ancien Régime, and it’s certainly impressive inside. The decorative art takes inspiration from old and new testament biblical stories so when you visit try and discover which stories were used! It is a great short stop on your trip around the palace so try not to miss it.
No expense was spared in building the palace and surrounding gardens. Versailles is a truly impressive site to behold as it was built to play court to 3000 residents, including the king and queen, other members of the royal family, as well as important members of government. In terms of the gardens, it comes up to 800 hectares, and you’ll find beautiful fountains, statues, and vistas.
Fun facts for curious minds:
1. There are 400 sculptures and 1400 fountains at the Palace of Versailles
2. Louis XIV the Sun King moved into Versailles in 1682 from his other Palace the Louvre. He did this to avoid assassination attempts
3. He moved all governance and power with him to keep it within his control as he had left central Paris
4. The palace was so decorated it contained 5000 pieces of furniture and 6000 paintings #damnson 5. The grounds also had a stable nearby for 800 horses
The Palace of Versailles is truly a charming place and a must see destination for anyone coming to Paris. You can very easily spend a day her just exploring the palace itself and the gardens. If the weather is good, why not picnic in the gardens too, or go for a boat ride on the lake? I have visited this place countless times and I never get bored of it!
Mirror mirror on the wall, how much history have
you done saw?
This place is of such historical importance that it is most certainly a must see destination. When thinking about how the World War treaties were signed here, it really brings a solemnity to the place. And yet this room is so immaculately decorated, creating a dissonance between the horrors of war, and the exchange of riches for the victors. To see what is truly impressive in this room, all you need to do is to look up. So beautifully painted, crafted and designed. An impressive room, an impressive history, and many provocations of the idea of war. Mirror mirror on the wall, what is the point of war at all?
Fun facts part 2:
1. The kitchens were far away from the King’s dining room which meant by the time he would have his meal it would already be cold!
2. Everything King Louis XIV did was turned into a ceremony, including his morning routine. Ministers would have to gather in front of his bedside as he was woken up and took care of business
3. The king had 200 servants in the Palace
4. Kings and Queens had separate rooms 5. Approx 5 million people visit the palace each year and 9 million the gardens
So what did you think of this weeks collection of stories and musings? Any thoughts of your own? Comment down below, and thank you for reading. For daily stories and pictures make sure to follow the Instagram.
Editor: Leonardo Buter
Uncover Our World