From the beginning of his personal reign in 1661 to his death in 1715, Louis XIV of France lavished special attention and resources on his beloved Versailles. Under the king’s close supervision, an army of artists, engineers, and workers ceaselessly enlarged the palace, remodeled its interiors, and embellished its gardens. At the same time, the best engravers of the age were employed to produce a lasting visual record of these transformations and to project the glorious image of the “Sun King” and his court around the globe.

This exhibition documents the contemporary representation of Versailles through a multifaceted array of prints, books, maps, medals, and manuscripts. It highlights in particular those elements that today survive only on paper: ephemeral festivals; short-lived creatures (courtiers, animals, flowers); fragile groves and fountains too costly to maintain; and once celebrated masterpieces of art and architecture that were irrevocably destroyed or altered. The “paper Versailles” is quite different from the one that millions of tourists visit every year and affords many unusual and surprising glimpses into a largely lost world.

All the books and prints on display were created in the 17th and 18th centuries. With only a few exceptions, they were selected from the holdings of Firestone and Marquand Libraries, acquired over the past 140 years. A large number of these items came as gifts; therefore, this exhibition also honors the curators, alumni, and friends of the Princeton University Library who have built its remarkable collections.

Exhibition Hours

Related Events

Special Screening of A Little Chaos
Wednesday, June 17, 7:00 p.m. Join us for a special sneak preview of A Little Chaos, presented in conjunction with the Garden Theater, located across the street from the Main Gallery. Alan Rickman directs and stars with Kate Winslet in this period piece about two talented landscape artists who become romantically entangled while building a garden in King Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles. Free admission. Reservations required.

Keynote Lecture and Opening Reception
Saturday, February 14, 3:00 p.m. "The Sun King's Garden: André Le Nôtre, Louis XIV, and the Creation of the Gardens of Versailles" will be presented by Ian Thompson in 101 McCormick Hall. A reception follows in the Main Gallery. Free and open to the public.

Concert in the Gallery
Sunday, March 29, 3:00 p.m.
Les Plaisirs de Versailles: Music for the Court of Louis XIV, performed by Les Agréments de musique (Minju Lee, harpsichord, and John Burkhalter, recorders), in the Main Gallery.

Versailles: A German Princess at
the Sun King's Court

Sunday, April 19, 2015 at 3:00 p.m.
   A dramatic musical program with Roberta Maxwell playing Elisabeth Charlotte and Paul Hecht as narrator & Saint-Simon with music from the court of Louis XIV by the Dryden Ensemble at the Miller Chapel, Princeton Theological Seminary.