The royal residences

The royal residences

  • View of the Apollo Basin and the Grand Canal at Versailles in 1713.

    MARTIN Pierre-Denis, known as MARTIN the Younger (1663 - 1742)

  • View of the Grand Trianon castle taken from the Avenue in 1723.

    MARTIN Pierre-Denis, known as MARTIN the Younger (1663 - 1742)

  • General view of the Château de Marly, taken from the drinking trough.

    MARTIN Pierre-Denis, known as MARTIN the Younger (1663 - 1742)

View of the Apollo Basin and the Grand Canal at Versailles in 1713.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / All rights reserved

View of the Grand Trianon castle taken from the Avenue in 1723.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Hervé Lewandowski

General view of the Château de Marly, taken from the drinking trough.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Gérard Blot

Publication date: June 2014

University of Evry-Val d'Essonne

Historical context

Versailles at the crossroads of two reigns

This series of paintings by Pierre-Denis Martin (1663-1742) fits into a pivotal period in the history of the Palace of Versailles. The first painting was produced in 1713, at the end of the reign of Louis XIV, then aged seventy-five. The other two paintings were made in 1723 and 1724, at this time of renewal for the estate.

Student of Adam-François Van der Meulen, great painter of the military exploits of the Sun King, Pierre-Denis Martin, known as Martin le Jeune, excelled in the representation of royal residences. Ordinary painter and resident of Kings Louis XIV and Louis XV, he produced various paintings dedicated to the Palace of Versailles and the Palace of Marly.

These paintings are an extension of a first order made by Louis XIV. The other two paintings were commissioned by Marie-Anne de Bourbon-Conti, legitimized daughter of Louis XIV. Like the view of the Palace, these paintings were first installed in the dining room of the Château de Choisy-le-Roi, before entering the collection of the Palace of Versailles in the early 19th century.e century.

Image Analysis

Versailles entertainment

The painter plays with field effects and low-angle views which accentuate the perspective and allow to embrace a large territory. These paintings stage three places of pleasure: the central perspective of the Park, the Grand Trianon and the Château de Marly. They constitute an irreplaceable source in the history of Versailles, a form of snapshot of the life of the castle. Each painting includes a host of characters and represents very lively spaces.

In the first painting, the painter imagines an east-west axis below the royal alley which leads to the palace. The latter is made up of three main planes. The king and his suite strike a pose. Different characters carrying the order of the Holy Spirit turn their gaze to the viewer. The French guards, in blue coats and red pants, ensure the protection of the sovereign who, because of his advanced age, circulates in a rolling seat. The only figure covered, he wears the large plaque of the Order of the Holy Spirit and occupies a dominant position. In the background, the Apollo pool is animated by powerful jets that hide the statue of the Greek god placed in the center. The last shot opens onto an infinite perspective, with the Grand Canal crisscrossed by boats and gondolas.

With its narrow format close to a square, the painting dedicated to the Grand Trianon includes two plans that correspond to the access road, plus the courtyard and the castle. Mounted on a white horse, the regent Philippe of Orleans gives his instructions, while the procession maneuvers in the courtyard to retrieve the little sovereign who is waiting on the steps, in the center of the peristyle.

The painting at the Château de Marly is produced in the same format as the previous one, probably to constitute a coherent decorative whole. The young king’s coach is preceded by a long escort, with riders cooling their horses at a drinking trough. In the background, the ponds are framed on either side by pavilions. In the background, the central pavilion is located in the heart of a green theater which forms a large amphitheater.


Domesticated nature

The first two paintings by Pierre-Denis Martin describe the state of the estate after several decades of development during which the king sought to make the park of Versailles an additional tool in the quest for absolute power. This faithful description concerns the gardens designed by Le Nôtre and the various works carried out by the king's architects. These transform the old hunting ground into a vast green parterre which demonstrates that the sovereign also masters nature. The alliance of plants and water forms a French-style park shaped in the image of the king.

In the first painting, Louis XIV participates in the rite of the promenade. He walks through his beloved gardens, of which he himself designs a visit itinerary entitled Way of showing the gardens of Versailles. The Apollo Basin is part of the myth of the Sun King, whose action is linked to gods from Greek mythology. The ruler describes the site in these terms: “We will descend to Apollo, where we will pause to consider the figures, the vases of the royal alley, Latona and the castle; we will also see the canal. "

A stone's throw from the palace, the Grand Trianon, or Marble Trianon, was built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart from 1687. The objective is to create a more intimate setting for the king, far from the strict etiquette of the palace. Martin le Jeune's painting underlines the great refinement of the place by representing the art of cutting and assembling white limestone stones, pink marble veneers and a peristyle connecting two buildings. In line with his return to Versailles, the young Louis XV reinvests the premises.

The representation of the Château de Marly describes a last important place in the daily life of the sovereign, eight kilometers north of Versailles. Built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1679, the castle is located in a park whose length it is difficult to imagine as the perspective is deep. The central pavilion is the privileged reception area for those close to the king, again with a very delicate decor. The twelve pavilions allocated to the guests refer to the stars that revolve around the Sun. All around, nature once again participates in the royal splendor. In addition, Martin's painting fills a great historical void, because various reorganizations intervene in the XVIIIe century, before the total destruction of the castle at the beginning of the XIXe century.

  • Versailles
  • Louis XIV
  • Louis XV
  • architecture
  • monarchical court
  • Bourbons
  • Le Nôtre (André)
  • Great Century
  • Hardouin Mansart (Jules)


Joël CORNETTE (dir.), Versailles, the power of stone, Paris, Tallandier, 2006.

Laurent LEMARCHAND, Absolute Monarchy between two capitals (1715-1723), Paris, Committee for Historical and Scientific Work, 2014.

· LOUIS XIV, Way of showing the gardens of Versailles, Paris, R.M.N., 2001.

Vincent MAROTEAUX, Versailles, the king and his domain, Paris, Picard, 2000.

Gérard SABATIER, Versailles or the figure of the king, Paris, Albin Michel, 1999.

To cite this article

Stéphane BLOND, "The royal residences"

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