Jean-Baptiste Charpentier the elder The Duke of Penthièvre and his family c.1798 (detail) © Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Christophe Fouinonference

Friday 17 – Saturday 18 March 2017 | National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

On the occasion of the Versailles: Treasures from the Palace exhibition at the NGA, which brings major works of art from the Palace of Versailles to Canberra, this conference showcases the latest ideas about the lives of past people and objects, as well as the living culture of Versailles today.

See the website for full details and to register:

Staged in Canberra, which like Versailles is a planned capital city, centre of government and culture, this is a unique opportunity to explore the enduring influence and resonance of Versailles, its desires and self-perceptions of modernity, from film to fashion to architecture. Gathering a generation of scholars whose work is shifting our perceptions of the art, culture and life of ancien-régime Versailles and its reception, this is the occasion for fresh and challenging research, and new perspectives on canon-defining works.

1664 is formative in the history of Versailles—the year a modest hunting lodge began to be transformed, to become a centre of art, fashion and power in Europe for more than a century. The dream of Versailles as an enchanted isle for the French aristocracy came to a grisly end with the 1789 revolution. Only two years later, the first fleet of British colonists came to settle on the east coast of Australia, on what Robert Hughes famously dubbed ‘the fatal shore’. Life at Versailles changed irreparably just as it would for those who lived in, and migrated to, Australia at the close of the eighteenth century.

Versailles was not the static creation of one man but a hugely complex cultural space, a centre of power, of life, love, anxiety and creation, as well as an enduring palimpsest of aspirations, desires and ruptures. The splendour of the castle, and the masterpieces of art and design it contains, masks a more sordid history. The conference’s theme, Enchanted isles, fatal shores, encourages examination of the tensions between splendour and misery, insiders and outsiders, display and privacy that framed life at Versailles.


Prominent overseas and local speakers discuss the people, art and architecture of Versailles, the fashion, music and politics of eighteenth-century France, as well Versailles’ reception and resonances into the twenty-first century. Curators from the Louvre, Getty, Victoria & Albert Museum and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, join scholars and researchers from Canberra, Sydney, Wellington, Hong Kong, Los Angeles and New York for a richly-layered, multi-disciplinary event exploring Versailles and celebrating Versailles: Treasures from the Palace.

This conference is a collaboration between the Australian National University, University of Sydney and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

Sing d’Arcy (UNSW): Heavenly voice, earthly bodies: The physical presence of music making in the architectural space of Versailles

Wolf Burchard (National Trust, UK): At the centre of the world: Charles Le Brun’s Ambassadors Staircase at Versailles

Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell (LA): Bigwigs: Hair, politics, and power at the court of Versailles

Jennifer Ferng (USyd): American Versailles: Kitsch opulence, capitalism and McMansion dreams in Florida

Bénédicte Gady (Louvre): The grands décors of Charles Le Brun: Between plan and serendipity

Sarah Grant (V&A):  Courting favour: The apartments and residence of the Princess of Lamballe at Versailles

Mimi Hellman (Skidmore): (Re)Imagining the ‘government’ of a royal governess

Allison Holland (Perth): Reverberations of Japanese art at Versailles

Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide(Met): Outside insider: Cornelis Hop (1685–1762), Dutch ambassador to the court of Louis XV

Florian Knothe (HKU): Artisans du roi: Collaborations at the Gobelins, Louvre and the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture under the influence of the Petite Académie

Louis Marchesano (Getty): Strategies of engraving and etching in Description de la grotte de Versailles 1676

Matthew Martin (NGV): Porcelain and power: The meaning of porcelain in ancien régime France

Meredith Martin (NYU/IFA): From port to palace: Maritime art and Mediterranean servitude at Louis XIV’s Versailles

David Maskill (Wellington): A Turk in the Hall of Mirrors

Sophie Matthiesson (NGV): From fountains of Apollo to fountains of Liberty: Artificial landscape as political spectacle in eighteenth-century France

Mark de Vitis (USyd): The politics of embellishment in prints of Louis XIV

Robert Wellington (ANU): Tanned by the Sun King: Donald Trump and Louis XIV

Hannah Williams (London): The other palace: Versailles and the Louvre

Venue: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, with additional events at the Australian National University and the University of Sydney

Conveners: Mark Ledbury, Power Professor of Art and Visual Culture, University of Sydney; Robert Wellington, Lecturer, ANU School of Art Centre for Art History and Art Theory; and Lucina Ward, Senior Curator and coordinating curator for the exhibition, National Gallery of Australia.

For conference enquiries email or phone +61 2 6240 6432.