Documentary Resources

The Exterior Decorative Work of Versailles

Access directly to the “VDSE” Database (in French).

The Exterior Decorative Work of Versailles database by Béatrix Saule, general curator and director of the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles, was jointly produced by the Établissement public du Musée et du domaine national de Versailles and the Réunion des Musées nationaux. It has been online since October 2005.

It is a multimedia inventory-catalogue of all the sculpted decorative works adorning the exterior walls of buildings in the Domaine national du château de Versailles et de Trianon. Never previously considered, either for themselves or exhaustively, they are now listed, photographed, indexed and documented. The information in this inventory is equivalent to five volumes of 500 pages each.

The most original aspect of this catalogue is its topographic and architectural approach, as the decorative sculpture was subject to the architecture around it, which dictated everything: how the work was created, its shape, its material and even its theme. Each of the thirty chapters, accessed through the general summary or through plans of the grounds, and each dealing with a facade, building or space, is prefaced by a short exposé on the architecture of the setting before moving on to details of the particular decorative element. There is also a short abstract about the decoration, indicating, if applicable, the pieces of particular interest and the existence of an iconographic programme, as well as a precise location for finding the explanatory texts.

Each of the 1,315 numbers in the inventory corresponds to a different model and to one or several explanatory texts giving the work’s precise location, inventory number and category, attribution to one or more sculptors or artisans, the shape, material and dimensions, a description, an account of its creation, a note of any restorations or modifications, a bibliography and, of course, one or several zoomable illustrations. In all, over 3,000 illustrations enable the decorations to be seen from different angles, and allow details that are not visible to the naked eye to be enlarged. The user can also see any changes in relation to the preparatory drawing or original state, and learn of decorations that have been destroyed where drawings, sketches and engravings, etc., remain.

Through its numbering system, the inventory also highlights the horizontal and vertical image translation, establishes a hierarchy that conveys the links between works (pendants, part of a series, recurring motifs, etc.) and matches works in situ (original and copies) with those kept in reserve collections or destroyed.

To locate the desired information, the user has a number of search options: by inventory number, which can be done at any point, by advanced search that allows cross referencing (title, status of the work, artists, materials, location and date), by artist’s name, type of materials or iconographic theme. Users can also save and classify under “Files”, the explanatory texts of works chosen during searches, a useful asset for those with a keen interest in the subject.

Finally, complementary tools allow the user to consult the 100 pages of references to archives of the works in question, the synoptic index of works in situ, in reserve collections or destroyed, as well as the chronology of when they were created, destroyed, restored or copied, and even a table of those who commissioned them and those who made them. Access the website through the Centre’s resource portal (in French).

Website produced with the support of:
Château de Versailles
Conseil général des Yvelines
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