We have launched a new website and are reviewing this page. Find out more
Open daily 10.00 to 17.45 Admission free Menu
Room 5: The Rise of France, 1660–1720

The Friends of the V&A Gallery

France was the major power in Europe by 1700. Louis XIV promoted his state through the arts, encouraging French workshops to make luxury goods for home and export. The state apartments of the palace of Versailles were furnished with these goods, which impressed foreign visitors and offered models for their own grand buildings. Later, French aristocratic life moved to Paris, making it the centre of European fashion. French style spread through word of mouth and new periodicals such as Le Mercure Galant.

Room 5 [Map] is part of the new Europe 1600-1815 Galleries

View all objects in Europe 1600-1815, Room 5
 


Hunting

Hunting was central to the standing of European princes. Entire landscapes were modified to make way for hunts hosted from palatial lodges. Hunts were expensive ceremonies and being invited was an honour for visiting diplomats, who were sometimes flattered with gifts of weapons. Game was jealously guarded, the most prized quarry being stag. Specialised weapons targeted boar, hare, birds and wolves. Hunting scenes featured in paintings and decorated cabinets, wall tiles and tapestries, as well as weapons.

Double-barrelled wheel-lock pistol, formerly in the Cabinet d’Armes of Louis XIII of France, 1600-25, France, wood inlaid with copper alloy wire, pewter and horn, steel barrel. Museum no. M.13-1923, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Double-barrelled wheel-lock pistol, formerly in the Cabinet d’Armes of Louis XIII of France, 1600-25, France, wood inlaid with copper alloy wire, pewter and horn, steel barrel. Museum no. M.13-1923, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Video: Weapons

This film shows the different firing mechanisms used on a 17th and an early 18th-century gun.

Drinking

Across Europe, alcoholic drink was deemed essential for the good health and harmony of society at all levels. Rituals, such as toasting and drinking games, were performed using vessels made with a variety of materials and decorative techniques. Decoration was inspired by Classical and Christian traditions. Drinking rituals encouraged and declared fellowship among men, love between married couples, and the loyalty of subjects to their rulers.

Window panel (detail), possibly by the Lingg 
workshop, 1634, France (Alsace), clear and coloured glass painted with 
enamels. Museum no. C.112-1934, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Window panel (detail), possibly by the Lingg workshop, 1634, France (Alsace), clear and coloured glass painted with enamels. Museum no. C.112-1934, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Drinking cup (kovsh), about 
1735, Russia, partly gilded silver. Museum no. M.37-1949, © Victoria and
 Albert Museum, London

Drinking cup (kovsh), about 1735, Russia, partly gilded silver. Museum no. M.37-1949, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Panelled Room

This panelled bedchamber came from the Château de la Tournerie in north-west France. It was probably made between 1682 and 1694, but it is in a style that would have been old-fashioned and harked back to the 1630s. The panelling, possibly not in its original configuration, is richly decorated in a combination of painting and gilding. The subjects are taken from the Bible, classical mythology and contemporary emblem books.

Panelled room from the Château de la Tournerie in north-west France, 1682-1694. Museum no. 881-1903, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Panelled room from the Château de la Tournerie in north-west France, 1682-1694. Museum no. 881-1903, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Louis XIV

Bust of 
Louis XIV, about 1660, France (Paris), bronze. Museum no. A.54-1951, © 
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Bust of Louis XIV, about 1660, France (Paris), bronze. Museum no. A.54-1951, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Louis XIV’s policies towards art and design made Paris the centre of luxury production in Europe. The royal residences, in particular Versailles, were a stage for the king’s public life. They became the showplace for high-quality furniture, furnishings and lavish fashions in dress. Under the directorship of Charles Le Brun, the Gobelins workshops produced tapestries and furniture in a unified style, which celebrated the king’s power and spread to other parts of Europe.


Video: Het Loo Palace

This film shows how the design of the Palace of Versailles near Paris was emulated at Het Loo Palace in the Netherlands in the late 17th century.

Male Adornment

Wealthy European men devoted as much attention as women to their appearance. By the late 17th century most wore French fashions, their choice of fabrics and garments revealing where they fitted in the social hierarchy. At court and in some well-to-do households, the act of dressing was a time-consuming and ritualised procedure. It was an honour to be invited to attend these rituals and witness the shaving of face and head, the coiffing of hair or wig, and the careful selection of accessories such as swords and canes, spurs and watches, lace cuffs and cravats.

Man in 
winter suit with cane, by Jean Le Pautre after Jean Bérain, from the 
fashion supplement of Le Mercure Galant, 1678, France (Paris), etching 
and engraving. Museum no. E.266-2014, © Victoria and Albert Museum, 
London

Man in winter suit with cane, by Jean Le Pautre after Jean Bérain, from the fashion supplement of Le Mercure Galant, 1678, France (Paris), etching and engraving. Museum no. E.266-2014, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Banyan, 
1690-1720, made in western Europe from fabric woven in China, silk 
damask. Museum no. T.31-2012, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Banyan, 1690-1720, made in western Europe from fabric woven in China, silk damask. Museum no. T.31-2012, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Boulle Marquetry

Boulle marquetry is a form of decoration created from veneers of turtle shell, metals and other materials. First developed in the late 17th century, it was named after André-Charles Boulle, cabinet-maker to Louis XIV and a leading practitioner of the method. Boulle marquetry was fashionable at European courts throughout the 18th century. In its use of turtle shell and other exotic and costly materials, it rivalled the colour and luxury of objects decorated with lacquer or inlaid hardstones.

Box, about 
1695-1710, France (Paris), oak and walnut veneered with ebony, marquetry
 in turtle shell, mother-of-pearl, brass, tin and copper. Museum no. 
1022-1882, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Box, about 1695-1710, France (Paris), oak and walnut veneered with ebony, marquetry in turtle shell, mother-of-pearl, brass, tin and copper. Museum no. 1022-1882, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Performance

In the 17th century, the courts of Europe were entertained by a variety of musical performances. Operas, often staged to celebrate dynastic events, reinforced political ideologies through their plots and impressed audiences with their complex stage machinery. Instrumental ensembles such as Louis XIV’s Twenty-Four Violins of the King paved the way for the development of the orchestra. This evolution was assisted by the invention of the oboe at the French court and the development of stringed instruments such as the violin.

Violin, by 
Antonio Stradivari, 1699, Italy (Cremona), sycamore. Museum no. 
W.104-1937, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Violin, by Antonio Stradivari, 1699, Italy (Cremona), sycamore. Museum no. W.104-1937, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Dish with a musical party, 
about 1700-10, China (Jingdezhen), porcelain painted in underglaze blue.
 Museum no. C.38-1969, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Dish with a musical party, about 1700-10, China (Jingdezhen), porcelain painted in underglaze blue. Museum no. C.38-1969, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Parisian Interiors

By the time Louis XIV died, in 1715, Paris had become the centre of elegant living in France. The aristocracy and wealthy professional classes bought or built houses in the fashionable districts of the city, decorating them in a manner pioneered by the designer Jean Bérain. Light-hearted and purely ornamental, this new style suited the smaller rooms being introduced into Parisian apartments. These rooms also required new types of furniture appropriate to the size of the spaces.

Tapestry, woven at the Beauvais Tapestry 
Manufactory, designed by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer, 1700-20, France 
(Beauvais), wool and silk. Museum no. T.54-1955, © Victoria and Albert 
Museum, London

Tapestry, woven at the Beauvais Tapestry Manufactory, designed by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer, 1700-20, France (Beauvais), wool and silk. Museum no. T.54-1955, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

V&A Innovative Leadership Programme

The V&A Innovative Leadership Programme is aimed at managers working in the arts & creative industries looking to develop new skills, insight and opportunity. Applications are now open for the next course.

Apply now