We’ve shown you what it was like to live in style during the time of Louis XIV. Now, an exhibition at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Arras shows you what it was like to travel in style.
The fabulous Musée des Beaux Arts in Arras has an extraordinary exhibition in its hallowed halls. Following plans to decentralise art in France, a partnership between the Chateau de Versailles, the Town of Arras and the Nord Pas-de-Calais region means that the Musée des Beaux Arts will be exhibiting major collections from Versailles and elsewhere over a period of ten years commencing in March 2012.
The “Roulez Carrosses!” exhibition is the first of its kind in France — a world class exhibition and one devoted entirely to carriages; it is also the first time the royal Berlin coaches of the Musée des Carrosses de Versailles have been loaned.
The Musée des Beaux Arts is a magnificent building and museum in its own right. The staging of this display with its wonderful carriages, sedan chairs, sleighs, paintings, and sculptures ranging in age from the time of Louis XIV to the Third Republic is breathtaking.
11 June 1775, Louis XVI recently crowned King of France journeyed across Paris in his majestic carriage. Stopping at the College Louis-le-Grand a young student offered a compliment to the King. It meant nothing at the time — a chance meeting between an emperor and a poor student but that student would become well known to the King years later. Would he remember the carriage ride, the student, a native of Arras by the name Maximilien Robespierre?
Rich decorations required the skills of top craftsmen — painters, sculptors, upholsterers, carpenters, seamstresses and saddlers, emphasizing the power of the Royals and later the power of the State.
The horse-drawn coach of the coronation of Charles X (1825), extravagant and opulent, must have been a magnificent sight — it still is. Later used for the baptism of the Prince Imperial, son of Napoleon III.
Sledging was a popular past-time at the court of Versailles, originating from the Nordic courts. In the exhibition, you can see fantasy sledges in which King Louis XV and later Marie-Antoinette were pulled over the snow-covered paths in the park of Versailles or the frozen waters of the Grand Canal.
The sedan chair, an idea imported from England was easy to handle and popular on the streets of Paris and at Versailles.
The miniature carriage (circa 1785-1790) made for the Dauphin Louis-Charles, son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. One of very few to survive from the Royal collection.
Funeral Coach of Louis XVIII 1824. A team of eight black horses pulled the grand and imposing carriage from the Tuileries Palace to the Basilica of Saint-Denis.
In the courtyard of the museum — a modern depiction of a coach and horses, vibrant purple against the stonework is a dynamic homage to the beautiful carriages of yesteryear.
Roulez Carrosses exhibition Arras ends 10 November 2013
Website of Musée des Beaux Arts and for the Arras Tourist Information office
All photos by The Good Life France. This article was originally published on our partner site, The Good Life France.