At first, the idea was to create a book based on the accounts of people who visited the palace, such as diplomats and nobles.
But Danielle Kisluk-Grosheide, in charge of decorative art and sculpture at the Met, and Bertrand Rondot, chief curator at Versailles, ultimately decided to do a full-blown exhibit, which is open through July 29.
Depicting the beauty of Versailles so far away is a challenge. The Met is doing it with works from 53 sources and its own collection.
The exhibit features pieces and recreations of halls at the palace over the years, and audio for people to hear what visitors said of the palace way back in the day.
“There was a tradition in France, before Louis XIV already, that French subjects should have access to their king,” said Kisluk-Grosheide.
“But then having spent all this effort on creating this magnificent palace and these enormous gardens, they wanted to share this. Because this was all to the greater glory of France and Louis XIV. So it was a very politically calculated idea,” she added.
“They loved particularly to receive foreigners because they would write about it, just like we tweet about this or Instagram today. And it was all to impress with the might of France.”
The accounts also describe the rigid protocol in place at the French royal court.
One visitor depicted in the audio describes a visit by ambassadors who had to bow three times before approaching the king, then walk away backward, facing him as they left, even though he was no longer even looking at them.
Even after all these years, Versailles fascinates people, especially in America.
Kisluk-Grosheide said Americans love royalty — which they never experienced — but also French art.
And they have a special fondness for France since it supported the colonies when they fought for independence from Britain in the 18th century.
Even today, she said Versailles “is a place to dream.”