The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is always the museum’s main event for fashion, but a smattering of historic styles will be found in “Visitors to Versailles” at the museum.
The exhibition bows April 16. Chief among the outfits in the newly opened exhibit is the three-piece suit worn by Benjamin Franklin during his visit to Versailles. The new exhibition at the Fifth Avenue museum also explores the various elements of a visit to the royal residence in the 17th and 18th centuries. Nearly 190 works from The Met, the Palace of Versailles and 50 different lenders are on view through July 29 in the Tisch Galleries.
As America’s first ambassador, Franklin was received by Louis XVI in 1778 and won the military support of France. Franklin’s three-piece suit from 1778-79 is on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The Met’s new show will also feature a French silk brocade grande robe à la française, 1775-85, which was believed to have been worn by one of the wives of Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf — a well-known textile manufacturer — for her visit with Marie Antoinette, as well as a men’s formal French suit and a women’s riding habit. The exhibition also features furniture, tapestries, carpets, costumes, porcelain, sculpture and more.
To relay a sense of grandeur, five galleries have been aligned with doorways to create a long theatrical vista and a sense of anticipation for the visitor. The setting includes customized wallpaper to reflect such palatial elements as marble inlays, pilasters, gilded paneling, wall hangings and mirrors. Museum patrons are meant to gain a sense of what visitors encountered at the court, what kind of welcome and access to the palace they received, and what impressions, gifts and souvenirs they took home with them.
Met-goers also can take a look at two virtual exhibitions — “Fashion at Versailles: Her” and “Fashion at Versailles: Him.” Last year, the Palace of Versailles and the Google Cultural Institute partnered through the We Wear Culture project to create the project. The virtual exhibitions provide a decryption of the fashion trends that first came to the forefront in the 1780s, under Louis XVI and around Marie Antoinette.
A different view of the historic palace will be shown this fall when “Versailles,” the Canal+ Creation Originale series, debuts in the U.S. on Ovation. The program delves into the far-reaching influence of the Sun King, as portrayed by George Blagden.