The Versailles of Maria Leszczynska in 18th Century France. is an exhibition currently on show at the Royal Castle in Warsaw and if you are as obsessed about 18th-Century French court life as I am, then you’ll think nothing of the 2.5 hour flight from London in order to see it. If you need information or where to stay or dine like a Queen during your visit to Poland’s capital, stay tuned as I will be doing a post on that very subject matter soon.
If you’re not familiar with who Maria Leszczynska was then here’s a few interesting facts about France’s Polish Queen to get you up to speed.
- Maria Leszczynska, daughter of Stanislaw Lesczynski the Polish King in exile, was wife to Louis XV (King of France from 1715 to 1774), whom she married when she was 22 and he was 15.
- She was hated by the courtiers of Versailles but loved by the common people. When reproached for not dressing smart she responded by saying: “I do not need gowns when the poor have no shirts.”
- Queen Maria bore Louis eight daughters (including a pair of twins) and two sons.
- The substantial age difference probably not helped by nine pregnancies, contributed to her husband Louis’ philandering in particular his tryst with the Marquise de Pomapadour. As a result of this very public affair, the Queen sought refuge among close friends and withdrew from court life. Ultimately dying at the age of 65 Queen Maria, if there was to be any small consolation, outlived her rival Madame de Pompadour by four years.
The exhibition is a collaboration of the Royal Castle in Warsaw and the Palace of Versailles. It features over one hundred items, mainly paintings of the sophisticated court centred aound Louis XV, among them the works by the crème de la crème of 18th Century artists such as; Jean-Marc Nattier (one of my favourite painters of that period), Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Jean-Baptiste van Loo, Hyacinthe Rigaud, Alexander Roslin, Pierre Gobert, Alexis-Simon Belle, François-Hubert Drouais and Joseph-Marie Vien. The names alone should get you excited enough to abandon your shopping plans for purchasing the new season Givenchy bag this weekend and hop on the plane to Warsaw. After all, it’s the new ‘it’ place to visit.