The Petit Apartment of the Queen, situated behind the Grand Apartments, and open onto two interior courtyards, were the private domain of the Queens of France, Maria Theresa of Spain, Marie Leszczyńska, and Marie-Antoinette.
These rooms which were originally built in 1699 underwent several renovations and are shown as they appeared during the reign of Marie-Antoinette. Beginning in 1781 Marie-Antoinette with the help of her favourite architect, Richard Mique, increased the number of chambers, added mezzanines, and created a refuge where the Queen could retreat to a private life.
Unlike the grand apartments, the petit rooms were given far more specific roles, had more personal touches, and were more intimate in scale. Marie-Antoinette and her architects paid considerable attention to the countless details that went in making every interior, private room unique and useful to the Queen’s more intimate needs. The Grand rooms of her apartment were used for formal audiences, small plays, and dining in view of privileged nobles, while the smaller apartments were used by the Queen to read, choose her wardrobes, listen to music, and be with her children in private. The Queen, especially, placed a high level of importance in the separating of her public and private life, not only in time and activity, but also in places where such activity would and could occur.
This handmade model includes 12 rooms, 4 hallways, 9 fireplaces, 54 pieces of furniture, and one hand painted area rug. This model began after visiting these rooms three years ago and has become a labor of love. The parquet floors, wood paneling, and furnishings are all done by hand and based upon a great deal of research to ensure authentic room recreations. The model is surrounded by a wood case which includes three drawers lined with velvet to store the furniture. These drawers are in place of what in the actual palace were attic spaces in which tanks were installed to catch rain water for the baths below. This section of the palace, wedged between two interior courtyards, was the private realm of Marie Antoinette at Versailles. The main room and largest within these apartments was the Cabinet Dore, given its name for its profusion of gilt work after its redecoration in 1783 by architect Richard Mique. This room was used as a private living room for the Queen in which she spent time with children and closest friends, took music lessons, sat for portraits by Vigee LeBrun, and housed a collection of Asian Lacquer pieces. The small adjoining room known as the Poets Salon was decorated with paneling brought from the first floor apartments and is one of the last examples of Martins Varnish within the Palace. The supplemental library, the name refereeing to the larger library that it opened onto, has a style very austere to that of many of the rooms within the Palace and shows s preference towards the cleaner more classic lines of Louis XVI period. Marie Antoinette appreciated the illusion of fully stocked book shelves which inspired the Trompe le’oil treatment on the rooms doors. Behind the library are the original bathing rooms which opened onto the interior courtyard of Monsignor. These rooms received very little natural light and were later scarcely used one the new, brighter bathroom was completed on the floor below in 1785. The rooms located above the Cabinet Dore were even more intimate spaces in which very few even in the day of Marie Antoinette had any idea of there existence. These rooms are intimate in scale, even by today’s standards, with lower ceilings and a cohesive approach to design which is seldom seen in Palaces like Versailles. The largest of these rooms was used as a private dining room for intimate meals with family and friends. These small rooms used by Marie Antoinette and her ladies in waiting are decorated with cheerful wallpaper and portraits of Marie Antoinette’s Hapsburg relatives. Very little is known of the furnishings of these rooms so the furniture is based upon pieces that are known to have belonged to Marie Antoinette. The Petit Apartments model was recently featured at the San Francisco Design Center, http://sf.racked.com/archives/2013/06/18/visit-versailles-at-the-sf-design-center.php