Robert Polidori has the keys to the palace. But not the perfectly-polished, museum-ready palace we’re used to seeing from behind the velvet ropes. In the 1980s, the Canadian-born photographer won a contract to document the ongoing restoration of the historic French palace, giving him and his camera lense an all-access pass to backstage Versailles. When the school groups have gone home, inside hidden rooms that likely no tourist will ever see, Polidori has had the truly unique opportunity to capture the not-so-perfect palace; arguably a far more fascinating place.
Secret underground reserves of classical busts, ghostly guilded furniture stowed away under white sheets, unmounted paintings leaning next to open air vents, scrambled wires and torn seventeenth century wallpaper awaiting restoration; these are Polidor’s muses for his quietly brilliant still life pictures. I like to think them as a documented tour of Versailles through the handyman’s eyes– instead of the velvet rope, mind his toolbox and watch out for the ladder…
Taken in the Grand Cabinet du Dauphin, 1985, Galerie de Bellefeuille
Velvet wallpaper awaiting repair, taken in 1985, Robert Polidori.
In the Salle de Crimée Sud, taken in 2007, Galerie Karsten Greve.
Repairs needed. Taken in the Attique du Midi, 2005, Rose Gallery.
Taken in the Salle les princesses royales, 2010, Galerie de Bellefeuille.
Salle du Crimée Sud, first floor of the palace, 2007, Galerie de Bellefeuille.
Taken in the same room, earlier in 1985, Galerie de Bellefeuille.
Empty Frame, Salles du XVII, Edwynn Houk Gallery.
A security camera in the Grand Cabinet de Madame Victoire, taken in 2005, Galerie de Bellefeuille.
Leaning against a wall, seemingly unattended, the Marat assassiné, 1793, by a’telier of David. Photographed in 1985, Edwynn Houk Gallery.
Backstage plants at l’Orangerie, in the gardens of Versailles, taken in 1983, Camera Work.
A door left ajar in Marie-Antoinette’s library, taken in 2008, Re-title.
Salles des peintures XIXe Attique Chimay, Corps Central – Attique, Chateau de Versailles, taken in 2002, Camera Work.
Slashing plastic, taken in 2005, Galerie de Belle Feuille.
Princess and the pea (and the tacky plastic furniture cover). Marie Antoinette’s la Meridienne bed, photographed in 2007, Arthur Roger Gallery.
Stark & empty before renovation, Marie Antoinette’s bathroom, taken in 2006 (see the bathroom after renovation here), Arthur Roger Gallery.
The entrance hall of the former apartment of Mme Adélaïde de France, fourth daughter of King Louis XV, taken in 1985, Robert Polinori.
Robert Polinori’s photographic works are available to buy from the Arthur Roger Gallery, Galerie de Belle Feuille, Edwynn Houk Gallery, Camera Work, Galerie Karsten Greve.