Everyone knows the Palace of Versailles. Pre-COVID, this masterpiece of French Baroque architecture was one of the most visited historical sites in the world. Approximately 10 million people visited every year, and it is easy to see why. The Palace of Versailles is spectacularly beautiful, not to mention incredibly historically significant. But in and amongst the opulence and gilded gates, it is easy to forget that the town of Versailles is so much more than just the palace. In particular, I recently discovered a hidden gem that only recently opened to the public – the Galerie des Sculptures et des Moulages.
To translate that into English, this hidden gem is the Gallery of Sculptures and Moldings. This is where you will find over 60 original statues that used to live in the gardens of Versailles. They date back to the 17th century, when they were created for King Louis XIV, otherwise known as the Sun King. For over a hundred years, these statues decorated the sprawling grounds of the French royal residence. However, when the French Revolution broke out in the late 18th century, the Palace of Versailles was sacked, and its contents and furniture were seized by the revolutionaries. Thankfully, many of the statues in the gardens were spared, and today, they are on display for all to see and enjoy.
But it is not just these statues that are on display. The Galerie des Sculptures et des Moulages is deceptively large, and it houses casts and moldings of some of the most famous artworks from both Roman and Greek antiquity. In fact, some of the casts on display are in better shape than their original counterparts in Athens! While these casts are housed in Versailles, they are part of the Greek and Roman department of the Louvre. Which means you will absolutely see a few familiar pieces as you explore the galleries. In particular, there was a certain headless winged victory tucked into a corner that made me do a double take as I walked by.
All in all, there must have been hundreds of statues and casts on display. As I walked up and down the aisles, I felt like I was on my own personal tour of Ancient Greece and Rome. In other words, I was in heaven. The building itself is also breathtakingly beautiful, with soaring ceilings and towering columns marking the borders of the galleries. It was hard to believe that this space once housed hundreds of horses as part of the daily operations of the palace.
The Galerie des Sculptures et des Moulages is located in the Small Stables, directly opposite the Palace of Versailles. It is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:30PM to 6:30PM, and even though it is technically part of the palace, it is free for all to enter. As far as I’m concerned, it truly is a hidden gem of Versailles. The next time you visit, don’t just visit the palace. I promise you, the town of Versailles has so much more to offer.
If you would like to discover more hidden gems of Versailles, consider joining the Versailles Experience. This experience begins with a 90 minute walking tour of the town of Versailles, followed by a 90 minute macaron class with Molly Wilkinson of French Pastry Made Simple. It’s perfect for those who have seen the palace and want to experience more of what Versailles has to offer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details and bookings.