‘Salle des Maréchaux’, Lost Interiors of the Tuileries

‘Salle des Maréchaux’

c.1865

tuileries salle des marechaux

‘Salle des Maréchaux’

Florent Grau

1858

salle des marecheaux 1858 florent grau

The Salle des Maréchaux, or Room of the Marshalls, occupied the Pavillon de l’Horloge, the great domed structure at the centre of the Tuileries. The Pavilon de l’Horloge, perhaps the most striking feature of the palace’s colossal 260m western facade, was part of Catherine de Medici’s 16th century palace but it was largely altered by le Vau for Louis XIV at the end of the 17th century. This was the entrance hall of the Baroque palace but it was extensively rebuilt internally by Percier and Fontaine for Napoleon at the start of the 19th century. The Salle des Maréchaux was constructed at this time. An enormous chamber which stood over the entrance vestibule, the Salle des Maréchaux extended up through two floors and was crowned with a golden dome. One feature of the room was a mezzanine floor that ran around the apartment supported on corbels. Another was the four caryatids modelled on those by the Renaissance sculptor Jean Goujon at the nearby Louvre (the caryatids are visible in the second of the two stereoviews). The room was a spectacular example of the remarkably influential First Empire style which was essentially born at the Tuileries and which went on to take Europe by storm. The room was adorned with portraits and statues of famous French marshals, generals and admirals, and so it acquired its name.  It was originally used as the guardroom for Napoleon’s body of Swiss Guards but was later the scene of balls and functions.  In May 1871 one of the Commune’s leaders, Jules Burgeret, ordered barrels of gunpowder to be stacked up inside the Salle des Maréchaux. The walls of the staterooms were smeared with tar and petroleum and the building was set on fire. When the conflagration reached the gunpowder there was an enormous explosion and the Salle des Maréchaux disappeared in a mass of flames. Burgeret wrote immediately afterwards that “the last relics of Royalty have just vanished”. It is almost miraculous that the fire didn’t spread to The Louvre and destroy some of the greatest artworks of Western culture.

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