Frédéric Didier admits that the grille at Versailles is not identical to the original one

27/8/08 — Heritage — Versailles, Château — Who are we supposed to believe ? Frédéric Didier, chief architect for historical monuments at Versailles, who went around stating that the royal grille recently inaugurated (see news item of 5/7/08) was identical to the original one [1] or Frédéric Didier, deftly interviewed on the Europe 1 radio by Franck Ferrand on 10 August and to whom he candidly admitted :

“[Along with the blacksmiths] We spent hours in fact together choosing each and every detail, sometimes with the help of archives of course but above all, the archives don’t tell us everything, by analogy based on authentic preserved elements either on the Versailles site or on other 17th century grilles. [2]”

thus validating what we had initially denounced ? The moral of this story is that when Frédéric Didier is not on his guard he manages to tell the truth.

We found out about the interview (which is on file on the website and which readers can listen to here - in French of course) thanks to a remarkable article by Bernard Hasquenoph which just appeared on his website Le Louvre pour tous, where he talks about the grille at Versailles but also in a more general way about the restitutions which have contributed for quite some time to the changes distorting Versailles [3].

The author has also unearthed an article by Pierre de Nolhac, dating back to 1934, which is extremely critical of policies seeking to restitute historical monuments which have disappeared. This is all the more ironical since the curator’s advice is regularly invoked to justify the worst possible excesses of the current policy for Versailles.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mercredi 27 août 2008


[1] The restitution of the grille at Versailles is “rigorous”, it is “supported by a solid and indisputable basis” (see our article of 25/3/07 on La Tribune de l’Art, in French).

[2] As this is a radio interview, the underlining is of course ours.

[3] Our only factor of disagreement with this article is his criticism of Viollet-le-Duc’s work. First of all, he was a brilliant architect ; secondly, he really saved many monuments, even if it was by partly rebuilding them ; and most of all, the principles of restoration in the 19th century were not the same as the ones we should have today when looking back historically (the Venice charter did not exist). Thus, Jean-Jacques Aillagon’s admiration for this Viollet-le-Duc is not to be disparaged.

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