Plafond du grand escalier du château de Versailles
The Great Stair, also called the Ambassadors’ Staircase, was built in 1674–1679 to provide a ceremonial access to the king’s state apartment. Its walls and ceiling were lavishly decorated under the supervision of Charles Le Brun. In 1752, this architectural and iconographic tour de force was demolished to make room for additional apartments for the daughters of Louis XV. Only one painted panel escaped destruction, but a complete visual record (albeit in black and white) exists, thanks to more than thirty large and intricate prints created between 1679 and 1725.
A tour de force in its own right, Simonneau’s engraving attempts to capture in a single plate the entirety of Le Brun’s illusionistic painting. The perimeter of the vault is populated with a profusion of deities, muses, months, and continents, along with their animals and attributes. Around the central skylight are eight historical scenes starring Louis XIV, intermingled with allegorical vignettes representing royal virtues and arts.