The Palace of Versailles was built by Louis XIV to satisfy his love of hunting and country life, his taste for grandeur and his aversion to Paris. It was not just a royal palace, however. It was also a temple of the arts, intended – through the beauty of its gardens, sculptures, architecture and collections (some of the Italian pictures now in the Louvre could then be seen by the public in Versailles) – to act as a royal showcase for France and French artists. Versailles was intended to surpass ancient and modern Rome, to entice the growing number of Europeans making the grand tour to visit France as well as Italy, and, of course, to dazzle foreign princes and ambassadors.
The chief style master of Versailles – the artist who conceived the Galerie des Glaces, painted the king and his court, and designed the furniture and décors for parties and ceremonies there – was Charles Le Brun. Between 1662 and his death in 1690 he accumulated an impressive array of