Friday, January 29, 2016

The Hall of Mirrors Transformed (1871)

Victor Buchereau-Reverchon: The Hall of Mirrors Transformed into an Ambulance

The collapse of the Second Empire in 1870 following the victories of the German army was accompanied by a rapid advance of the enemy to Paris, turned into a fortified camp. The Prussians camped in the hills nearby at Buzenval, where desperate fighting unfolded. After the Battle of Vélizy on September 19, 1870 and while the Germans were entering Versailles, the first wounded began to arrive there, led by Dr. Kirchner. The Crown Prince of Prussia, later Frederick III, gave orders to set up an unsupervised ambulance in the castle. The South Wing was first occupied, and the Hall of Mirrors, and the medical service was extended also in the north wing. The guardians and caretakers of the castle were assigned to care for wounded Germans.

In this scene by Buchereau, we note that the stoves have been installed in the center of the Hall of Mirrors, while the beds were placed along the walls and between the windows. We remedied the lack of beds by benches taken from the museum, the center being occupied by surgery tables. A great calm seems to reign over the place. Something seems anachronistic yet move in this table. If the vault celebrates the victories of a great king, the bottom of the scene recalls the reality of war, with its injuries and its dead, and its human drama. Yet Buchereau did not want to suggest in this picture; he only relates an anecdote, however terrible it may be. [L’Histoire par L’Image]

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