Imagine the metamorphosis of the Principality’s palace over 800 years as each Lord and Prince made his exceptional personal mark on it. All the more remarkable how it has come through sieges and revolutions to shine after its current restoration commissioned by Prince Albert II.
And now after the last seven years of painstaking and meticulous devotion to detail the restorers can take a bow and watch the Palace open again to the public in all its glory. Friday July 1st marks the first day of the opening of the Palace “Grands Appartments” in what is sure to be one of the most popular visited attractions in Monaco.
The French Revolution took its tole on the Palace furnishings and also some valuable works which disappeared from hangings of paintings from the historical collections of the Princes. But here we are over 200 years later and Prince Albert has found opportunities to trace many of them and buy them back for posterity and for you to view.
One painting in particular was by Jacopo Bassano purchased by Jacques I. displayed at the Hôtel de Matignon in Paris. Prince Albert II has bought the painting back and it now sits proudly once again in the Palace Green Antechamber together with paintings by Orazio de Ferrari and Philippe de Champaigne
The furnishings too you will find delightful and arranged sympathetically lending authenticity and warmth to royal lives well lived.
Visitors will discover all this on the new latest chronological tour of the Palace, a visual celebration of the history of the Grimaldi dynasty, illustrated with paintings and on display for the first time artworks. They include a portrait of Lucien, who came to power in 1505.
Almost akin to a “Big Bang” a Palace restoration team in 2015 revealed uncovered frescoes and hidden Italian masterpieces. Hard to believe these Genoese works from the 1500s, from the Renaissance had been painted over in the past, some hidden for five centuries from the transformation of the fortress into a palatial residence in the Genoese style. What a find! And 600 square metres of frescoes to view.
Some of the most beautiful renderings are in the Galerie d’Hercule, where the frescoes were initially discovered. There is a huge fresco from the 16th century, depicting the 12 labours of Hercules. Hercules is the Roman demi-god and hero, who, according to legend, recognized the Rock.
But don’t miss the Chambre d’Europe (previously named the Matignon salon) with its now to be seen marvellous medallion representing the mythological episode of the abduction of Europa. According to the myth, the god Jupiter, smitten with the nymph Europa, transformed himself into a white bull and abducted her.
The medallion was reportedly discovered after a fragment of plaster flaked off when an electrician was digging a groove in a corner of the ceiling.
Audio guides allow guests to enjoy their visit in 11 languages. There is also an app where videos show how the rooms would appear in use. In the Throne Room, note the royal chair where Princes have been seated since the time of Charles III. Featured also is a decoration of Ulysses in Nekuia where he speaks to ghosts on his visit to the underworld. Intriguing also are the signs of the Zodiac.
The “Royal Quarter”
Intended to receive high-ranking guests, the Royal Quarter dates from the 17th century. You can peer into the royal antechamber, where in 1955 Prince Rainier III met Grace Kelly for the first time when she came to the Cannes film festival.
The tour ends in the Galerie des Princes where busts of past sovereigns line the walls, including a compelling piece by contemporary artist Barry X Ball of Prince Albert II. The gold head has been noted to be made up of marine plant species that evidence the Sovereign’s commitment to the oceans.
The Grand Apartments are open daily from 1st July to 15th October. For more information and about the very affordable price of 10 euros visit the website at www.visitepalaisdemonaco.com
Unfolding Little Miracles
The work is understood to be currently continuing in other Palace rooms not currently accessible. Specialists are painstakingly discovering the original frescoes. Some are reportedly even intact under a false ceiling added later. This extraordinary and meticulous work revealing more little miracles will continue for many months.