PhD Defense: States of Proximity – Privacy under Louis XIV in Versailles
Fabio Gigone defends the dissertation
States of Proximity – Privacy under Louis XIV in Versailles
13:00 Welcome and presentation of chairperson, Assessment Committee,
supervisor and author
13:05 Fabio Gigone presents his dissertation
States of Proximity – Privacy under Louis XIV in Versailles
13:50 Short break
According to the ’Ministerial Order on the PhD Course of Study
and the PhD Degree’ the chairperson may invite the audience to
contribute with short statements. Such intentions should be addressed to the chair of the Assessment
Committee during the break.
14:00 Mari Hvattum, Professor, Institute of Architecture, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design,
14:30 Maria Fabricius Hansen, Professor, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen,
15:00 Kirsten Marie Raahauge, Professor, MSO, Institute of Architecture and Design, Royal Danish
Academy – Architecture, Design, Conservation, Copenhagen Denmark
15:30 Comments from the auditorium
The Assessment Committee evaluates and makes the concluding
Mari Hvattum Professor, Institute of Architecture, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design,
Maria Fabricius Hansen Professor, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen,
Kirsten Marie Raahauge Professor, MSO, Institute of Architecture and Design, Royal Danish Academy
– Architecture, Design, Conservation, Copenhagen, Denmark (Chair of the
Peter Thule Kristensen Professor, Institute of Architecture and Design,
Royal Danish Academy - Architecture, Design, Conservation,
Copenhagen, Denmark (Chair of the defence)
Maarten Delbeke Chair of the History and Theory of Architecture, Department of Architecture,
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
This Ph.D. research has been conceived within the Excellence research Centre for Privacy Studies, and the Royal Danish Academy.
The Centre for Privacy is hosted by The Department of Church History, The Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen;
in association with: The Royal Danish Academy; and, in collaboration with: Institut für Geschichte und Theorie der Architektur,
ETH Zürich; The Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel; Institut d’Histoire du Droit, Université Paris II; The Subject
Group Political Thought and Intellectual History, University of Cambridge. The Centre for Privacy Studies was established
through a generous grant from the Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF)
The thesis is available to look through for interested persons at Royal Danish Academy Library, Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé 50,
1434 Copenhagen K.
States of Proximity - Privacy under Louis XIV in Versailles
Privacy is one of the most widespread and evoked concepts of our times. First, in its recent parabola, it acts as a synecdoche standing for the right to preserve the core of the indivisible subjectivity, called intimacy, identity, or familiarity. Second, in the modern Western tradition, it arouses as the shield for protection from an external intrusion into the recognition, tracking, and sharing of a personal inappropriable sphere. Third, during the last century, such a shield has been constantly reinforced through technological apparatuses aiming to establish new boundaries against the public sphere. Lastly, privacy crystallised when the legal device captured the indivisible subjectivity.
Nonetheless, when privacy is framed in its historical trajectory, the cleavage between its emergence and its legal definition is clear. Therefore, the multidisciplinary historical inquiry promoted by the Centre for Privacy Studies (PRIVACY) is key to revealing what is at stake in the contemporary hypertrophic development of the social, political, legal, and spatial devices that regulate privacy. Specifically, this research operates in the History and Theory of Architecture within PRIVACY’s overall aim. It aims to detect the conditions that triggered some early forms of privacy within the French royal Palace of Versailles under Louis XIV.
The study establishes a dialogue with some theoretical concepts instrumental in revealing how privacy was modulated in the architectural environment, like body, image, and sovereignty. Although these concepts are not typically part of the architectural vocabulary, they underline their implications and reasons, especially within a royal residence. Moreover, the research appraises three architectural mechanisms, intended as systems of rooms, spaces, or architectural devices active in Versailles, whose agency modulated the proximity of the king’s body with the socio-political configuration of the court: the Appartement des Bains (1671-1681), the relation between the Appartement du Roi and the Cabinet du Tableaux (1671-1715), and the balustrade of the Chambre du Roi (1701).
The main research question is: How did privacy emerge in relation to Versailles architecture from its inception to 1715? Specifically, the research develops why the configuration of the French Appartement has been transformed from a space of pure visibility to space for exposing nudity; why the Renaissance balustrade served as a political and theological instrument for the Chambre du Roi. Furthermore, the reason that turned Louis XIV’s Cabinet des Tableaux from a traditional political means to a private instrument of contemplation.
The chosen mechanisms aim to answer such inquiries. They are unfolded through three diptychs: the Appartement, the Cabinet des Tableaux, and the balustrade.
The format of the diptychs aims to offer a theoretical perspective on the reception, use, and symbolic engendering of the three architectural devices at stake in the French context. Each diptych provides, on the one hand, an archaeological overview of the emergence of the mechanism and its symbolic implications within a contiguous and not necessarily previous cultural context. On the other, the historical trajectory of the mechanism is examined in its emergence within Louis XIV’s Versailles. These sections examine the action of architectural devices in engaging the king’s body in different states of privacy during the various phases of his royal residence project.
This research benefits from the analytical methodologies developed at PRIVACY: the terminological research of priv* words, and the investigation of limits and thresholds between the theorised heuristic zones. Moreover, it complements them with literature review and archival review, supported by the inscriptive tools of architecture (Exhibition and Graphics), and digital humanities tools. Therefore, grounded on source-based research, the study considers written sources (the apostolic nuncio’s correspondence from Paris to the Holy See), and visual materials (the king’s painting collection, and the drawings related to Versailles architectural project).
The overall argument of the current thesis is that Louis XIV’s privacy entails specific degrees of proximity to his body. In the seventeenth-century French royal setting, privacy did not emerge either as a state of total isolation (Louis was rarely, if ever, physically alone); nor there was a clear distinction between the private (i.e., the household) and the public (the court). Furthermore, privacy was neither the result of a standard architectural device (e.g., the cabinet had restricted access, but such restriction was negotiated ad personam); nor was it a temporal attribute: Louis XIV’s routine and the court day were interdependent, and the life’s ritualisation actuated by the etiquette suspended the normal flow of time. In other words, privacy in the Early Modern Versailles was a quality —or a threat— that originated per via negativa: it is apparently easier to define it for what was not.
However, the study argues that early forms of privacy can be traced in relation to the above-mentioned architectural mechanisms that staged the cleavage between the natural and political king’s body while exposing Louis’s nudity (within the Appartements des Bains), nurturing his contemplation (in front of the Cabinet des Tableaux), and engendering the monarch’s authority (behind the balustrade).