Wine and artist-powered restoration coming to France’s historic Palace of Versailles

Over the years, we’ve seen many examples of beer-powered building restoration and downtown revitalization here in the pages of REVITALIZATION. The craft brewing trend has brought new life to many a dilapidated building in many desolate city and town centers. Now, it’s wine’s turn.

Near Paris, France, the Palace of Versailles, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1979, is at once a former royal residence, a museum dedicated to the history of France created by King Louis-Philippe in 1837 and a national monument that plays host to the French Parliament in congress.

Château de Versailles, Photo ©Thomas Garnier, Courtesy Château de Versailles.

As well as its three historic residences—the Palace, the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon—the Versailles estate boasts an extensive French garden designed by André Le Nôtre with groves and fountains, the Trianon gardens and Marie-Antoinette’s Hamlet, a wooded park located beyond the Grand Canal and, since 2009, the Marly estate.

Spanning more than 800 hectares (2,000 acres), the Versailles estate welcomes over 10 million French and foreign visitors a year who come to admire collections which comprise over 60,000 artworks.

The former royal residence is like a textbook of French history from the 17th century to the present day, as well as a symbol of the French art of living, French taste and the skills of excellence. Firmly anchored in the present by the importance it places on artistic creation through the organisation of concerts, shows and contemporary art exhibitions and the promotion of arts and crafts, the reputation of the Palace of Versailles continues to shine all over the world.

Merely maintaining—much less restoring—this vast estate is a monumental financial undertaking. So, in the Spring of 2019, Sotheby’s Wine will auction 75 limited-edition Versailles celebration cases featuring five Château Mouton Rothschild vintages in an unprecedented partnership between Château Mouton Rothschild and the Palace of Versailles.

Versailles. Photo by Storm Cunningham,

The proceeds from the sale of these beautifully crafted collectors’ cases will be donated in full to help fund restoration projects at the Palace of Versailles.

The cases will be offered across a trio of international auctions at Sotheby’s throughout Spring 2019 – beginning in Hong Kong on 1 April, followed by London on 17 April and concluding in New York on 4 May.

Successful bidders will also receive an invitation for them and a guest to attend a private visit and tasting at Château Mouton Rothschild as well as for an exclusive event, the Versailles Celebration Gala Dinner, at the Palace of Versailles on 21 September 2019, during which historic ex-cellar vintages of Château Mouton Rothschild will be served.

Versailles. Photo by Storm Cunningham

The evening combines the world of art and the art of living symbolic of the two organisations, and presents connoisseurs with the one-time opportunity to be part of a unique artistic partnership, while supporting the future of the Palace of Versailles.

Art has always been central to the history of Baron Philippe de Rothschild’s family, and Château Mouton Rothschild has a long-standing and close link with leading contemporary artists. Every year since 1945, a great artist has illustrated the label of Château Mouton Rothschild, bringing together the most famous names in contemporary art in a collection to which a new work is added each year.

The prestigious list includes some of the most celebrated artists of their day. Many of these esteemed artists spent time at Château Mouton Rothschild, and their original works are on display in the estate’s Paintings for the Labels Room.

Sotheby’s has had a wonderful relationship with Château Mouton Rothschild, presenting two very successful direct from the cellars sales. We are now excited to collaborate on this special offering of 75 Versailles Celebration Cases, which are being presented in a unique format, through auctions in Hong Kong, London and New York, culminating with the buyers enjoying a Celebration Gala Dinner at the Palace of Versailles,” said Jamie Ritchie, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Wine.

An artistic bridge from one château to another, together we conceived this presentation case which celebrates the art and the art of living of one of the world’s finest wines, Château Mouton Rothschild, and the Palace of Versailles, a landmark of the world’s cultural heritage. It has been our wish to support the restoration of the Palace of Versailles by creating a limited-series collector’s case that brings together two internationally renowned symbols of art”, said Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Chairman and CEO of Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA.

For the past ten years, the greatest contemporary artists have engaged in a dialogue with the illustrious builders of Versailles. Before or after stopping off at Versailles some of them – Giuseppe Penone, Bernar Venet, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, Lee Ufan – entered the unique collection created by Baron Philippe de Rothschild with the 1945 label and enhanced by his daughter, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, around the labels of the most prestigious of their wines. This presentation case, reminiscent of puzzle boxes holding the most precious or fabulous secrets, bears witness to this shared history and to Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA as a patron of Versailles”, said Catherine Pégard, President of the Public Establishment of the Palace, Museum and National Estate of Versailles.

In 1924, to salute his first vintage bottled entirely at the château, Baron Philippe de Rothschild (1902-1988), father of Baroness Philippine (1933-2014), asked the famous poster designer Jean Carlu to create the Mouton label. Ahead of its time, it remained an isolated initiative.

In 1945, this time to celebrate the return of peace, Baron Philippe decided to crown the label for the vintage with the “V” for Victory, drawn by the young painter Philippe Jullian. This exceptional circumstance marked the start of a tradition and, every year since 1946, a different artist has been invited to create an original artwork for the label.

Initially, Baron Philippe chose painters from amongst his friends, such as Jean Hugo, Léonor Fini and Jean Cocteau. In 1955, Georges Braque agreed to illustrate the vintage; he was followed by the greatest artists of our time, including Dali, César, Miró, Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, Soulages, Bacon, Balthus, Tàpies and Jeff Koons, forming a fascinating collection to which a new work is added each year.

Today, artists are chosen by Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, in close collaboration with his brother, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, and his sister, Camille Sereys de Rothschild. The commission respects their artistic freedom, though many of them have been attracted by themes such as the vine, the pleasure of drinking or the ram, the Mouton emblem. The artists receive no fee for their work but are given cases of Mouton Rothschild, including of course “their” vintage.

Honouring and celebrating the Palace of Versailles and Château Mouton Rothschild’s rich artistic and cultural history, each case – designed to reflect features from both great institutions – presents five Château Mouton Rothschild vintages with labels by outstanding contemporary artists who have also exhibited at the Palace of Versailles:

  • Giuseppe Penone (ChâteauMouton Rothschild 2005; Palace of Versailles, 2013)
  • Bernar Venet (ChâteauMouton Rothschild 2007; Palace of Versailles, 2011)
  • Anish Kapoor (ChâteauMouton Rothschild 2009; Palace of Versailles, 2015)
  • Jeff Koons (ChâteauMouton Rothschild 2010; Palace of Versailles, 2008-9)
  • Lee Ufan (ChâteauMouton Rothschild 2013; Palace of Versailles, 2014)

Product photos courtesy of Château Mouton Rothschild.

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