he Grand Salon

La Grand Salon
Detail of the tapestry representing the Emperor Constantine

mpressive because of its scale, the Grand Salon was constructed around a tapestry of the XVIIth century from the factory of the Gobelins, “Triumph of Constantine,” restored in 2002.

Its subject is Constantine’s (278-337) victory over his rivals, during the war which opposed several factions disputing over the control of the Roman empire, between 306 and 312. The tapestry makes a particular reference to the battle of Pont Milvius, in 312, during which the future emperor defeated his main rival, Maxence. A legend claims that he saw a cross in the sky and these words : “In hoc signo vinces” (you will conquer by this sign). Other than his military victories, his political successes, and the construction of Constantinople, he ceased to persecute the Christians, as his predecessors had done, and even converted to Christianity on his death bed.

La Grand Salon

Louis Leygue, the sculptor, was in charge of creating a decor that would assure a smooth transition between the precious tapestry, and the rough concrete ceiling. The result was a strange composition, which is surprising by the contrast of materials, the harmony of colours, and the effects of movement. Leygue’s statues, in stucco polychrome, evoke, on the left, the moral forces of that prepared Constantine’s victory, and on the right, the beneficial consequences of this victory, to end in an homage to peace. On top, a group of warriors taming horses symbolises the supremacy of human beings over animals, and matter.

On the floor, a luminous carpet from the Savonnerie, woven in 1827, displays Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Sicile’s armoury, the Duchess of Berry, mother of the Duke of Bordeaux, heir to the throne of France at that time. This luxurious carpet, fabricated at the Duchess’ intention, was saved from a fire at the Palais de Tuileries, in 1871. It contributes, with the Empire chairs, the cabinets and tables, creations of Raphaël, making this grandiose salon one of the most remarkable rooms of the Embassy.

© Embassy of France in Canada

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