The Signing of Peace in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, 28th June 1919

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Catalogue number
  • Art.IWM ART 2856
Display status
IWM London
Production date
1919
Place made
France
Subject period
Materials
  • medium: oil
  • support: canvas
Dimensions
  • Support: Height 1524 mm
  • Support: Width 1270 mm
  • Frame: Height 1710 mm
  • Frame: Width 1470 mm
  • Frame: Depth 75 mm
  • Frame: depth (overall) 110 mm
Alternative Names
  • object category: painting
Creator
Category
art
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUMS

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Object description

image: A view of the interior of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, with the heads of state sitting and standing before a long table. Front Row: Dr Johannes Bell (Germany) signing with Herr Hermann Muller leaning over him Middle row (seated, left to right): General Tasker H Bliss, Col E M House, Mr Henry White, Mr Robert Lansing, President Woodrow Wilson (United States); M Georges Clemenceau (France); Mr D Lloyd George, Mr A Bonar Law, Mr Arthur J Balfour, Viscount Milner, Mr G N Barnes (Great Britain); The Marquis Saionzi (Japan) Back row (left to right): M Eleutherios Venizelos (Greece); Dr Affonso Costa (Portugal); Lord Riddell (British Press); Sir George E Foster (Canada); M Nikola Pachitch (Serbia); M Stephen Pichon (France); Col Sir Maurice Hankey, Mr Edwin S Montagu (Great Britain); the Maharajah of Bikaner (India); Signor Vittorio Emanuele Orlando (Italy); M Paul Hymans (Belgium); General Louis Botha (South Africa); Mr W M Hughes (Australia).

Label

The Paris Peace Conference in 1919 allowed the victorious Allied nations to resolve the end of the First World War, to apportion blame and financial responsibility and to demand reparations from Germany. They also addressed wider issues such as forming the League of Nations and the creation of new nation states. Complex negotiations tried to match public desire for reparations to Germany’s willingness and ability to pay. In monetary terms, this was the most important British painting commission of the war (£3000 compared to the £300 that ‘Gassed’ had cost) and was to record the roles of the politicians, diplomats and military. This is the moment of resolution when the leading allied politicians are able to demonstrate their determination and unity as the treaty is signed, as well their political power. The setting is the dazzling Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, built by Louis XIV, at vast expense as a demonstration of his political power. Above their heads reads the legend 'Le Roy Gouverne par lui même' [The King governs alone], a pointed reference to the conference's endless squabbling, as Germany claimed not to be able to meet the penalties imposed and the allies were unable to agree a compromise. In Orpen’s vision, it is the extravagance of the architecture that sets the scene, reducing the politicians to a footnote. Their supposedly ordered world is distorted and broken by the mirrors behind them. In them we see artist's reflection twice and also, more significantly, the absence of any other audience. Nobody is watching. This is shallow politics, mere posturing and an indication that the political forces and personal vanities that shaped the palace are still present.

 

This is the moment of resolution for the Peace Conference when the leading allied politicians are able to demonstrate their determination and unity as the treaty is signed, as well their political power. The setting is the dazzling Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, built by Louis XIV, at vast expense as a demonstration of his political power. Above their heads reads the legend 'Le Roy Gouverne par lui même' [The King governs alone], a pointed reference to the conference's endless squabbling, as Germany claimed not to be able to meet the penalties imposed and the allies were unable to agree a compromise. In William Orpen’s vision, it is the extravagance of the architecture that sets the scene, reducing the politicians to a footnote. Their supposedly ordered world is distorted and broken by the mirrors behind them.

History note

Imperial War Museum commission

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