Parcours Muséologique Revisité

Robert Polidori: Parcours Museologique Revisite edited by Robert Polidori. Steidl Photography International. Hardcover, 744 pages. $125.

The cover of Robert Polidori: Parcours Museologique Revisite

When strolling in an old church or museum, it’s often tempting to sneak into a roped-off section or peek behind a closed door. What, after all, could be hiding from us? Perhaps nothing more than an old broom. For the past twenty-five years, Canadian photographer Robert Polidori has been going behind the scenes at the Palace of Versailles to document periods of restoration and change. The result, nearly five hundred photographs collected in three volumes, is a far more intimate and revealing scene than the curated period set tourists flock to year-round. As a stage for the modern era, Versailles hasn’t looked so vulnerable in centuries, and Polidori captures it in every pose: Long arcades serve as storerooms for marble sculpture, a dark room hides mops and trash bags, a door frame holds layers of smudge, and the halls and bedrooms sit in various phases of completion. Where he lingers, however, is on the canvases—from battle scenes to aristocratic portraits—finding these old symbols of power at times beaming and proud, at others weakened and dim. In these rooms, fixing a crack in the wallpaper closes a window into history.