Image Above: ©Deborah Turbeville, Self-Portrait, Versailles,1981. Courtesy of Staley-Wise Gallery.
In this exhibition, Deborah Turbeville’s photographs of Versailles are revisited. This work was commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1981 for the book Unseen Versailles. Rather than show the highly polished staterooms visited by tourists, the photographs explore the underside of Versailles; the neglected storage rooms, the ghostly private chambers, shrouded in dust cloths, and the rooms of broken statuary. Turbeville’s haunting photographs show the gilded beauty of the 18th century rooms and evoke the history of this magnificent palace built by Louis XIV to consolidate the aristocracy under his roof.
©Deborah Turbeville, The Private Apartment of Madame du Barry, Versailles, France, 1980. Courtesy of Staley-Wise Gallery.
These photographs reflect her distinct intensely personal vision. They project a sense of isolation, romanticism, and ambivalence that is haunting and disturbing. Turbeville creates a charged atmosphere of mystery, ambiguity, and drama by combining elements of architecture and décor. Romantic, evocative environments and architecture create a mood of being frozen in time. In her extremely sophisticated and intellectual work, gardens and architecture are the backdrop to her cinematic evocation of an untold story. This work takes place in a dream world of castles and gardens, often decayed and derelict, timeless and unreal.
©Deborah Turbeville, Autumn Leaves inside the Pavillon Francais: Aurelia Weingarten, Unseen Versailles, 1980. Courtesy of Staley-Wise Gallery.
Born in Massachusetts, Turbeville started her career as a model for designer Claire McCardell. She became a fashion editor and then a photographer. Since her work first appeared in Vogue in the 1970s she has been acknowledged as a dominant figure in contemporary photography, bringing an entirely original vision to the art. She has had innumerable exhibitions throughout the world. She passed away in 2013.
©Deborah Turbeville, Versailles, 1980. Courtesy of Staley-Wise Gallery.
©Deborah Turbeville, Petit Theatre de Marie Antoinette, Unseen Versailles, 1981. Courtesy of Staley-Wise Gallery.
All opening images by Patricia Koo