Book as grand as the palace itself

VERSAILLES. By Valerie Bajou. Abrams. 480 pages. $40.

From the Hall of Mirrors on the front cover to the expansive palace view on its back cover, “Versailles” is an opulent rendering of the chateau, its art masterpieces and gardens.

Built as a rudimentary hunting lodge by Louis XIII in 1623, work to expand it began in 1661. By 1682, Versailles, a half-hour ride from Paris, had become the seat of government. After the chateau was sacked during the French Revolution, the property went through various permutations of attention. Restoration to present-day Versailles began in 1892, and today the palace and its grounds are an unparalleled icon of French history, used on occasion for state functions.

Valerie Bajou’s “Versailles” is divided into four sections: history, chateau, gardens and park, and the chateau Trianon. Each section is replete with full-color photographs of rooms, furniture, architectural details and paintings that fill the palace. Outdoor views of Versailles depict the gardens, waterscapes and sculptures, which abound on the property.

Each photograph is annotated with title and artist. Photographs taken during different seasons and times of day give year-round views of the site. Text is succinct, clear and informative. An extensive index to artists is incorporated.

Millions of people visit Versailles each year. For one unable to view it in person, this gilt-edged book is a dazzling panorama of the grandeur, extravagance and magnificence that was yesteryear’s France.

Reviewer Rosemary Repeta, a writer based in Charleston