As one of the most striking landmarks of the Parisian skyline, the gilded dome of L'Hôtel Les Invalides is a bold, elegant symbol of the French spirit. Construction was begun in 1670 during the reign of Louis XIV. L'Hôtel was conceived of as a hospital and home for war veterans, to include a chapel, monuments, and museums relating to France’s military history. The chapel dome, the site’s most iconic feature, was inspired by a Bourbon Chapel at Saint Denis—its exterior embellished with gilded military trophies and its interior and rotunda lined with allegorical paintings. Napoleon Bonaparte’s porphyry sarcophagus is located beneath the dome, along with the remains of France’s other illustrious military leaders.
The figures were fully repainted to restore their original beauty
Many original baroque high-relief moldings around the paintings had been dismantled in 1789, and other sections deteriorated over time. In 1988, World Monuments Fund became involved in its restoration, focusing on the paintings attributed to Charles de la Fosse in the cupola. Earlier repairs and repainting had not aged well—multiple layers of paint caused the pictorial layers to detach from their mortar bases. Jean Jouvenet’s paintings of the Apostles, along the drum of the dome, suffered the same ill effects of excessive repainting. The cupola surface was thoroughly cleaned and disrupted layers were consolidated so repainting could be kept to a minimum. The drum’s wall paintings received the same treatments, but reintegration of the deteriorated painted areas was more extensive. After cleaning and consolidation, the figures were fully repainted to restore their original beauty, lost in the poorly executed nineteenth-century restoration. The paintings’ neoclassical frames were replaced with replicas of the original baroque high-relief moldings, which had been dismantled in 1789.
L'Hôtel had been stormed on July 14, 1789, by Parisian rioters who seized cannons and muskets stored in its cellars to use against the Bastille. Two hundred years later, on the anniversary of the French Revolution, the conservation project of L'Hôtel complex was unveiled to the public. The dome’s restoration has enabled visitors to appreciate its magnificence in a state that is closer to its original character.