I’ve just watched a programme about Versailles, which was really about Louis XIV and how the building expressed his kingship – lots of glory and magnificence, of course, but also a life lived in public to an extraordinary degree. If you gather loads of courtiers around you, you have to give them something to do – like attaching your lace cuffs in the morning, or standing to watch you eat your meals in solemn splendour, or gathering round your deathbed.
How did he think? Plan his strategies? Maybe statesmen and politicians don’t need solitude and space in that way – though we do see images of American presidents seated alone at the centre of the vast Oval office (just for the cameras?).
What about artists? One of the revelations of Rembrandt’s house in Amsterdam – see his studio above – was that he created masterpieces in the midst of his family home, which also acted as a gallery and shop for his pictures, and the academy for his pupils. So it must have been full of people, comings and goings, talk and noise. And since he needed daylight, he couldn’t take refuge in the relative peace of the evening hours, as I’ve grown accustomed to since bringing up a family.