The “Versailles of the Seas”, the “Versailles of the Atlantic” or the “Château of the Atlantic”: these are just some of the nicknames celebrating the fourth ocean liner put into service in 1912 by the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique for the legendary Le Havre – New York crossing. Although the SS France was only the third fastest liner (the journey lasted five and a half days), she was unrivalled in terms of luxury and up-to-date amenities.
Her imposing staircase, copied from that of the Hôtel de Mazarin, her sumptuous Louis XIV salon, her eighteenth-century-inspired décor, her “Moorish salon”, her 207 first class cabins, her luxury apartments each with a floor area of over 200 square feet, and her succession of grand drawing rooms made this “superb liner” into a floating hotel whose magnificent public areas were in perfect harmony with its carefully designed cabins, which offered the intimacy of home.
The France became emblematic of modernity and comfort, combining classically elegant décor with the “ultimate in progress, both in terms of function and layout and in terms of comfort and elegance”. In 1912, at 220 metres from stem to stern, the France was the largest French liner, the only one with four funnels, and the first to boast a lift linking its decks.
Devambez became the ideal commercial partner for conveying this combination of avant-garde style and tradition on paper: the promotional booklet printed to coincide with the early voyages of the France included, in a red and gold folder, a catalogue of the ship’s “artworks” (paintings, frescoes, stucco work and decorative features), a copy of the Journal de l’Atlantique, and a large map of the ship’s layout, an indispensable guide to this amazing “floating city” where choosing this particular style of travel betokened the utmost discernment.
SS France, Paris, Devambez, 1912-1913