Palace of Versailles: Gardens

Palace postcards
Grand Trianon postcards

Versailles. – Ensemble du Château. Parterre d’Eau, un Dimanche de Grandes Eaux

Situated above the Latona Fountain is the terrace of the château, known as the Parterre d’Eau. Forming a transitional element from the château to the gardens below and placed on the north-south axis of the gardens, the Parterre d’Eau provided a setting in which the imagery and symbolism of the decors of the grands appartements synthesized with the iconography of the gardens. In 1664, Louis XIV commissioned a series of statues intended to decorate the water feature of the Parterre d’Eau. The Grande Commande, as the commission is known, comprised twenty-four statues of the classic quaternities and four additional statues depicting abductions from the classic past.

Le Chateau et L’Orangeria — The Castle and the Orange Garden
Published: Braun & Cie, Paris

The Orangery parterre covers no less than three hectares. During the reign of Louis XIV it was adorned with several sculptures which are now kept in the Musée du Louvre. It consists of four grass sections and a circular pool.

The Versailles Orangerie was built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart between 1684 and 1686, replacing Le Vau’s design from 1663 – that is to say, before work on the palace had even begun. It is an example of many such prestigious extensions of grand gardens in Europe designed both to shelter tender plants and impress visitors.

Originally completed in 1663, the Orangerie was intended to supply the much smaller hunting lodge of Versailles and the small retinue which Louis XIV would bring with him in the summer. In 1688, after the Court had officially relocated to Versailles, the Orangerie was enlarged by Jules Hardouin-Mansart. The pavilion that resulted was modelled on the theories of the horticulturalist Jean-Baptiste de la Quintinie, whose writings detailed a system for protecting exotic plants from the cold without the use of artificial heating.

Louis XIV had a love for orange trees and had them potted in solid silver tubs and placed throughout the state rooms of the Palace to perfume the air.[7] The Orangerie was intended to supply the palace with specimens and supply the Court with fruit year round. In 1664, a year after the first Orangerie was completed, Louis XIV’s disgraced former Finance Minister Nicolas Fouquet was convicted of maladministration and his belongings confiscated by the Crown. These included over 1,000 orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte, which were transferred to the Orangerie.

Versailles — Bassin de Latone – Perspective du Tapis Vert et du Grand Canal

Versailles. — Grandes Eaux — Bassin de Latone — Le Tapis Vert – Le Grand Canal
Published F. David, 21 Rue des Réservoirs, Versailles

Latona’s fountain was inspired by The Metamorphoses by Ovide. It illustrates the story of Latona, the mother of Apollo and Diana, protecting her children from the insults of the peasants of Lycia and pleading with Jupiter to avenge her. The god obliges by turning the inhabitants of Lycia into frogs and lizards.

The central marble group was sculpted by the Marsy brothers and features Latona and her children. When the fountain was first created in 1668 it was originally placed on a rock surrounded by six figures of peasants in mid-transformation, with 24 frogs positioned on the strip of lawn surrounding the fountain. At the time the goddess was looking towards the Palace. This layout was modified by Jules Hardouin-Mansart between 1687 and 1689. The rock was replaced by a marble pyramid and the group containing Latona was turned to face the Grand Canal. Latona’s Fountain also has a parterre containing the two Lizard Fountains.

Splendeurs et Charmes de Versailles
Les Grandes Eaux au Bassin de Neptune

In 1676, the Bassin des Sapins, which was located north of the château below the Parterre du Nord and the Allée des Marmousets was designed to form a topological pendant along the north-south axis with the Pièce d’Eau des Suisses located at the base of the Satory hill south of the château. Later modifications in the garden would transform this fountain into the Bassin de Neptune

Parc de Versailles — La Colonnade de Mansart et l’enlèvement de Proserpine, par Girardon
The Colonade by Mansart and Abduction of Proserpine, by Girardon A.P.

Published: A. Papeghin (1900-1931)

Commenced in 1685 by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the Colonnade replaced the Spring Grove created by Le Nôtre in 1679. A circular peristyle with a diameter of forty metres is supported by thirty-two pilasters that act as buttresses for the arcades supporting thirty-two Ionic columns. The pilasters are all made of Languedoc marble, while the columns alternate between deep blue marble, purple breche marble and Languedoc marble. This discreet colour scheme helps to offset the whiteness of the Carrara marble in the arcades and the vases on the cornice. The sculpted décor of the spandrels was executed in 1682 and 1687 by the sculptors Coysevox, Le Hongre, Tuby, Mazière, Leconte, Granier and Vigier, and represents cherubs playing music or engaged in rustic games. Under twenty-eight of the thirty-two arcades, whose keystones are adorned with masks of marine or rustic divinities, leaping fountains tumbled into a channel surrounding the peristyle. In the centre, the original pool was replaced in 1696 by the group sculpture by Girardon: The Abduction of Proserpine by Pluto.

Les Brains d’Apollon — The Bath of Apollo
Published: Braun & Cie, Paris

The Apollo Baths are a truly gorgeous piece of work which was created between 1670-73 – on the request of Madame de Montespan whom the King was only too happy to oblige. Sadly, the original one no longer exists since Louis XVI had the garden re-decorated in 1778 by Hubert Robert (who received the post of designer of the king’s gardens for his efforts); the style we see know is a mix of English and Chinese influences. The three groups of statues has given the new construction it’s name since they all depict Apollo in different scenarios. The statues were originally built for the Thétis Grotto but when this was demolished it was moved to different parts of the garden before ending at the Apollo Baths.
This is Versailles.

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