Friday, August 31, 2012

A Guided Tour of Versailles

 A big thank you to our friend Elise, who works at Versailles and gave a personal tour.
It was easy to learn a lot about this pinnacle of French imperial grandeur, that exhibits many themes of French landscape architecture - and also shaped many following gardens.
Wikipedia has a great writeup of the gardens of Versailles.
Here are some of the themes:
  topiary:  clipped nature kept in bounds
  geometric designs on an east-west, north-south grid which reflects the castle
massive use of water (with massive waterworks to support it):  (fountains are turned on at selected times to save water)

mythological figures are used everywhere as statues, but the PR was very current.
  The statue in the fountain below is the Basin of Latona.  Latona is protecting her sons the gods Apollo and Dionysus from mud being thrown by peasants who do not want them to drink from their fountains.  Zeus is turning the peasants into frogs.  
The imagery certainly suggests that commoners should not resist royals who want their water.

Below can be seen the statue of sun-god Apollo riding his chariot of horses out of the water.
Louis XIV wanted to be known as the Sun King, so he used Apollo to symbolize himself.

The statue below is the Fountain of Encelade.  
It depicts a fallen Titan/giant, who is forced to live under Mt Etna and is being buried by lava. It was made to celebrate the king's victory over a rebellion.

The two principal landscape architects were André Le Notre and Jules Hardouin-Mansart.
Construction and reconstruction of Versailles have been almost continual since the seventeenth century, except during the French Revolution.