architecture Interior Fountains Gardens Sources

             The gardens of Versailles are considered as the masterpiece of André Le Notre, is the most famous garden in the world. Andre Le Notre, realized the gardens between 1661 and 1668. In 1661, Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, began to enlarge the château of Versailles.  These seven years were enough for André Le Notre  to transform this unappreciated and unhealthy site into a garden that would astonish the whole world.  During these seven years, he created tree lined walk ways, forests and many fountains.  The garden of Versailles covered more than 8000 hectares, which all represent exotic views and beautiful fountains.  Andre Le Notre began his work during Louis XIV’s first construction campaign.  A second construction campaign, lead by Le Brun, enlarged the famous “Grand Canal”, designed the “Latona Fountain” and the Apollo Fountain in 1671

            The next period of construction in the gardens came under Louis XVI with the reforming of the Trianon Gardens and Marie-Antoinette’s Hamlet.  Antoine Richard was one of the gardeners who helped assemble the English Gardens, by planting crops on the terraces and saving the gardens from being plundered. 

            Toward the end of the reign of Louis XV, around 1770, Jacques-Ange Gabriel built the Opera and began reconstructing all the facades on the chateau's town side. In the process, only the right wing was executed.  As we notice in the colonnaded pavilion, the rules of French classical architecture are obeyed. In the interior, the grand staircase known as Grand Degré was begun in 1772, but only recently finished in 1985. A proportioned pavilion on the other side of the courtyard, planned by Napoleon Ier, was finally erected in 1820.


Cultural Influences

            The small château of Versailles originally built for Louise XIII, was remodeled and enlarged for Louise XIV, in 1661. The King, throughout his reign, displayed an untiring enthusiasm for the gardens. He continued to transform and beatify them until his final days.

            The palace of Versailles embellished with impressive gardens was designed by André Le Nôtre, between 1661 and 1700, who transformed an entire forest into the garden and parks, which focus on the Grand Canal, enclose a large number of monuments and sculptures. André Le Nôtre was asked to redesign the Parterres and ornamental ponds and to widen the large east-west axis.  He redesigned the grounds with slops, parterres and steps. He has created a spectacular display of fountains and intermingled with white marble and gilded metal statutes. The east-west axis flanked by parallel secondary axes, and crossed by four north-south avenues. On the south side, the formal garden and Parterre de l’Orangerie was laid out towards the château. The Orangery was built 1684–6 by Hardouin Mansart under the Parterre du Midi. To the north the gardens includes perfect parterres, great basins, an orangery, a vast collection of outdoor sculpture and some of the grandest fountains which have ever been made. The garden includes many exotic plants that was brought in and cultivated in Versailles.

            The Petite Trianon, another formal garden, was built on the site of a former village, which was extended by the Hameau, a group of 12 peasant houses. The Louis XVI gave Petit Trianon to Marie-Antoinette in 1774.  She favored a different style, the anglo-chinois style, with artificial hills, rocks, grottoes and streams and twisting footpath, revealing in their twists and turns the many charming buildings commissioned by the Queen.

            Few brilliant sculptors such as François Girardon, Etienne Le Hongre, Martin Desjardins, Gaspard and Balthazard Marsy and antoine Coyzevox, were involved in decoration. The program of the Great Commission of 1671, by Jean Baptiste Colbert, called for twenty-four allegories centering on six basic themes. These themes, inspired by Iconology of Cesare Ripa, included the four elements, the four parts of the day, the four parts of the world, the four seasons, the four humors of man, and four types of poetry.  These sculptures were arranged in harmonious lighting effects. The beauty and poetry of the gardens and their statues through out the year surrounded by he flowers and embellished by the snow have been captured wonderfully.

            Versailles displays magnificent artifacts from what may be the most well known palace in the world, but it is also a mirror which reflects the influences and the history of the French in the establishment and development of their state. Other European rulers saw Versailles as the physical representation of Louis XIV’s power and modeled their palaces accordingly. It became the model for many of the royal residences in Europe, including the Peterhof, the palace of Czar Peter the Great of Russia; the palace of the Prussian King Frederick the Great at Potsdam; and Ludwig II of Bavaria’s palace, Herrencheimsee.

            European courts copied more than just the architecture of Versailles. They also adopted the practices of the French court. Because the French were seen as cosmopolitan, admiration and respect for French culture spread throughout Europe.Versailles drew visitor right from the days of Louis XIV. The museum now receives three million visitors per year, while the grounds attract an estimated six million.

Subjects and Style

            Served as the Palace of the Sun King Louis XIV, Palace of Versailles is a luxurious palace that displayed the King’s absolute power. The Baroque style epitomized perfection, harmony and enchantment (2). Other parts of the Palace also displayed various other styles. The Queen’s Bedchamber for Marie-Antoinette was designed in Rococo style. The ceiling was painted by the great Rococo artist Francois Boucher. The silk hanging woven and peacock feather marked the luxurious life of French aristocrats. The French classical styled architecture was designed by Mansart. Many statues, including the statues of Apollo and Athena, are designed in Greco-Roman Style. The superb Baroque Palace has become the symbol of French civilization.

            Versailles is a palace in the image of the Sun King Louis XVI. The sun was the monarchic symbol, and his apartments each room was devoted to one of the seven planets that circled the sun (2). The Salons in the apartment were dedicated to heavenly classical subjects such as Venus, Diana, Mars, Mercury, Apollo, and Hercules (3). The subject of the Grand Apartment was primarily mythological heroes. More than 300 statues, vases and busts in the Gardens of Versailles offered the spectator allegorical figures and contain legendary mythical themes. The subjects of many statues, paintings and portraits were primarily King Louis XIV. Some rooms contained portraits of the Queen and courtesans.


Materials and Processes - Technology at Versailles

spacerWhile Louis XIV was advancing the arts at Versailles he was also very interested in advancing technology in all forms of construction and building. Unfortunately the plans and drawings of these innovations have largely been lost or destroyed. The way they have been discovered is when the buildings need repair and walls need to be torn into, a surprise awaits today’s workmen.
spacerAn example of this was discovered when the north and south wings walls were giving way in the 18 th century. The original walls were built not with solid masonry but with masonry with fill which ended up failing 100 years later.
spacerAll of Europe looked to the construction of Versailles and any innovations in the small devices which refined the mechanics of buildings both for comfort and security. There was real interest in the locks, window hooks and even the curtain rods.
spacerOf course the bathrooms were all important and the king had both hot and cold running water for his sunken pool and two bathtubs.
spacerHot-air heating was also tried. The warming devices attached to the water heaters of the king’s bath were used to heat the air. Many years later, a hot-air heating device was even considered for the new bedroom of the ailing old king.

Probably the major concern during the construction of Versailles was the use and supply of water for all the gardens and fountains. Two giant projects were begun and progressed for years. One was the diverting of a large river while the other was the construction of a canal system using the Machine de marly. ( system for raising the water between different canal levels.). A third system which eventually won out was a less elaborate system of bringing water down from the areas just above the Palace.
spacerTechnology played a role in the evolution of the arts at Versailles by making a mark in sculpture history when the Keller brothers from Zurich were brought into France to cast cannon and the like, which they did, and then were commissioned to produce larger sculptures. The first works for Versailles, were four figures- Apollo, Bacchus, Mercury, and Silenus, which now reside on pedestals against the garden façade of the chateau. By 1687 the Kellers were producing real masterpieces including the animal groups of Mansart’s two water cabinets to the west of the new parterre d’eau and the many grand reclining figures of rivers and nymphs for the western parterre d’eau. All total some 50 pieces.
spacerThe proliferation of sculpture actually fulfilled an ambition of the designers of the Palace, which was to create a place where students of art could study the great masterpieces of ancient and contemporary sculpture. They simply wanted it to be “Rome north”