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17.6.04

Gardening at Versailles

Related Resources

Nicolas Fertin, Découvrez le jardin disparu de Versailles (Discover the lost garden of Versailles), June 12, in Le Parisien

Vincent Noce, Le mécénat américain irrigue Versailles (American patronage irrigates Versailles), June 14, in Libération

Dominique Raizon, A Versailles, résurrection d'un «salon de verdure» (Resurrection of a "greenery salon" at Versailles), June 15, from Radio France Internationale (with the best pictures)

Pamela Sampson, Garden at Versaille Restored, June 14, from Newsday (Associated Press)

Press release, Renaissance du Bosquet des Trois Fontaines, from the Château de Versailles

Pictures of the work at the Bosquet des Trois-Fontaines (taken in 2002)

André Le Nôtre (Web site from the French Ministry of Culture, which just proves my point that we need a Department of Culture in the United States)

Jean Cotelle, The Bosquet des trois fontaines, Versailles
Jean Cotelle (1642–1708), Le Bosquet des trois fontaines dans le petit parc de Versailles
I learned about this story from an article Le jardin intime retrouvé de Louis XIV [Louis XIV's secret garden rediscovered], June 11) by Marie-Douce Albert in Le Figaro, which unfortunately, like most of that newspaper's online articles, has already become unavailable. However, there have been other stories on this, with pictures, so I have listed those, too. One of the less appreciated facets of André Le Nôtre's design of the Versailles gardens was the creation of about a dozen salons de verdure (greenery rooms), private but outdoor "rooms" hidden throughout the palace's grounds where Louis XIV could retreat for a moment of quiet. One of those spaces was the Bosquet des Trois-Fontaines (Grove of the Three Fountains), which may have been at least partially designed by Louis XIV himself, since it was simpler than the public gardens: no sculpted bushes, no geometrically placed rows of statues, just an elaborate set of fountains. If you don't remember seeing it on your last trip to Versailles, that's because this private grove had been allowed to grow over and lay mostly forgotten in the forest. Private donations, most prominently from the American Friends of Versailles, led by Catharine Hamilton of Chicago, have made possible the restoration of this living reception hall to what can be seen in maps and illustrations of Versailles from the 17th century.
Today, the grove has reappeared, with its fountains and a new but still remarkable Saint-Jacques [a pool in the shape of a giant oyster], its lawns, and its borders of pink marble, and even its exotic pink shells and gray rocks in strange shapes. "It is even more beautiful than we thought," confirms [chief architect] Pierre-André Lablaude. "We had many documents available, in other words, a musical score from which we tried to play as accurately as possible. Still, the harmony was not visible on the page. It was only in the last, very moving weeks that the purely technical was forgotten in favor of the aesthetic."
Apparently, the plans and research for this work had already begun before the devastating windstorms in late December 1999, which uprooted over 5,000 trees on the Versailles grounds. (The damage had the ultimate benefit of making it possible for the Versailles architects to think about restoring the grounds to the way it was in the time of Louis XIV, instead of having to preserve it as it had developed later in the 18th and 19th centuries.) The reconstruction cost €5.5 million ($6.7 million), with two-thirds of that amount covered by the American Friends of Versailles, what the article in Libération calls "the greatest example of American patronage since Rockefeller saved the château in ruins in the 1930s."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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