Archive for March 22nd, 2012

March 22, 2012

Stories of Versailles, the park and gardens

We continue with my anecdotes of Versailles, the town where I live for 9 years ,and will never forget ,even if I am on the way to move to Bretagne,and the seacoast. Versailles is worth a kingdom to France, for the glory of France, the royal capital of France. You must know it more, and I hope these entries will let you get to know the city a bit more.

One of the wonders of the chateau de Versailles is its park and gardens, the most magnificents I have seen in France and beyond.

When we go hunting, we go by the sculptures of the Cabinet des Animaux du midi ou fontaine du soir done in 1684. There are on the left side of the parterre d’eau after leaving the castle on the back.  Many figures of animals here,  like the Lion attacking a wild pig or a lion attacking a wolf. Louis XIV was an ardent hunter, with more than 100 days per year spent hunting.

You move on to the Hercule, Minerve ,and Flore done in 1656. They are in the bosquet de la girandole and they were gifts from Nicolas Fouquet to Louis XIV, they were done as Hercule,Minerve,Flore,Moissonneur,Bacchus, Pomone,Vertumne, and Baccante done in Rome in 1655. They were purchase from the heirs of Nicolas Fouquet. The marble was taken as well from Nicolas Fouquet at the cour des Marbles,and last renovated in 1978-1982. You come to admire the Bassin du Dragon, sculptured in 1667, with serpents being attacked by archers, throw its blood but better water b its mouth. They were put here in 1668 welcoming the triumphant Louis XIV from the devolution war and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.

We continue with the Bosquet des Rocailles ou Salle de Bal, this is where the spectacles were held outdoors,in the summer evenings, where the ballet comedy and opera ballet created by Lully and Moliére were started in 1683. Louis XIV was also interested by the dance and with his support the royal academy of the dance was created in 1661. Not a garden but right in the middle of it, is the Petite Venise ,near the Grand Canal, done in 1673. This is where the gondolas and boats given by Venice were housed as well as the yachts of England for the boat parade in the Grand Canal., These included the ships Galiate(1669), Grand Vaisseay(1685),Dunkerquoise (1685), Réale or Grande Galére (1686) were the stars. The Grand Canal 1,8 kms long served perfectly for this showcase. The front of a boat favorite of Marie Antoniette it is now visible at the musée national de la marine at the pl de la concorde ,Paris.

The gardens of Versailles are irrigated with water, where? underground, when in the fall the fountains are empty for cleaning you can see the deep wells of these magnificents fountains and water pumps. The reservoir in the north wing coming from the hill or butte de Montbauron provides underground water for 30 kms of canals!!! reachable by 6 galleries or underground tunnels communicating by a set of joints to the 50 fountains and 670 water spouts. The underbelly of Versailles is a huge water castle.  By the parterre of water eight statues surge representing the rivers of France such as the Loire, Rhone,Loiret,Saone,Seine,Marne, Garonne and Dordogne.

Just at the entry fo the pyramide and the allée des marmousets you see the Bain des Nymphes de Diane (done from 1668-1670).  This is to the right as you come into the gardens. You, also, enjoy the Ile de Délos, This is the mythical story of Latone lover of Junon who gives birth to Apollon and Diane at the isle of Delos. The figures are on marble on a pedestal of 3 levels with the figure of Latone facing the Grand Canal. Great

We go now to the birth of seasons at Enlevement de Proserpine par Pluton or the kidnapping of proserpine by pluton.Created by Le Brun in 1674. Proserpine was the daughter of Jupiter and kidnapped by Pluton god of hell that marries her. It is in the center of the bosquet de la Colonnade from 1699 Many beautiful sculptures around this area too. One of the them is the Songe de Poliphile, white and pink marble done between 1687-1688 at the place of the old bosquet de Sources done by Le Notre, after losing favorite status by Louis XIV the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart that change the name to bosquet de la colonnade ,and creates amongst other beauties the Grande and Petite Ecuries,new Orangerie,Grand Trianon,and the designed of the allées de Nord,and Midi.The bosquet de la colonnade is gorgeous.

See the Fountain du bosquet de l’Encelade (1675-1677) full of rocks imitating the lava of a volcano. Also from Greek mytholody. The bosquet was used as a political tool in the war of Holland during the great european alliance of 1673.  It continues showing the sculpture of the France Triomphante (1683) at the bosquet de l’arc de triomphe.  It has at its feet the conquered countries after the peace of Nimegue in 1678 shown as captives such as Spain,Austria,. The sculpture is in gold but not massive just a bath.  Continue to the Bosquet des trois Fontaines, done in 1679 and renovated in 2005,it has a huge shell of copper of 4 meters in diameter.

Another of my favorites is the Bassin de l’ile des Enfants at the bosquet du Rond Vert. The children plays with the flowers on a rock dating from 1710,done from the anguish of Louis XIV of seeing many of his royal children not reaching teen years…they died. In 1714 it is only one child left to inherit the reign, one that Louis XIV held for over 60 years! Going over to the Bassin de Neptune we see the Neptune et Amphitrite (1736-1740), placing over a huge marine shell on a metal platform. It has 99 jets of water!!!  It is the only sculpture ordered by Louis XV in the gardens.  We move on to the Bosquet des Bains d’Apollon to see the sundown chez Tethys;;;lead design done in 1704 around the old grotte or cave of Tethys done in 1666. A gorgeous romantic spot.

official info on the gardens and parks, http://en.chateauversailles.fr/gardens-and-park-of-the-chateau

I will throw in here the Orangerie, a wonderful building right in the gardens, really. and Plenty of plants ::) See the Statue of Louis XIV in emperor garments ,made of marble done to be put in the place des Victoires in Paris ,and done by the personal fortune of Jules-Hardouin-Mansart in 1686. The bronce did not resisted the time elements and was melted in 1792 by the revolutionaries to make canons. You can see at the Louvre the socket and decorations of these canons showing the conquered nations of Nimegue in 1678. When the new Orangerie was built in 1686 there was a perfect gallery of 156 meters long by 21 meters wide and the statue in marble found its place. Inside the Orangerie you will find, the most extraordinary collection of plants of all time, more than 2000 pots of lemon,grenades, laurel roses, oranges coming from Portugal,Spain,Italy, and the Vatican. During the winters these treasures were preserved thanks to the thick walls of 5 meters and the double window panning, even able to keep the Connétable de Pampelune planted in 1421!!! You ,also, can see the horse statue of Louis XIV done from 1665-1673! where you might remember it more for the replica in the pyramide of the Louvre  There is another copy at the piéce d”eau des Suisses since 1990; The original in the Orangerie is from 1685. You can see inside the baths or vasque octogonale done in 1674. done on a piece of marble de Rance, it is an octogonal of 3 meters wide and 1meter deep.  It is difficult to imagine taken a bath here as it would be impossible to heat in those years. The vase took several turns in different places until finally arriving at the Oragerie in 1934.

Official info on the Orangerie, http://en.chateauversailles.fr/index.php?option=com_cdvfiche&idfp=30346E9D-28D6-D047-B142-48405B85CF49

Enjoy the everlasting beauty of Versailles.

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