The Gardens of Versailles (French: Jardins du château de Versailles [ʒaʁdɛ̃ dy ʃɑto d(ə) vɛʁsɑj]) occupy part of what was once the Domaine royal de Versailles, the royal demesne of the château of Versailles. Situated to the west of the palace, the gardens cover some 800 hectares of land, much of which is landscaped in the classic French formal garden style perfected here by André Le Nôtre. Beyond the surrounding belt of woodland, the gardens are bordered by the urban areas of Versailles to the east and Le Chesnay to the north-east, by the National Arboretum de Chèvreloup to the north, the Versailles plain (a protected wildlife preserve) to the west, and by the Satory Forest to the south.
|Gardens of Versailles|
|Jardins du château de Versailles|
Administered by the Public Establishment of the Palace, Museum and National Estate of Versailles, an autonomous public entity operating under the aegis of the French Ministry of Culture, the gardens are now one of the most visited public sites in France, receiving more than six million visitors a year.
In addition to the meticulous manicured lawns, parterres, and sculptures are the fountains, which are located throughout the garden. Dating from the time of Louis XIV and still using much of the same network of hydraulics as was used during the Ancien Régime, the fountains contribute to making the gardens of Versailles unique. On weekends from late spring to early autumn, the administration of the museum sponsors the Grandes Eaux – spectacles during which all the fountains in the gardens are in full play. Designed by André Le Nôtre, the Grand Canal is the masterpiece of the Gardens of Versailles. In the Gardens too, the Grand Trianon was built to provide Sun King with the retreat he wanted. The Petit Trianon is associated with Marie-Antoinette, who spent her time there with her closest relatives and friends.
With Louis XIII's final purchase of lands from Jean-François de Gondi in 1632 and his assumption of the seigneurial role of Versailles in the 1630s, formal gardens were laid out west of the château. Records indicate that late in the decade Claude Mollet and Hilaire Masson designed the gardens, which remained relatively unchanged until the expansion ordered under Louis XIV in the 1660s. This early layout, which has survived in the so-called Du Bus plan of c.1662, shows an established topography along which lines of the gardens evolved. This is evidenced in the clear definition of the main east–west and north–south axis that anchors the gardens' layout.
In 1661, after the disgrace of the finance minister Nicolas Fouquet, who was accused by rivals of embezzling crown funds in order to build his luxurious château at Vaux-le-Vicomte, Louis XIV turned his attention to Versailles. With the aid of Fouquet's architect Louis Le Vau, painter Charles Le Brun, and landscape architect André Le Nôtre, Louis began an embellishment and expansion program at Versailles that would occupy his time and worries for the remainder of his reign.
From this point forward, the expansion of the gardens of Versailles followed the expansions of the château. Accordingly, Louis XIV's building campaigns apply to the gardens as well. At every stage the prescribed tour was carefully managed, under the Sun King's directions.
In 1662, minor modifications to the château were undertaken; however, greater attention was given to developing the gardens. Existing bosquets and parterres were expanded and new ones created. Most significant among the creations at this time were the Versailles Orangerie and the "Grotte de Thétys". (Nolhac 1901, 1925) The Orangery, which was designed by Louis Le Vau, was located south of the château, a situation that took advantage of the natural slope of the hill. It provided a protected area in which orange trees were kept during the winter months. (Nolhac 1899, 1902)
The "Grotte de Thétys", which was located to the north of the château, formed part of the iconography of the château and of the gardens that aligned Louis XIV with solar imagery. The grotto would be completed during the second building campaign. (Verlet 1985)
By 1664, the gardens had evolved to the point that Louis XIV inaugurated the gardens with the fête galante called Les Plaisirs de l’Île enchantée. The event, which officially was to celebrate his mother, Anne d'Autriche, and his consort Marie-Thérèse but in reality celebrated Louise de La Vallière, Louis' mistress, was held in May of that year. Guests were regaled with fabulous entertainments in the gardens over a period of one week. As a result of this fête – particularly the lack of housing for guests (most of them had to sleep in their carriages), Louis realized the shortcomings of Versailles and began to expand the château and the gardens once again. (Verlet, 1961, 1985)
Between 1664 and 1668, a flurry of activity was evidenced in the gardens – especially with regard to fountains and new bosquets; it was during this time that the imagery of the gardens consciously exploited Apollo and solar imagery as metaphors for Louis XIV. Le Vau's enveloppe of the Louis XIII's château provided a means by which, though the decoration of the garden façade, imagery in the decors of the grands appartements of the king and queen formed a symbiosis with the imagery of the gardens. (Lighthart, 1997; Mâle, 1927)
With this new phase of construction, the gardens assumed the topographical and iconological design vocabulary that would remain in force until the 18th century. As André Félibien noted in his description of Versailles, solar and apollonian themes predominated with projects constructed at this time: "Since the sun was the emblem of Louis XIV, and that poets join the sun and Apollo, there is nothing in this superb house that does not relation to this divinity." (Félibien, 1674).
Three additions formed the topological and symbolic nexus of the gardens during this phase of construction: the completion of the "Grotte de Thétys", the "Bassin de Latone", and the "Bassin d'Apollon".
Started in 1664 and finished in 1670 with the installation of the statuary by the Gilles Guérin, François Girardon, Thomas Regnaudin, Gaspard Marsy, and Balthazar Marsy, the grotto formed an important symbolic and technical component to the gardens. Symbolically, the "Grotte de Thétys" related to the myth of Apollo – and by that association to Louis XIV. It was as the cave of the sea nymph Thetis, where Apollo rested after driving his chariot to light the sky. The grotto was a freestanding structure located just north of the château. The interior, which was decorated with shell-work to represent a sea cave, contained the statue group by the Marsy brothers depicting the sun god attended by nereids (central grouping) and his horses being groomed by attendants of Thetis (the two accompanying statue groups). Originally, these statues were set in three individual niches in the grotto and were surrounded by various fountains and water features. (Marie 1968; Nolhac 1901, 1925; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985)
Technically, the "'Grotte de Thétys" played a critical role in the hydraulic system that supplied water to the garden. The roof of the grotto supported a reservoir that stored water pumped from the Clagny pond and which fed the fountains lower in the garden via gravity.
Exterior of the Grotte de Thétys
by Jean Le Pautre, 1672
Interior of the Grotte de Thétys
by Jean Le Pautre, 1676
Located on the east–west axis just west and below the Parterre d'Eau, is the Bassin de Latone. Designed by André Le Nôtre, sculpted by Gaspard and Balthazar Marsy, and constructed between 1668 and 1670, the fountain depicted an episode from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Latona and her children, Apollo and Diana, being tormented with mud slung by Lycian peasants, who refused to let her and her children drink from their pond, appealed to Jupiter who responded by turning the Lycians into frogs. This episode from mythology has been seen by historians in reference as an allegory to the revolts of the Fronde, which occurred during the minority of Louis XIV. The link between Ovid's story and this episode from French history is emphasized by the reference to "mud slinging" in a political context. The revolts of the Fronde – the word fronde also means slingshot – have been regarded as the origin of the use of the term "mud slinging" in a political context. (Berger, 1992; Marie, 1968, 1972, 1976; Nolhac, 1901; Thompson, 2006; Verlet, 1961, 1985; Weber, 1981)
|"View of the Bassin de Laoton, 1678" engraving by Jean Le Pautre, 1678||"View of the Bassin d'Apollon" engraving by Louis de Chastillon, 1683|
Further along the east–west axis is the Bassin d'Apollon – the Apollo Fountain. Occupying the site of Rondeau/Bassin des Cygnes of Louis XIII, the Apollo Fountain, which was constructed between 1668 and 1671, depicts the sun god driving his chariot to light the sky. The fountain forms a focal point in the garden and serves as a transitional element between the gardens of the Petit Parc and the Grand Canal. (Marie 1968; Nolhac 1901, 1925; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985)
With a length of 1,500 metres and a width of 62 metres, the Grand Canal, which was built between 1668 and 1671, physically and visually prolongs the east–west axis to the walls of the Grand Parc. During the Ancien Régime, the Grand Canal served as a venue for boating parties. In 1674, as a result of a series of diplomatic arrangements that benefited Louis XIV, the king ordered the construction of Petite Venise (Little Venice). Located at the junction of the Grand Canal and the junction of the northern transversal branch, Little Venice housed the caravels and yachts that were received from The Netherlands and the gondolas and gondoliers received as gifts from the Doge of Venice, hence the name. (Marie 1968; Nolhac 1901, 1925; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985)
Above and beyond the decorative and festive aspects of this garden feature, the Grand Canal also served a practical role. Situated at a low point in the gardens, it collected water it drained from the fountains in the garden above. Water from the Grand Canal was pumped back to the reservoir on the roof of the Grotte de Thétys via a network of windmill-powered and horse-powered pumps. (Thompson 2006)
|"View of the Grand Canal" engraving by Nicolas Perelle, 1680||"View of the garden facade from the Basin de Latone" by Adam Perelle|
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. (Berger I, 1985; Friedman, 1988,1993; Hedin, 1981–1982; Marie, 1968; Nolhac, 1901; Thompson, 2006; Verlet, 1961, 1985; Weber, 1981)
One of the distinguishing features of the gardens during the second building campaign was the proliferation of bosquets. Expanding the layout established during the first building campaign, Le Nôtre added or expanded on no fewer that ten bosquets: The Bosquet du Marais in 1670; the Bosquet du Théâtre d'Eau, Île du Roi and Miroir d'Eau, the Salle des Festins (Salle du Conseil), the Bosquet des Trois Fontaines in 1671; the Labyrinthe and the Bosquet de l'Arc de Triomphe in 1672; the Bosquet de la Renommée (Bosquet des Dômes) and the Bosquet de l'Encélade in 1675; and the Bosquet des Sources in 1678 (Marie 1972, 1976; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
In addition to the expansion of existing bosquets and the construction of new ones, there were two additional projects that defined this era, the Bassin des Sapins and the Pièce d'eau des Suisses.
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. (Marie 1972, 1975; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985)
Excavated in 1678, the Pièce d'eau des Suisses – named for the Swiss Guards who constructed the lake – occupied an area of marshes and ponds, some of which had been used to supply water for the fountains in the garden. This water feature, with a surface area of more than 15 hectares, is the second largest – after the Grand Canal – at Versailles. (Marie 1972, 1975; Nolhac 1901, 1925; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985)
Modifications in the gardens during the third building campaign were distinguished by a stylistic change from the natural esthetic of André Le Nôtre to the architectonic style of Jules Hardouin Mansart. The first major modification to the gardens during this phase occurred in 1680 when the Tapis Vert – the expanse of lawn that stretches between the Latona Fountain and the Apollo Fountain – achieved its final size and definition under the direction of André Le Nôtre. (Nolhac 1901; Thompson 2006)
Beginning in 1684, the Parterre d'Eau was remodeled under the direction of Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Statues from the Grande Commande of 1674 were relocated to other parts of the garden; two twin octagonal basins were constructed and decorated with bronze statues representing the four main rivers of France. In the same year, Le Vau's Orangerie, located to south of the Parterrre d'Eau was demolished to accommodate a larger structure designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart. In addition to the Orangerie, the Escaliers des Cent Marches, which facilitated access to the gardens from the south, to the Pièce d'Eau des Suisses, and to the Parterre du Midi were constructed at this time, giving the gardens just south of the château their present configuration and decoration.
Additionally, to accommodate the anticipated construction of the Aile des Nobles – the north wing of the château – the Grotte de Thétys was demolished. (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976; Nolhac 1899, 1901, 1902, 1925)
With the construction of the Aile des Nobles (1685–1686), the Parterre du Nord was remodeled to respond to the new architecture of this part of the château. To compensate for the loss of the reservoir on top of the Grotte de Thétys and to meet the increased demand for water, Jules Hardouin-Mansart designed new and larger reservoirs situated due north of the Aile des Nobles (Thompson 2006). Construction for the ruinously expensive Canal de l'Eure was inaugurated in 1685; designed by Vauban it was intended to bring waters of the Eure over 80 kilometres, including aqueducts of heroic scale, but the works were abandoned in 1690: see "The problem of water" below.
Between 1686 and 1687, the Bassin de Latone, under the direction of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, was rebuilt. It is this final version of the fountain that one sees today at Versailles. (Hedin 1992; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985)
During this phase of construction, three of the garden's major bosquets were modified or created. Beginning with the Galerie des Antiques, this bosquet was constructed in 1680 on the site of the earlier and short-lived Galerie d'Eau (1678). This bosquet was conceived as an open-air gallery in which antique statues and copies acquired by the Académie de France in Rome were displayed. The following year, construction began on the Salle de Bal. Located in a secluded section of the garden west of the Orangerie, this bosquet was designed as an amphitheater that featured a cascade – the only one surviving in the gardens of Versailles. The Salle de Bal was inaugurated in 1685 with a ball hosted by the Grand Dauphin. Between 1684 and 1685, Jules Hardouin-Mansart built the Colonnade. Located on the site of Le Nôtre's Bosquet des Sources, this bosquet featured a circular peristyle formed from thirty-two arches with twenty-eight fountains and was Hardouin-Mansart's most architectural of the bosquets built in the gardens of Versailles (Marie 1972, 1976; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985)
Due to financial constraints arising from the War of the League of Augsburg and the War of the Spanish Succession, no significant work on the gardens was undertaken until 1704. Between 1704 and 1709, bosquets were modified, some quite radically, with new names suggesting the new austerity that characterized the latter years of Louis XIV's reign. (Marie 1976; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985)
With the departure of the king and court from Versailles in 1715 following the death of Louis XIV, the palace and gardens entered an era of uncertainty. In 1722, Louis XV and the court returned to Versailles. Seeming to heed his great-grandfather's admonition not to engage in costly building campaigns, Louis XV did not undertake the costly building campaigns at Versailles that Louis XIV had. During the reign of Louis XV, the only significant addition to the gardens was the completion of the Bassin de Neptune (1738–1741). (Marie 1984; Verlet 1985)
Rather than expend resources on modifying the gardens at Versailles, Louis XV – an avid botanist – directed his efforts at Trianon. In the area now occupied by the Hameau de la Reine, Louis XV constructed and maintained les jardins botaniques – the botanical gardens. In 1750, the year in which les jardins botaniques were constructed, the Jardinier-Fleuriste, Claude Richard (1705–1784), assumed administration of the botanical gardens. In 1761, Louis XV commissioned Ange-Jacques Gabriel to build the Petit Trianon as a residence that would allow him to spend more time near the jardins botaniques. It was at the Petit Trianon that Louis XV fell fatally ill with smallpox; on 10 May 1774, the king died at Versailles. (Marie, 1984; Thompson, 2006)
Upon Louis XVI's ascension to the throne, the gardens of Versailles underwent a transformation that recalled the fourth building campaign of Louis XIV. Engendered by a change in outlook as advocated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Philosophes, the winter of 1774–1775 witnessed a complete replanting of the gardens. Trees and shrubbery dating from the reign of Louis XIV were felled or uprooted with the intent of transforming the French formal garden of Le Nôtre and Hardouin-Mansart into a version of an English landscape garden.
The attempt to convert Le Nôtre's masterpiece into an English-style garden failed to achieve its desired goal. Owing largely to the topology of the land, the English esthetic was abandoned and the gardens replanted in the French style. However, with an eye on economy, Louis XVI ordered the palissades – the labour-intensive clipped hedging that formed walls in the bosquets – to be replaced with rows of lime trees or chestnut trees. Additionally, a number of the bosquets dating from the time of the Sun King were extensively modified or destroyed. The most significant contribution to the gardens during the reign of Louis XVI was the Grotte des Bains d'Apollon. The rockwork grotto set in an English style bosquet was the masterpiece of Hubert Robert in which the statues from the Grotte de Thétys were placed. (Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985)
In 1792, under order from the National Convention, some of the trees in gardens were felled, while parts of the Grand Parc were parceled and dispersed. Sensing the potential threat to Versailles, Louis Claude Marie Richard (1754–1821) – director of the jardins botaniques and grandson of Claude Richard – lobbied the government to save Versailles. He succeeded in preventing further dispersing of the Grand Parc and threats to destroy the Petit Parc were abolished by suggesting that the parterres could be used to plant vegetable gardens and that orchards could occupy the open areas of the garden. These plans were never put into action; however, the gardens were opened to the public – it was not uncommon to see people washing their laundry in the fountains and spreading it on the shrubbery to dry. (Thompson 2006)
The Napoleonic era largely ignored Versailles. In the château, a suite of rooms was arranged for the use of the empress Marie-Louise, but the gardens were left unchanged, save for the disastrous felling trees in the Bosquet de l'Arc de Triomphe and the Bosquet des Trois Fontaines. Massive soil erosion necessitated planting of new trees. (Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985)
With the restoration of the Bourbons in 1814, the gardens of Versailles witnessed the first modifications since the Revolution. In 1817, Louis XVIII ordered the conversion of the Île du Roi and the Miroir d'Eau into an English-style garden – the Jardin du Roi. (Thompson 2006)
While much of the château's interior was irreparably altered to accommodate the Museum of the History of France dedicated to "all the glories of France" (inaugurated by Louis-Philippe on 10 June 1837), the gardens, by contrast, remained untouched. With the exception of the state visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1855, at which time the gardens were a setting for a gala fête that recalled the fêtes of Louis XIV, Napoléon III ignored the château, preferring instead the château of Compiègne (Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
With the arrival of Pierre de Nolhac as director of the museum in 1892, a new era of historical research began at Versailles. Nolhac, an ardent archivist and scholar, began to piece together the history of Versailles, and subsequently established the criteria for restoration of the château and preservation of the gardens, which are ongoing to this day. (Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985)
Owing to the many modifications made to the gardens between the 17th and the 19th centuries, many of the bosquets have undergone multiple modifications, which were often accompanied by name changes. 
These two bosquets were first laid out in 1663. Located north and south of the east–west axis, these two bosquets were arranged as a series of paths around four salles de verdure and which converged on a central "room" that contained a fountain. In 1682, the southern bosquet was remodeled as the Bosquet de la Girondole, thus named due to spoke-like arrangement of the central fountain. The northern bosquet was rebuilt in 1696 as the Bosquet du Dauphin with a fountain that featured a dolphin. During the replantation of 1774–1775, both the bosquets were destroyed. The areas were replanted with lime trees and were rechristened the Quinconce du Nord and the Quinconce du Midi (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
In 1665, André Le Nôtre planned a hedge maze of unadorned paths in an area south of the Latona Fountain near the Orangerie. (Loach, 1985) In 1669, Charles Perrault – author of the Mother Goose Tales – advised Louis XIV to remodel the Labyrinthe in such a way as to serve the Dauphin's education (Perrault, 1669). Between 1672 and 1677, Le Nôtre redesigned the Labyrinthe to feature thirty-nine fountains that depicted stories from Aesop's Fables. The sculptors Jean-Baptiste Tuby, Étienne Le Hongre, Pierre Le Gros, and the brothers Gaspard and Balthazard Marsy worked on these thirty-nine fountains each of which was accompanied by a plaque on which the fable was printed, with verse written by Isaac de Benserade; from these plaques, Louis XIV's son learned to read. Once completed in 1677, the Labyrinthe contained thirty-nine fountains with 333 painted metal animal sculptures. The water for the elaborate waterworks was conveyed from the Seine by the Machine de Marly. The Labyrinthe contained fourteen water-wheels driving 253 pumps, some of which worked at a distance of three-quarters of a mile. Citing repair and maintenance costs, Louis XVI ordered the Labyrinthe demolished in 1778. In its place, an arboretum of exotic trees was planted as an English-styled garden. Rechristened Bosquet de la Reine, it would be in this part of the garden that an episode of the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, which compromised Marie-Antoinette, transpired in 1785 (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984; Perrault 1669; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
Originally designed by André Le Nôtre in 1661 as a salle de verdure, this bosquet contained a path encircling a central pentagonal area. In 1671, the bosquet was enlarged with a more elaborate system of paths that served to enhance the new central water feature, a fountain that resembled a mountain, hence the bosquets new name: Bosquet de la Montagne d'Eau. The bosquet was completely remodeled in 1704 at which time it was rechristened Bosquet de l'Étoile (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
Created in 1670, this bosquet originally contained a central rectangular pool surrounded by a turf border. Edging the pool were metal reeds that concealed numerous jets for water; a swan that had water jetting from its beak occupied each corner. The center of the pool featured an iron tree with painted tin leaves that sprouted water from its branches. Because of this tree, the bosquet was also known as the Bosquet du Chêne Vert. In 1705, this bosquet was destroyed in order to allow for the creation of the Bosquet des Bains d'Apollon, which was created to house the statues had once stood in the Grotte de Thétys. During the reign of Louis XVI, Hubert Robert remodeled the bosquet, creating a cave-like setting for the Marsy statues. The bosquet was renamed the Grotte des Bains d'Apollon (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
Originally designed in 1671 as two separate water features, the larger – Île du Roi – contained an island that formed the focal point of a system of elaborate fountains. The Île du Roi was separated from the Miroir d'Eau by a causeway that featured twenty-four water jets. In 1684, the island was removed and the total number of water jets in the bosquet was significantly reduced. The year 1704 witnessed a major renovation of the bosquet at which time the causeway was remodelled and most of the water jets were removed. A century later, in 1817, Louis XVIII ordered the Île du Roi and the Miroir d'Eau to be completely remodeled as an English-style garden. At this time, the bosquet was rechristened Jardin du Roi (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
In 1671, André Le Nôtre conceived a bosquet – originally christened Salle des Festins and later called Salle du Conseil – that featured a quatrefoil island surrounded by a channel that contained fifty water jets. Each lobe of the island contained simple fountain; access to the island was obtained by two swing bridges. Beyond the channel and placed at the cardinal points within the bosquet were four additional fountains. Under the direction of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the bosquet was completely remodeled in 1706. The central island was replaced by a large basin raised on five steps, which was surrounded by a canal. The central fountain contained 230 jets that, when in play, formed an obelisk – hence the new name Bosquet de l'Obélisque (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
The central feature of this bosquet, which was designed by Le Nôtre between 1671 and 1674, was an auditorium/theater sided by three tiers of turf seating that faced a stage decorated with four fountains alternating with three radiating cascades. Between 1680 and Louis XIV's death in 1715, there was near-constant rearranging of the statues that decorated the bosquet. In 1709, the bosquet was rearranged with the addition of the Fontaine de l'Île aux Enfants. As part of the replantation of the gardens ordered by Louis XVI during the winter of 1774–1775, the Bosquet du Théâtre d'Eau was destroyed and replaced with the unadorned Bosquet du Rond-Vert (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985). Bosquet du Théâtre d'Eau is being recreated in 2014, with South Korean businessman and photographer Yoo Byung-eun being the sole patron, donating €1.4 million (~US$1.9 million) to the project.
Situated to the west of the Allée des Marmousets and replacing the short-lived Berceau d'Eau (a long and narrow bosquet created in 1671 that featured a water bower made by numerous jets of water), the enlarged bosquet was transformed by Le Nôtre in 1677 into a series of three linked rooms. Each room contained a number of fountains that played with special effects. The fountains survived the modifications that Louis XIV ordered for other fountains in the gardens in the early 18th century and were subsequently spared during the 1774–1775 replantation of the gardens. In 1830, the bosquet was replanted at which time the fountains were suppressed. Due to storm damage in the park in 1990 and then again in 1999, the Bosquet des Trois Fontaines was restored and reinaugurated on 12 June 2004 (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
Originally, this bosquet was planned in 1672 as a simple pavillon d'eau – a round open expanse with a square fountain in the center. In 1676, this bosquet, located to the east of the Allée des Marmousets and forming the pendant to the Bosquet des Trois Fontaines, was enlarged and redecorated along political lines that alluded to French military victories over Spain and Austria, at which time the triumphal arch was added – hence the name. As with the Bosquet des Trois Fontaines, this bosquet survived the modifications of the 18th century, but was replanted in 1830 at which time the fountains were removed. As of 2008, this bosquet is in the process of being restored (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
Built in 1675, the Bosquet de la Renommée featured a fountain statue of Fame – hence the name of the bosquet. With the relocation of the statues from the Grotte de Thétys in 1684, the bosquet was remodeled to accommodate the statues and the Fame fountain was removed. At this time the bosquet was rechristened Bosquet des Bains d'Apollon. As part of the reorganization of the garden that was ordered by Louis XIV in the early part of the 18th century, the Apollo grouping was moved once again to the site of the Bosquet du Marais – located near the Latona Fountain – which was destroyed and was replaced by the new Bosquet des Bains d'Apollon. The statues were installed on marble plinths from which water issued; and each statue grouping was protected by an intricately carved and gilded baldachin. The old Bosquet des Bains d'Apollon was renamed Bosquet des Dômes due to two domed pavilions built in the bosquet (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
Created in 1675 at the same time as the Bosquet de la Renommée, the fountain of this bosquet depicts Enceladus, a fallen Giant who was condemned to live below Mt. Etna, being consumed by volcanic lava. From its conception, this fountain was conceived as an allegory of Louis XIV's victory over the Fronde. In 1678, an octagonal ring of turf and eight rocaille fountains surrounding the central fountain were added. These additions were removed in 1708. When in play, this fountain has the tallest jet of all the fountains in the gardens of Versailles – 25 metres (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
Designed as a simple unadorned salle de verdure by Le Nôtre in 1678, the landscape architect enhanced and incorporated an existing stream to create a bosquet that featured rivulets that twisted among nine islets. In 1684, Jules Hardouin-Mansart completely redesigned the bosquet by constructing a circular arched double peristyle. The Colonnade, as it was renamed, originally featured thirty-two arches and thirty-one fountains – a single jet of water splashed into a basin center under the arch. In 1704, three additional entrances to the Colonnade were added, which reduced the number of fountains from thirty-one to twenty-eight. The statue that currently occupies the center of the Colonnade – the Abduction of Persephone – (from the Grande Commande of 1664) was set in place in 1696 (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
Occupying the site of the Galerie d'Eau (1678), the Galerie des Antiques was designed in 1680 to house the collection of antique statues and copies of antique statues acquired by the Académie de France in Rome. Surrounding a central area paved with colored stone, a channel was decorated with twenty statues on plinths each separated by three jets of water. The galerie was completely remodeled in 1704 when the statues were transferred to Marly and the bosquet was replanted with horse chestnut trees (Aesculus hippocastanum) – hence the current name Salle des Marronniers (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
Located west of the Parterre du Midi and south of the Latona Fountain, this bosquet, which was designed by Le Nôtre and built between 1681 and 1683, features a semi-circular cascade that forms the backdrop for this salle de verdure. Interspersed with gilt lead torchères, which supported candelabra for illumination, the Salle de Bal was inaugurated in 1683 by Louis XIV's son, the Grand Dauphin, with a dance party. The Salle de Bal was remodeled in 1707 when the central island was removed and an additional entrance was added (Marie 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984; Thompson 2006; Verlet 1985).
"Entrée du Labyrinthe" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Vue de l'intérieur du bosquet du Labyrinthe" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Bosquet de l'Étoile ou la Montagne d'eau" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Bosquet du Marais" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Bosquet des Bains d'Apollon" by Pierre-Denis Martin (Martin le Jeune), ca. 1713
"Bosquet de l'Île Royale et le Bassin du Miroir" by Étienne Allegrain, ca. 1693
"Salle des Festins ou Salle du Conseil" by Étienne Allegrain, ca. 1688
"Le théâtre d'eau-vue de a scène" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Bosquet des trois fontaines-vue du côté" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Bosquet de l'Arc de Triomphe-vue depuis la Salle basse" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Bosquet des Dômes" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Parterre d'Eau" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Bassin de l'Encélade" Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"La Colonnade" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Galerie des Antiques" by Jean Joubert, ca. 1693
"La Salle de bal" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Bassin de Neptune" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Vue de l'Orangerie" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Bassin du Dragon" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Bosquet des trois fontaines-vue de face" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Le théâtre d'eau-vue de l'amphithéâtre" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"L'Orangerie" by Jean Cotelle, ca. 1693
"Parterre du Nord" by Étienne Allegrain, ca. 1693
Bosquet of the Salle de Bal, contemporary view.
La Colonnade with the "Abduction of Persephone" by François Girardon
Grotte des Bains d'Apollon, contemporary view.
Bassin d'Apollon - Apollo Fountain, contemporary view
"Versailles, le jardin du Roi" by Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta, 1914–1920, oil on canvas, 17 x 30 cm, Musée Lambinet
Common to any long-lived garden is replantation, and Versailles is no exception. In their history, the gardens of Versailles have undergone no less than five major replantations, which have been executed for practical and aesthetic reasons.
During the winter of 1774–1775, Louis XVI ordered the replanting of the gardens on the grounds that many of the trees were diseased or overgrown and needed to be replaced. Also, as the formality of the 17th-century garden had fallen out of fashion, this replantation sought to establish a new informality in the gardens – that would also be less expensive to maintain – of Versailles. This, however, was not achieved as the topology of the gardens favored the jardin à la française over an English-style garden. Then, in 1860, much of the old growth from Louis XVI's replanting was removed and replaced. In 1870, a violent storm struck the area damaging and uprooting scores of trees, which necessitated a massive replantation program. However, owing to the Franco-Prussian War, which toppled Napoléon III, and the Commune de Paris, replantation of the garden did not get underway until 1883 (Thompson, 2006).
The most recent replantations of the gardens were precipitated by two storms that battered Versailles in 1990 and then again in 1999. The storm damage at Versailles and Trianon amounted to the loss of thousands of trees – the worst such damage in the history of Versailles. The replantations have allowed museum and governmental authorities to restore and rebuild some of the bosquets abandoned during the reign of Louis XVI, such as the Bosquet des Trois Fontaines, which was restored in 2004. (Thompson, 2006)
Catherine Pégard, the head of the public establishment which administers Versailles, has stated that the intention is to return the gardens to their appearance under Louis XIV, specifically as he described them in his 1704 description, Manière de Montrer les Jardins de Versailles. This involves restoring some of the parterres like the Parterre du Midi to their original formal layout, as they appeared under Le Nôtre. This was achieved in the Parterre de Latone in 2013, when the 19th century lawns and flower beds were torn up and replaced with boxwood-enclosed turf and gravel paths to create a formal arabesque design. Pruning is also done to keep trees at between 17 and 23 metres (56 to 75 feet), so as not to spoil the carefully calibrated perspectives of the gardens.
Owing to the natural cycle of replantations that has occurred at Versailles, it is safe to state that no trees dating from the time of Louis XIV are to be found in the gardens.
The marvel of the gardens of Versailles – then as now – is the fountains. Yet, the very element that animates the gardens, water, has proven to be the affliction of the gardens since the time of Louis XIV.
The gardens of Louis XIII required water and local ponds provided an adequate supply. However, once Louis XIV began expanding the gardens with more and more fountains, supplying the gardens with water became a critical challenge.
To meet the needs of the early expansions of the gardens under Louis XIV, water was pumped to gardens from ponds near the château, with the Clagny pond serving as the principal source. Water from the pond was pumped to the reservoir on top of the Grotte de Thétys, which fed the fountains in the garden by means of gravitational hydraulics. Other sources included a series of reservoirs located on the Satory Plateau south of the château (Verlet, 1985).
By 1664, increased demand for water necessitated additional sources. In that year, Louis Le Vau designed the Pompe, a water tower built north of the château. The Pompe drew water from the Clagny pond using a system of windmills and horsepower to a cistern housed in the Pompe's building. The capacity of the Pompe – 600 m3 of water per day – alleviated some of the water shortages in the garden (Thompson, 2006).
With the completion of the Grand Canal in 1671, which served as drainage for the fountains of the garden, water, via a system of windmills, was pumped back to the reservoir on top of the Grotte de Thétys. While this system solved some of the water supply problems, there was never enough water to keep all of the fountains running in the garden in full-play all of the time (Thompson, 2006).
While it was possible to keep the fountains in view from the château running, those concealed in the bosquets and in the farther reaches of the garden were run on an as-needed basis. In 1672, Jean-Baptiste Colbert devised a system by which the fountaineers in the garden would signal each other with whistles upon the approach of the king indicating that their fountain needed to be turned on. Once the king passed a fountain in play, it would be turned off and the fountaineer would signal that the next fountain could be turned on (Thompson, 2006).
In 1674, the Pompe was enlarged – hence referred to as the Grande Pompe. Pumping capacity was increased via increased power and the number of pistons used for lifting the water. These improvements increased the water capacity to nearly 3,000 m3 of water per day; however, the increased capacity of the Grande Pompe often left the Clagny pond dry (Thompson, 2006).
The increasing demand for water and the stress placed on existing systems of water supply necessitated newer measures to increase the water supplied to Versailles. Between 1668 and 1674, a project was undertaken to divert the water of the Bièvre river to Versailles. By damming the river and with a pumping system of five windmills, water was brought to the reservoirs located on the Satory Plateau. This system brought an additional 72,000 m3 of water to the gardens (Thompson, 2006).
Despite the augmentation of water from the Bièvre, the gardens needed still more water, which necessitated more projects. In 1681, one of the most ambitious water projects conceived during the reign of Louis XIV was undertaken. Owing to the proximity of the Seine to Versailles, a project was proposed to raise the water from the river to be delivered to Versailles. Seizing upon the success of a system devised in 1680 that raised water from the Seine to the gardens of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, construction of the Machine de Marly began the following year.
The Machine de Marly was designed to lift water from the Seine in three stages to the aqueduc de Louveciennes some 100 metres above the level of the river. A series of huge waterwheels was constructed in the river, which raised the water via a system of 64 pumps to a reservoir 48 metres above the river. From this first reservoir, water was raised an additional 56 metres to a second reservoir by a system of 79 pumps. Finally, 78 additional pumps raised the water to the aqueduct, which carried the water to Versailles and Marly.
In 1685, the Machine de Marly came into full operation. However, owing to leakage in the conduits and breakdowns of the mechanism, the machine was only able to deliver 3,200 m3 of water per day – approximately one-half the expected output. The machine was a must-see for visitors to France. Despite the fact that the gardens consumed more water per day than the entire city of Paris, the Machine de Marly remained in operation until 1817 (Thompson, 2006).
During Louis XIV's reign, water supply systems represented one-third of the building costs of Versailles. Even with the additional output from the Machine de Marly, fountains in the garden could only be run à l'ordinaire – which is to say at half-pressure. With this measure of economy, fountains still consumed 12,800 m3 of water per day, far above the capacity of the existing supplies. In the case of the Grandes Eaux – when all the fountains played to their maximum – more than 10,000 m3 of water was needed for one afternoon's display. Accordingly, the Grandes Eaux were reserved for special occasions such as the Siamese Embassy of 1685–1686 (Hedin, 1992; Mercure Galant, 1685).
One final attempt to solve water shortage problems was undertaken in 1685. In this year it was proposed to divert the water of the Eure river, located 160 km. south of Versailles and at a level 26 m above the garden reservoirs. The project called not only for digging a canal and for the construction of an aqueduct, it also necessitated the construction of shipping channels and locks to supply the workers on the main canal. Between 9,000–10,000 troops were pressed in service in 1685; the next year, more than 20,000 soldiers were engaged in construction. Between 1686 and 1689, when the Nine Years' War began, one-tenth of France's military was at work on the Canal de l'Eure project. With the outbreak of the war, the project was abandoned, never to be completed. Had the aqueduct been completed, some 50,000 m3 of water would have been sent to Versailles – more than enough to solve the water problem of the gardens (Thompson, 2006).
Today, the museum of Versailles is still faced with water problems. During the Grandes Eaux, water is circulated by means of modern pumps from the Grand Canal to the reservoirs. Replenishment of the water lost due to evaporation comes from rainwater, which is collected in cisterns that are located throughout the gardens and diverted to the reservoirs and the Grand Canal. Assiduous husbanding of this resource by museum officials prevents tapping into the supply of potable water of the city of Versailles (Thompson, 2006).
The creation of the gardens of Versailles is the context for the film A Little Chaos, directed by Alan Rickman and released in 2015, in which Kate Winslet plays a fictional landscape gardener and Rickman plays King Louis XIV.
The following are sources that have contributed to the above article. It is not an exhaustive list, yet it represents the most readily available imprints:
Dernier acteur de cette réinterprétation : le photographe, poète, peintre, entrepreneur, philanthrope (etc.) et mécène coréen Ahae. Ce septuagénaire très choyé par les institutions culturelles françaises a accepté de prendre en charge le coût du nouveau bosquet, soit 1,4 million d'euros. L'an dernier, les photos d'Ahae ont été présentées dans une expo organisée dans le jardin des Tuileries (Libération du 5 août 2012). Elles le seront à nouveau cet été dans l'orangerie de Versailles.