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My Travels in Europe Series #05 Gardens and Park of Château de Versailles, France

Gardens and Park of Château de Versailles, France (B/W Only)

When I visited the Gardens and Park of the Château de Versailles in France, I ran out of colour films and I only have Black and White spare rolls of films left. So I didn’t want to buy any more colour films due to exorbitant prices in Europe. I did bring enough rolls to use for my film cameras but left them at my hotel room. I got some roll of films with me that I’ve used already and now I only have B/W films left to use. I invited one of the early tour group members who arrived at our designated hotel (Hotel Concorde La Fayette) in Paris to go with me to Versailles and visit the Museum there.

Hotel Concorde La Fayette in Paris#01

We took the train to Versailles and by the time we got there the Museum was already closing so we just decided to stay and visit the gardens and park of the Château de Versailles for free. The Palace of the Château de Versailles, which has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for 30 years, is one of the most beautiful achievements of 18th-century French art. The Château de Versailles was the seat of power from 1682 until 1789 and had continued to show its splendour over the course of centuries. The château lost its standing as the official seat of power in 1789 but acquired a new role in the 19th century as the Museum of the History of France.

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Palace of the Château de Versailles#02 Statue

It was a very big garden and park, the size of two football fields or more by my estimate. We walked from the entrance to other side of the gardens where the exit is located. And from there we took a bus to the railway station to go back to Paris. It was a quiet sunny afternoon for an adventure at the gardens but it was enjoyable when you step into the pages of history and walk in the gardens where Kings and Queens have walked before us and even great figures in history like Napoleon Bonaparte and others.  This one I can call an imperial garden alright. It was an afternoon to remember and I’ve never seen so many fountains and sorts of statues gathered in one huge garden.

Gardens and Park of the Château de Versailles in France

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Photo of  Oly taken at the Gardens of the Château de Versailles

Info Courtesy of (http://en.chateauversailles.fr/gardens-and-park-of-the-chateau-)

“Walls of greenery

Beyond the Parterres, the gardens are criss-crossed by a network of rectangular pathways laid out according to a geometric plan. In the 17th century they were lined with fences and trees meeting overhead or elm saplings, or elms trimmed to form green walls. A few niches were set into these walls of greenery to hold statues.

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The Royal Walk

Also called the “Green Carpet”, because of the strip of lawn that runs down the middle, the Royal Walk is 335 metres long and 40 metres wide. It was laid down under Louis XIII, but Le Nôtre widened it and lined it with twelve statues and twelve vases, placed in symmetrical pairs. Most of them were works sent by the pupils of the Académie de France in Rome in the 17th century. Paths lead off to the Groves which the stroller will discover as he walks along.

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The Water Walk

According to his brother Charles, celebrated for his tales, it was Claude Perrault, the architect, who designed this walk, also known as the “Marmousets” walk, a familiar derivation from “marmot”, a child. The promenade is flanked by twenty-two groups in bronze holding marble bowls of Languedoc.

Flora and Ceres Walk

Placed symmetrically to the Bacchus and Saturn fountains, the Ceres and Flora fountains symbolise respectively Summer and Spring. Flora, half-naked, reclines on a bed of flowers surrounded by Cupids weaving garlands. The sculptor Tuby produced this group between 1672 and 1677. Ceres, holding a sickle and surrounded by Cupids, lies on a bed of ears of corn. It is the work of the sculptor Regnaudin.

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Bacchus and Saturn Walk

The Bacchus (Autumn) and Saturn (Winter) walks have two pools or fountains decorated in their centre with gilded lead statues, the works of the Marsy brothers for the first and of Girardon for the second. They symbolise the four seasons with their corresponding figures of the northern part. In his guide to the gardens, Louis XIV speaks of them in these terms: “on the other side, the royal walk, Apollo, the canal, the green groves, Flora, Saturn, Ceres on the right, Bacchus on the left”.

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The Fountains

The reign of water

Even more so than the planted architectural patterns and the groves, water in all its forms is the favoured ornament of ‘French-style’ gardens: water cascading in some groves, water spraying from fountains, the calm water of the vast sheets of artificial lakes reflecting the sky and the light such as the Water Parterre and the Grand Canal.

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Latona fountain

Inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the Latona fountain illustrates the legend of Apollo’s mother and Diana protecting her children against the insults of the peasants of Lycia, and calling on Jupiter to avenge them. He heard their plea and transformed them into frogs and lizards. The central marble group sculpted by the Marsy brothers represents Latona and her children. The group was originally placed on a rock in 1670. It was surrounded by six frogs emerging partly from the water, and twenty-four others around the fountain on the lawn. The goddess then looked towards the Château. This arrangement was modified by Jules Hardouin-Mansart between 1687 and 1689. The rock was replaced on a concentric marble base and the Latona group henceforth gazes towards the Grand Canal. The Latona fountain is prolonged by a parterre holding the two lizard pools.

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Bacchus Fountain

Also called the Autumn fountain, it is the same size as the three other fountains dedicated to the seasons and near the Royal Walk. Bacchus, a figure of Roman mythology, teaches the cultivation of the vine throughout the world. The god of wine and drunkenness, he symbolises the harvest and is surrounded by small satyrs, half child and half goat.

Mirror Fountain

Louis XIV commissioned the Mirror fountain around 1702. Built facing the King’s Garden, the sculpture with two dragons framing the pool was entrusted to Jean Hardy. Installed on three levels, it leads to three paths and four antique-style statues, including one of Apollo.

Saturn Fountain

In perfect symmetry with the Flora fountain, the Saturn fountain, located in the south end, was sculpted by François Girardon and symbolises the season of winter. Saturn is seated on a throne in the centre, surrounded by small cupids, on an island studded with shellfish.

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The Apollo Fountain

A fountain (the Swans Fountain) already existed her from 1636, under the reign of Louis XIII, which Louis XIV decorated with the impressive and celebrated group in gilded lead representing Apollo on his chariot. The work of Tuby, after a drawing by Le Brun, it is inspired by the legend of Apollo, the Sun gold and emblem of the king. Tuby produced this monumental group between 1668 and 1670 at the Manufacture des Gobelins, and it was then transported to Versailles and installed and gilded the following year.

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Flora Fountain

Located at the crossroads of several Groves, including the Queen’s Grove, the fountain of Flora, Roman goddess of flowers, gardens and spring, symbolises the first season of the year. Sculpted by Tuby, she is represented with a crown of flowers in the centre of the fountain.

Ceres Fountain

The square Ceres Fountain was laid out between 1672 and 1679 by Thomas Regnaudin, after a drawing by Charles Le Brun. Ceres, the Roman goddess of harvests and corn, is seated on a bed of corn stalks, accompanied by cornflowers and roses. Symbolising summer, the fountain forms a set with those of Bacchus, Flora and Saturn who represent the three other seasons.

The Neptune Fountain

The Neptune fountain was built under the direction of Le Nôtre between 1679 and 1681, and was then called the “Pool below the Dragon” or the “Fir Tree Pool”. Jacques-Ange Gabriel slightly modified the pool area and, in 1740, the sculptural decoration was installed. Three group: Neptune and Amphitrite, Proteus and the Ocean god by Jean-Baptise Lemoyne. The new fountain, officially opened by Louis XV, aroused admiration for the number, the force and the variety of the jets of water playing over the lead sculptures. It features ninety-nine water effects that compose an extraordinary aquatic spectacle.

The Dragon Fountain

The Water Path begins with the half-moon of the Dragon Fountain which depicts one of the episodes of the legend of Apollo: the Python snake killed by an arrow shot by the young Apollo. The reptile is surrounded by dolphins and Cupids armed with bows and arrows riding on swans. The principal water jet rises twenty-seven meters into the air. On either side of this fountain restored in 1889, paths lead to the two Groves, France Triumphant and the Three Fountains in the west.

The Nymphs’ Bath

Receiving the overflow of the water from the Pyramid fountain, the cascade known as the Bath of Diana’s Nymphs is adorned with low relief carvings of which the best known, cast in lead and previously gilded, and located on the supporting wall, is a work by Girardon (1668-1670). The others are works by Le Gros, Le Hongre and Magnier.

The Pyramid Fountain

Executed by the sculptor François Girardon from a drawing by Charles Le Brun, the Pyramid in the centre of the fountain took three years to build. It consists of four superimposed lead bowls supported by lead tritons, dolphins and crayfish.”

(Images Courtesy of lakbaypilipinas.ca)

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