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Versailles Landscape
19-SEP-2008 Chuck Kuhn

Versailles Landscape

Versailles, France

Versailles is the most famous garden in the world. Yet 'garden' is scarcely a fitting designation. The scale is monumental and there is little sense of enclosure. Versailles was designed as a palatial centre of government for an absolute monarch, Louis XIV. It is resplendent as the prime example of the French Baroque style, but it is not a friendly place. 'Overbearing' is a common description and English critics have often been disenchanted with the place. Walpole saw Versailles as 'the gardens of a great child' (H&T). Avenues project from Louis XIV's palace towards distant horizons, enfolding town, palace, garden and forest. There are imaculate parterres, great basins, an orangery, a vast collection of outdoor sculpture and some of the grandest fountains which have ever been made. The park and garden were designed by Andre Le N˘tre between 1661 and 1700. There are magnificient features: huge parterres, an orangery, famous fountains (which operate....), rich bosquets (ornamental groves), a 1.8 km cruciform canal. The Grand Trianon, another formal garden, was built on the site of a former village. Versailles also has later additions. The Petit Trianon was given to Marie-Antoinette in 1774. She favoured the irregular style, with hills, rocks and streams. The Hameau was designed in 1785, as a stage village, for Marie-Antoinette to play with her friends in the idle years before the French Revolution.

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