Gardens

Department of French & Italian

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russell-ganim@uiowa.edu

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See: Janson, H.W.  History of Art. New York: Prentice Hall and Harry N. Abrams, 1997.

Summary:  The gardens of Versailles are so closely coordinated with the design of the palace that they seem to elongate its architectural space. Filled with terraces, basins, fountains and meticulously formed hedges, the gardens served as decoration for the king's public excursions. In addition, the gardens provided a sort of “outdoor room” in which numerous celebrations and spectacles, organized by the king, took place. Included among these soir�es were receptions for foreign monarchs and the staging of plays by Racine and Moli�re. A place of calm and natural splendor, Le N�tre's park allowed the king and nobles to relax by walking along the alleys and canals, exploring the countless parterres, grottos and orchards. As in the palace, the gardens allowed the king the opportunity to demonstrate his extravagance. Two examples stand out: 1) in season, the flowers in the bed were changed daily; and 2) cultivating trees not at all indigenous to Northern France, Louis XIV created (at the time) the world's largest orange grove, with the help of an enormous greenhouse.

Parterre, main building’s fa�ade. Comment on the layout of the parterre. In terms of form, how do the chateau and the gardens complement one another? Compare the structure of the chateau with that of the flower bed. What “commentary” does it make on the relationship between man and nature?

tags: gardens, humanity/nature, chateaux—exteriors, Versailles
Stairway and garden leading to the Grand Canal. Describe the diverse elements of the garden. How many different parts do you see? In what way do these elements lend a sense of harmony? How do you perceive the relationship between the chateau and the gardens in this image?

tags: gardens, chateaux—exteriors, Versailles
Alley leading to the chateau. In terms of composition, how does Le N�tre create variety in his “natural painting?” Do you see the same type of balance between variety and repetition as in the interior and exterior of the chateau? How does Le N�tre make use of perspective? To what end? Describe the function of the urns. To what historical period do they refer?

tags: gardens, Versailles
Parterre du midi. Discuss the use of line and color in this image. What similarities and differences do you notice between the use of line and color in painting and in the gardens? Do you find anything “unnatural” in this display of nature? Explain.

tags: gardens, Versailles
Southern parterre. Discuss the geometry of the parterre. Can you talk about a mathematical logic? What shapes are most common? What is their symbolic value? How do the gardens return to neoclassical motifs and themes? How would you walk around them? What would be the path to follow?

tags: gardens, Versailles, fountains
Grand Canal. What do you make of the abundance of water in the park? Symbolically, why would Louis XIV and Le N�tre find it essential to construct canals and put in fountains? In general, what would a critic say about the handling of nature?

tags: gardens, humanity/nature, Versailles
Park forest. How are the trees planted? Does the forest keep some aspects of its wild nature? What can you see in the center of the image? What does this form refer to when you think of architecture in general?

tags: gardens, Versailles
Orange grove. At first glance, what reaction does the orange grove produce with respect to the entire grounds? How does the orange grove resemble and differ from other aspects of the garden? What was the king’s intention in installing an orange grove in the park? Discuss the balance and imbalance that the grove creates with respect to the landscape.

tags: gardens, Versailles
Fountain. Comment on the reciprocal structure of the fountain and hedges. How is order present in the image? In what way can we apply the term “sculpture” here? What motifs and themes does the fountain repeat when compared to the works inside the chateau? Allegorically, what does the fountain seem to “say?”

tags: gardens, sculpture, allegory, Versailles, fountains
Basin of Apollo and Grand Canal. Why show Apollo in the water? Describe the natural background of the image. Why is the space behind Apollo stripped of most of its natural elements?

tags: gardens, mythology, Versailles, fountains
Basin of Apollo. How does the spurting water change our perception of the basin and statue? Between the representation of Apollo in painting (Werner), in sculpture (Girardon) and in the fountain, which do you find most effective in portraying the power of Louis XIV? Explain.

tags: gardens, mythology, Versailles, fountains

 

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