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Versailles Gardens: Sculpture and Mythology

Versailles Gardens book cover

by Jacques Girard

"King Louis XIV, the 'Sun King' sought to manifest his inner
memory of the culture of Venus at the Court of Versailles."

Elizabeth Clare Prophet         

In planning his great Palace at Versailles, Louis XIV (Lanello) paid as much attention to his gardens as he did to the Chateau itself. In fact, the palace was in its early stages of conception when Le Notre - the greatest landscape architect of all time - drew up the grand lines that gave his finest garden its definitive form. The Sun King was fascinated with his gardens, and constantly changed and embellished them until they reached perfection at the end of his reign. As if by magic, flower beds changed form and color overnight, and winter was turned into spring in an orange grove filled with hundreds of trees. Endless statues in marble and bronze, superb fountains spouting cascades of water into the warm summer air, and parterres of a refinement that has never been equaled were the ample reflection of the power and magnificence of a monarch who dominated European history for nearly half a century.

Underlying this sensuous creation was a rigid mythological plan that fully reflected the Cartesian spirit of its creators. And this fascinating allegorical scheme is fully explained for the first time in this splendid, all-color book. As would be expected, the story of Apollo dominates the outside as much as the inside of the great palace. Seasons of the Year, Hours of the Day, Parts of the World, the Elements, Poetry, the Humours of Man are all fixed for eternity as they pass through the relentless changes of season. The beauty and poetry of the gardens and their statues throughout the year - surrounded by flowers or embellished by snow - have been wonderfully captured by Jacques Girard.

In addition to nearly 300 photographs in color, the book has an introduction to the French garden, a map of the statuary and gardens, an alphabetical list of artists cited, a bibliography and a fully documented commentary on the plates. This is an essential book for anybody interested in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as well as for all who have been thrilled by one of Europe's most beloved tourist sites.

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