Basins, Fountains and Statues, Versailles
Unlike the marble statues of allegorical young women, the nymphs at Versailles tend to be made of bronze and are often seen lounging voluptuously by the sides of ponds. The one in my first photo is called “Nymph and young Triton” and is by Balthasar Keller (1638-1702) based on an earlier group by Pierre Legros (1629-1714). The nymph here is leaning on some sort of fish or eel, who does not look happy about the situation. The young Triton is a child with a tail like a mermaid.
Second photo: This one is called “Nymph and Child” and is by the same sculptors, who were apparently kept quite busy in the 1680s making sculptures for the Versailles gardens. Both the nymph and the child are holding birds of some sort. The nymph this time is leaning on – what? Perhaps someone can tell me.
Third, fourth and fifth photos: Here are some boys – or are they also Tritons? – riding around the Dragon Fountain on swans and shooting at each other with bows and arrows, sort of like kids on go-karts at an amusement park. Or more likely they are trying to shoot the dragon, as young Apollo did in Greek mythology.
I was there on a day when the fountains were not turned on, so there was no water squirting around. Currently the fountains are turned on two three times a week (exact dates here), and on those days they charge admission to get into the gardens. On other days the gardens are free.
Louis XIV would not have been happy with this solution, as he wanted the fountains to be running day and night, all year round, even when no one was there to see them. To this end he went to extreme lengths to bring more water to Versailles, by building the Marly Machine, a sort of Rube Goldberg machine to bring water up from the Seine, and the ill-fated aqueduct at Maintenon, no doubt the greatest boondoggle of the 17th century.
Next: Queuing for the mini-train
For the large formal gardens behind his palace at Versailles, King Louis XIV commissioned dozens of white marble statues showing healthy young women with good posture, most of them dressed in nothing more than a bed sheet wrapped around them in some suggestive way.
To avoid offending anyone, he gave each of these statues an allegorical meaning. The statue in my first photo, for instance, is not just a lovely young woman, it is an allegory for L’Air (The Air), and to prove it she has an eagle sitting at her feet, gazing up at her in admiration. Eagles, after all, would not be able to fly without air, so the eagle has every reason to be grateful.
The statue was made by Étienne Le Hongre (1628-1690).
Second photo: The lady in this statue is more modestly dressed, as befits someone symbolizing La Terre (The Earth). The statue is by Benoit Massu (1633-1684).
Third photo: This white marble lady with vaguely African features has a pet lion licking her toes, to show that she symbolizes L’Afrique (Africa). The statue was begun by Georges Sibrayque, who died in 1682, and completed after his death by Jean Cornu (1650-1710).
Fourth photo: This bellicose young lady representing Europe does not have an animal at her feet, only a shield with a bas-relief of a horse. The statue is by Pierre Mazeline (1632-1708).
Fifth photo: A row of these statues. Most of these statues are copies, since the originals have been taken indoors in recent years to prevent further damage from the elements.
Next: Times of Day
In another set of allegorical sculptures, gorgeous young women are presented as personifications of different times of day. The one in my first photo is called L’heure de Midi (The Hour of Noon) by Gaspard Marsy (1624-1681). Here the lady has an angel by her side, a little boy with angel’s wings who is reaching up to her.
Second photo: This one is Le Soir (evening), also known as Diana, the virgin goddess of hunting. She has some arrows in a quiver slung over her back, and is accompanied by some sort of animal, perhaps a hunting dog. In addition, she seems to be taking root like a tree, like her follower Daphne, a nymph who transformed herself into a tree to avoid losing her virginity. (In Frankfurt we recently had a beautiful production of the opera Daphne by Richard Strauss.) This sculpture is by Martin Desjardins (1637-1694).
Third photo: This is La Nuit (The Night) by Jean Raon (1630-1707). The lady is carrying a torch, logically enough, and is accompanied by an owl, but it seems to be a warm night because she is not shivering at all and is very lightly dressed, as are most of her colleagues.
Fourth photo: After a diligent search of the gardens, I found two statues that do not show beautiful young women. (Just so you don’t get the impression that Louis XIV had a one-track mind.) This statue is of the Greek rhetorician Isocrates (436–338 BC), who is not at all identical with Socrates (469-399 B.C.) as I had naively assumed.
Fifth photo: This one is supposed to be Ulysses aka Odysseus, who for some reason is holding a tulip complete with its bulb.
Next: Nymphs and Tritons
The one big disappointment when visiting Versailles for me was not being able to see the fountains working. Seeing them amidst stagnant water is all right, but it's amazing to see them in all their spouting splendor. Even in the height of the tourist season they are only turned on on the weekends and for limited times- oh well.
There are 10 fountains in all scattered all over the grounds.
Many of the statues, urns, etc have cherubs as adornments or supports. Although I didn't make a scientific analysis, it appears that no two share the same pose or facial expression, which in itself is a remarkable feat for those artists who made the casts.
The statues of the grounds are beautiful and add to the elegance of the gardens. The statues are simple yet beautiful and stand out amidst the green of the trees, the pools of water and colorful flowers in the background.
It was wonderful wandering about and examining the statues.
We had just begun to walk in the garden when music started to play and the fountains began to gush into the air. It was a dramatic beginning to say the least...but I was impressed.
The fountain of Versailles are magnificent and large in size. The fountain figures and stautes are so detailed. It really was a wonderful thing to see....pictures hardly do it justice. The Bassin de Latone was a particular favorite of mine while strolling the gardens.
I can only imagine the cost of building such magnificent fountains and the cost of maintaining them in such perfect condition.
Like I wrote before ... the gardens are now one of the most visited public sites in France, receiving more that six million visitors a year. In addition to the meticulous manicured lawns, parterres of blooming flowers, and sculptural masterwork are the fountains, which are located throughout the garden.
Between 1664 and 1668, a flurry of activity was evidenced in the gardens – especially with regard to fountains and new bosquets. I hiked my way around and could see all fine examples from this timeline. Of course you can't miss the Bassin de Latone which is located on the east-west axis just west and below the Parterre d’Eau. Designed by André Le Nôtre, sculpted by Gaspard and Balthazar Marsy, and constructed between 1668-1670, amazing work. Another one I can't forget is the Bassin d’Apollon, which lies further along the east-west axis and was constructed 1668-1671. And finally have a look at the Grand Canal. With a length of 1,500 meters and a width of 62 meters, the Grand Canal, which was built between 1668-1671, physically and visually prolongs the east-west axis to the walls of the Gardens.
But just stroll around, try to get lost and do have a look at the Parterre d’Eau, Bassin des Sapins and Pièce d’Eau des Suisses as well!
Address: Place d’Armes, Versailles
Directions: As a part of the Chateau de Versailles you can’t miss out on this extremely large garden! For those who are afraid on missing it … just follow the signs whenever you're in front of the palace or entering the palace.
Phone: 33 1 30 84 74 00
Water fountains in Versailles.
Whenever visiting this marvellous Chateau - respect your personal time schedule and interests because this place is so huge - and time so short whenever visiting it for only one day.
- The flower scéne in the garden is May/June - if nature grills are on time (not in 2006)
- Fountains are jetting water every day - but the time is limited - start around 16hr00 or early morning till midday
The Gardens occupy an 800 square meter (1/2 sq. mile) roughly square grid-plan, bisected by the Grand Axis (withTapis Vert). On each side are 6 roughly equal sqare sub-divisions consisting variously of jardins (gardens), bosquets (groves), fountains, quiconxes (5 spot designs) and other diversions. These ares are separated by Alleses (Avenues). At the center of the 4 intersections of theAvenues (2 in each side) are pool-fountains,each with a reclining Goddess symbolic of a season surrounded by playing children. (Since Hurricane Katrina I could only find Summer (Ceres) after sketches by Lebrun. The color of the sculpture is an attempt to reproduce the polychromy of long ago. We have only shots of two.
The gardens are built with the fountains in mind. To see the gardens and statues and pools without seeing the fountains is really to see only half. I thought it was amazing the difference the fountain display made in the way I perceived the bosquets and statues. Each individual fountain might be nice, but not overpowering. It is in the incremental awareness of each and every one of the 50 fountains as you wander the pathways. One opening up after another, lines of sights sometimes catching three or four at a time. Who noticed the crowds when there was so much else to see and enjoy?
This is the most delightful part of the grounds. It is on a gentle slope that leads downwards from the North Parterre garden area , the Pyramid Fountain and Bathing Nymphs cascade-pool. The Alle contains along each side 7 basin-fountains supported by columns surrounded by cast-bronze children(Marmousets) sporting in the water. At its lower end, the two rows widen and 4x2 more of the fountains embrace a pool containing the Dragon Fountain, while beyond this is the vast reservoir of the Neptune Fountain. The original ideas were creations of a Perrault brother (creator of Mother Goose).
The fountains are turned on only on Sunday afternoons in the warmer months (look at the website to be sure).I cannot remeber if there is an extra charge to enter the gardens on those days. In fact I do not think you have to go on a palace visit. We have visited only the gardens on a weekday (driving our car to a side gate) for a nominal fee which included our parking. At any rate as you can see there is a barrier before the grounds (maybe we presented our tour tickets). There is a sequence as to when the fountains are turned on and off. We had hoped to see them in the Neptune Basin but they were turned on last and the pressure did not come up before we left, but we saw the Water Avenue above it, in full play.
The landscape of the gardens surrounded by statues gives me a very majestic feeling, the vastness of the garden alone makes me feel awestruck. The gardens in the heart of paris or other parts of Europe paled in comparisson to Versailles.
The first picture : the living statue of Versailles, Adinda, a collegue who helped to organize the day trip,made a info brochure and tips visiting Versailles castle, she did a good job because whe had no local guide and so organizing ourselves, and grace to other members of the Honda social fonds, a day to remember.
Next pictures will convince the visitors that there are a lot of statues in Versailles - Adinda told me more than 372 - in total more than 2100 sculptures and 5000 furnitures, most of all
sold during/after the revolution of 1789 - and recuperated afterwards
Address: Versailles - France
Directions: Versailles entree gate and garden