Friday, February 10, 2012

Palace of Versailles ~ France

We may have all heard of the Palace of Versailles in France and may even remember some of our history lessons about King Louis XIV or Marie Antoinette but nowhere in my memory bank was there anything like we were about to see.  We arrived from Paris via a half hour train ride and took the short walk from the station to the Palace. 

The Palace of Versailles in France
Our first sight was this sculpture that stands high above the statue of King Louis XIV and the entrance to the Palace. I am not one to usually question ‘art’ but this just didn’t fit into my expectations.  On further research, I learned that this sculpture is by French Artist Bernar Venet and as explained, his plan was to “probe the question about the relationship between art, landscape and architecture and therefore between art, time and history”.  Other pieces very similar to this were placed in different locations around the grounds.

The main courtyard at Palace of Versailles
The Palace has been getting a face lift and part of that is the gold gilding which brings out the details of the original architectural artistry at the time of construction of the palace.  The construction and scaffolding is behind the large plastic screen, on the extreme right side of this photo and used to protect as well as show what the project will look like when complete.  This same style is seen at construction sights all over cities in Europe rather than plain green fabric normally used at home.

One of many gardens at the Palace of Versailles
Our visit was the end of September and we were at a good time in the season to enjoy some beautiful autumn gardens.  This photo was taken at the back of the Palace showing some of those gardens.

The South Parterre at the Palace of Versailles
Designer Andre le Notre’s French Gardens, which are all individually named and the Grand Parks cover over 431 hectares (1065 acres) at the Palace of Versailles. Our view of the Orangery was from the west side at the back of the Palace overlooking the South Parterre.  No matter where we stood, we were able to see gardens and ponds.

Statue on the Water Parterre at Palace of  Versailles
The bronze statue is one of four that symbolizes the four great rivers of France and sits on the Water Parterre, two large rectangular pools.  History says that the Greeks and Romans used this design of statues to depict their rivers; the symbol of water was a source of wealth.  These were created during the years of 1687-1694.

Golden Statue of Flora
There are many fountains displayed and we saw this one as we walked down to see Marie-Antoinette’s Palace on the corner of the 787 hectares (1945 acres) of grounds at the Palace of Versailles.  Included on the grounds are the Trianon Palaces which are part of the estate of Marie-Antoinette. the French Gardens of Andre le Notre and the Grand Park.

French Gardens of the Palace of Versailles
We walked among some of the many gardens but although we walked for hours, one would need to have more than one day to see everything.  These walks separate the many gardens, many include statues and some have fountains.  It is like walking through a  maze and it wouldn’t be difficult to get lost without a map, and even then but we managed to find our way out.

Sun-god Apollo on his chariot
This Jean Baptiste Tuby statue is the sun-god Apollo rising above the horizon and driving the horse driven chariot across the sky. I haven’t been able to learn why the spray was not working in any of the fountains on our visit but these sculptures were beautiful the way they were.

The Grand Canal at the Palace of Versailles
When constructed over an eleven year span, 1668-1679, the Grand Canal was 2 km (1.2 mi) long and had 1400 fountains. King Louis XIV received gondolas from Venice that were then used on the Grand Canal.  This view has changed over the years but still remains a very impressive sight as one stands on the steps behind the Palace, even without the gondolas but still with the Latona Fountain.


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