Sunday, June 17, 2012


One of the essential points of the baroque garden as imagined and designed by Andre Le Notre ( the gardener behind Vaux-le-Vicomte, Versailles, Fontainebleau, St. Germain en Laye, and countless other gardens of the period in France, England, and Italy, including the Vatican), is that it be interesting not only intellectually in its scope, symmetry, and mathematical use of landscape (vertical and horizontal) but that it be sensual.

So the baroque garden includes texture, movement, rhythm, stillness, variation, sound, and, in the case of Versailles, color. Most baroque gardens used only green, but Louis XIV loved flowers, both for color and scent, so flowers as well as flowering and fruit-bearing trees were integrated into the overall design.

Movement, reflection, and sound were added by the inclusion of fountains and pools throughout the garden. And of course the Grand Canal.

Pools offered serene, cool spaces of water countering the green parterres, trees, and topiaries and the paths. Theyalso reflected the blue skies above. Fountains shot water vertically or diagonally and gave life to the silent, still gardens.

At Versailles, the messages of the garden's fountains and pools carries the stories of Apollo, n'est-ce pas? sweeping upward toward Louis's palace, even into Louis's bedchamber.

The Latona Fountain at the head of the Allee Royal: Latona was the mother of Apollo and Diana in Roman mythology, a goddess.

Ovid tells the story of the fountain: when Latona was looking for refuge after having given birth, the Lycian peasants refused her water. In return, being a goddess, she turned them into frogs who had to live in the mud and water ever after. So there. So the fountain depicts Latona, Apollo and Diana on top, then descending/widening rings with fountains and figures of peasants transforming or transformed. Ha!

This is what it looks like with the water turned on, which it wasn't last Wednesday.

The fountains arch up and out, filling the basin, but also causing the water to flow down the layers of the wedding-cake style construction. The figures of Latone, Apollo and Diana are marble, but the others are brass, I think, a golden-colored metal in any case.

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