Gardens of Versailles - The Maze

Map of the Maze

The maze was imagined by Le Nôtre, Le Brun, Perrault and La Fontaine, in the years 1660-1661, for the Superintendent of Finance Fouquet. After Fouquet was arrested, Le Nôtre, Le Brun and Perrault were hired by Louis XIV and revived in Versailles some works they had originally planned for Vaux. La Fontaine, who had remained faithful to Fouquet, fell into disgrace.The maze was among the first bosquets designed in Versailles. The works began in 1664, and the fountains, on the theme of Aesop's fables, were installed in the years 1672-1681.

A Fountain : 'The fox and the Crane'
from Jacques Bailly's Le Labyrinthe de Versailles, (ca. 1675)

The sculptures of animals were very realistic. They were made of painted lead, and arranged in graceful compositions. The idea of fountains illustrating the fables is generally attributed to Bossuet, tutor to the dauphin, but, it seems that Le Brun had already proposed them in the time of Fouquet. The fountains were made after models designed by Le Brun, though he was not involved in the new project, which can be seen as an evidence he had designed them for Vaux. As La Fontaine was still persona non grata in Versailles, Benserade composed verses to introduce each fountain.
The verses, in the form of enigmas, were contributing to turn the labyrinth into an allegory for life, and to make of it a moral and initiatic journey where only the "honnête homme" (gentleman) could find the right way - a bit the same as the 'Map of Tenderness', designed by Mademoiselle de Scudéry and published in 1654 in her novel Clélie, was depicting love as the happy end of a hard journey into the land of feelings.

The Entrance to the Labyrinth
by Jean Cotelle dit Le Jeune (1642-1708)
On the left Cupid/Love and on the right Aesop
In the middle, the fountain of 'The Owl and the Birds"

Cupid/Love : "Yes, now I can close my eyes and laugh
With that bowl of string I'll know how to find my way"
Aesop : "Love, this weak string could mislead you
The slightest shock could snap it".

The maze didn't survive and was replaced by the Bosquet de la Reine.

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Fashion in Detail

Good piece of news ! They reissued Fashion in Detail, a wonderful book on the 17th & 18th-century costumes which gives the opportunity to have a close-up look at the details of several historical costumes from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The pictures are beautiful and completed by very informative explanations on the techniques, fabrics and fashion of the time.
It's an amazing journey into the past, and a great resource for anyone interested in fashion, historical costumes or decorative arts and crafts.

Avril Hart and Susan North
Seventeenth and Eighteenth-century Fashion in Detail

V&A Publishing, 2009, 223p.

First published by V&A publications, 1998, as Historical Fashion in detail from the 17th and 18th Centuries.
First published in North America by Rizzoli International Publications Inc., 1998, as Fashion in Detail from the 17th and 18th Centuries.

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Rameau - Recordings

Suite from Les Fêtes d'Hébé
Suite from Les Indes galantes
The Aulos Ensemble
Centaur - CEN2970 - 2009

Concerts mis en Symphonie
Orchestral version of the harpsichord pieces (1741)
(collection Rameau - vol. 2)
La Simphonie du Marais & Hugo Reyne
Musique à la Chabotterie - 605006 - 2009

Pièces de Clavecin en concerts
Ensemble Baroque Nouveau
Reference Recordings - RR118 HDCD - 2009

Nouvelles Suites de clavecin
Susan Toman, harpsichord
Centaur - CEN2940 - 2008

French Album
Rameau, Debussy, Ravel, Franck
Nikolai Tokarev, piano
Sony Classical - 88697341452 - 2009

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Today, at the Museum of the Army (Paris)

Reopening of the halls of the Modern department (from Louis XIV to Napoleon I), after three years of renovations.
Hôtel National des Invalides - Musée de l'Armée



On Auction at Château de Lasserre

On auction, on May 16, lots of portraits from the 17th and 18th centuries, notably Louis XIV by Rigaud, Louis XVI attributed to Callet, and a lovely Louis XV as a child (ca 1720), all portrayed in their royal costumes.

And there is that beautiful anonymous lady, above, by Largillièrre.

Find all the information and pictures on the auction site : Stanislas Machoir Auction House

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Hotel Lambert (Paris) under Threat - Petition

The Hôtel Lambert
by Eugène Atget - 1898

This bravura piece of Parisian domestic architecture on the point of the Ile Saint- Louis, designed by Le Vau and decorated by Le Brun, is under imminent threat of radical transformation.

The 17th century mansion has survived successive changes with its layout and the authenticity of its structure intact. However, plans which have just been unveiled threaten to subject it to the demands of a modern luxury residence and to transform its exterior into an imaginary, idealised version of the original. The arbitrary slicing-up of the interior apartments involves major demolition, accompanied by a proliferation of disproportionately large shafts intended to accommodate pipework, air-conditioning and elevators. The restricted size of the site means the destruction of floors and cellars which have survived intact.
Specialists, practitioners and amateurs all over the world respectfully urge the Minister of Culture and the French Government to intervene in a project which, in its present form, flies in the face of internationally accepted expert opinion and best practice in the field of restoration.

Sign the Petition



'The French Parnassus' - History and Description

The French Parnassus - etching by Tardieu

Du Tillet wanted to celebrate the great poets and musicians of the time of Louis XIV. What he had in mind was a huge monument, with larger-than-life statues, that he would place in the middle of a garden or in a square.

The monument would represent mount Parnassus with laurels and palm trees, and feature Louis XIV/Apollo on the top and, below him, the Graces, madame de la Suze, madame des Houllières and mademoiselle Scudéry, holding garlands of flowers.

On a lower level, the Muses : Corneille, Molière, Racan, Segrais, La Fontaine, Chapelle, Racine, Boileau, and Lully holding a portrait of Quinault. Other artists would appear on medallions hanging on the trees or held by winged Genies : Marin Marais, Campra, Michel de La Lande, Elizabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre, André Destouches, J.B. de Lully (Lully's son), and Colin de Blamont...

Some other 160 names of writers and musiciens would appear on six phylacteries. One would be entirely dedicated to the musicians : the Gaultier, Chambonnière, Cambert, Henri Dumont, Michel Lambert, Pierre Gautier, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Pascal Colasse, Guillaume Minoret, J.-B. de Bousset, Théobalde, Jean-François Lalouette, Sébastien Brossard, J.-B. Senaille, Salomon, J.-L. Marchand, François Couperin, J.-B. Moreau, Nicolas Bernier, Michel de Monteclair, Jean-Joseph Mouret, Jean-François Dandrieu, Henri des Marets, Michel de La Barre, Charles Gervais, Jean Matho, Jean-Fery Rebel, Forqueray, Bertin, Lacoste, Nicolas Clérambault, Th.-Louis Bourgeois, Grenet, Jacques Aubert, Joseph-Nicolas Royer, Antoine Calvière, Joseph de Boismortier, J.-B. Stuck....
A phylactery would name past and present sponsors and music lovers, like Charlemagne, François 1er, Louis XIII, Philippe d'Orléans, Emperor Charles VI, Charles-Armand-René de la Trémouille, marquis de Brassac, comte d'Eu, Madame Adélaïde (as a violin player), Madame Victoire (as a harpsichord player).... One would be dedicated to women famous in the art of singing : Hilaire, Saint Christophe, Rochois, Le Froid, Chappe, De Lalande... and another one to the famous female harpsichord players : Certain, Perron, Guyot, La Plante, du Hallai & Dandrieu...

Du Tillet, helped by Nicolas de Largillière as artistic advisor for the portraits, contracted the sculptor Louis Garnier to built up the monument. In 1718, an intermediate-sized model was cast in bronze, but building the full-size monument was very costly and Du Tillet had to find sponsors. To promote his project and raise founds, he commissioned an etching (see the illustration above).

In 1727, as he hasn't yet managed to get enough money and thought maybe he would unable to bring his project to a successful conclusion, he published a Description du Parnasse françois, exécuté en bronze, followed by a Liste alphabétique des Poètes et Musiciens rassemblés sur ce monument.
In 1732 there was a second edition titled Le Parnasse françois, enlarged with notes on the life of various musicians and poets. Additional notes were published in 1743 and 1755.

Titon du Tillet died in 1762 without having seen his dream come true. The bronze model was given to Louis XV by Du Tillet's heir and nephew. During the 19th century it was kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale but, as it was taking too much place, they decided to send it to Versailles where it was dismantled and neglected for a long time. Many of the small pieces (medallions and phylacteries) disappeared. The work is now part of the collection of the Musée de l'Histoire of the Château de Versailles where it can be seen.

From June 30 to September 27, 2009, 'The French Parnassus' will be in Los Angeles, still part of the exhibition Cast in Bronze : French Scultptures from Renaissance to Revolution, at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

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