A History of the Gardens of Versailles
Michel Baridon. Adrienne Mason, Translator
"A wonderful, deep, scholarly treatment of the development of the gardens of Versailles during the reigns of Louis XIV, XV, and XVI, based on original sources including government records and works of philosophers, artists, garden designers, and others."—Choice
"This work treats its subject from an original angle, recalling that the gardens were conceived according to the will of Louis XIV and reflect the politics set in motion by Colbert, which profoundly altered the structure of French society."—L'Express
"Known the world over, the gardens of Versailles are often visited hurriedly by crowds of tourists.... In contrast, this book examines the political and cultural intrigues during the era of the gardens' creation. To achieve his masterpiece, Louis XIV mobilized the seventeenth century's artistic and scientific elite. This work enables us to discover this universe."—Jardins, in a review of the French edition
The gardens of Versailles are perhaps the most famous in the world. Seemingly open to the horizon, their scale is monumental. Their grand east-west axis celebrates the Sun King, even as they offer an expression of the scientific spirit of the age in their geometrical layout and exploitation of the optical properties of reflecting water. The original park design, realized by André Le Nôtre, a few advisers, and Louis XIV himself—author of The Way to Present the Gardens of Versailles—remains largely intact. Yet Louis XV made his own original contribution to the gardens at the Trianon, where later still Richard Mique and Hubert Robert designed the English garden and the delightful village beloved by Marie Antoinette.
Michel Baridon traces the history of the gardens from their inception through three centuries of their history. He stresses the cultural importance of the landscape, provides a chronology to show the stages of its growth, and discusses the contemporary challenges posed by its conservation and historical interpretation. Beautifully illustrated with archival images and commissioned photographs, A History of the Gardens of Versailles provides visitors and enthusiasts with a guide to these legendary grounds.
Michel Baridon (1926-2009) was Professor of English at the University of Burgundy.
Adrienne Mason is Director of Inter-Faculty Programs in Humanities at the University of West England, Bristol.