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Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution
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Gardens

Related Materials: Marie Antoinette walking in the gardens with her children Louis Charles and Marie Theresa Charlotte.
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Map of Versailles
The gardens of Versailles are vast, covering large stretches of the immense park. Royal gardener André Le Nôtre  (commissioned by Sun King Louis XIV) had little to work with on the narrow, marshy grounds of Versailles.  Despite this challenge, the expert botanist and artist perfected the model of formal or French-style gardens that became the model for the gardens of the powerful across Europe. 

The large parterres or beds were laid out along strictly geometrical lines.  The regularity imposed on the disorder of nature demonstrated the King's power to impose his will on his vast domain. 

The long sight lines extending through the gardens (seemlingly to the horizon) reminded visitors and court members that the King's power extended from Versailles in all directions.  The King himself was reminded of his power but also of his royal responsibilities every time he stepped out onto the terrace and surveyed his vast, manicured gardens.

Le Nôtre took as his theme the Greek god Apollo whose chariot carried the sun across the heavens every day – a fitting icon for the Sun King.  The most magnificent fountain featured Apollo in his horse-drawn chariot bursting from waters and rising heavenward.

Even more impressive, however, were the huge pumps at Marly that fed the man-made canals and fountain-adorned basins with water carried in from the River Seine.  The "machine" of Marly was a civil engineering marvel located on the banks of the Seine about 7 miles from Paris. Louis XIV had it constructed to pump water from the river to Versailles. The construction lasted 30 years and was inaugurated in the presence of the King in June 1684. It was considered a wonder of the world at the time, and may have been the largest system of integrated machinery ever assembled to that date.   It continues to pump water into the fountains at Versailles today. 

In Potsdam, Frederick the Great surrounded his Versailles-inspired palace of Sanssouci with French-style gardens, as a way of presenting his small kingdom of Prussia as a major player among the European powers.

Outside the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, the young Marie Antoinette played in gardens designed for her grandfather by a student of Le Nôtre.  Maria Theresa had received Schönbrunn as a gift from her father and remodeled it extensively, just as Marie Antoinette would receive the Petit Trianon as a gift from her husband. 

When Marie Antoinette took possession of the Petit Trianon in the park at Versailles in 1775, she too undertook a major  rebuilding.  She redecorated every room in the latest style; but it was her father, the princely consort, who was apparently her model when she threw herself into redesigning the gardens.  The style she adopted, while fashionable, was neither French nor a direct expression of power.  The English-style gardens of the Petit Trianon contrasted with those surrounding the Chateau.  And whereas some people saw them as an affront to French style, their winding paths and broken vistas did not, at least, constitute a challenge to the power of the King.

Royal Life

EntranceQueen's ChamberKing's ChamberPetit TrianonThe Petit HameauGrand CanalGrand ParkGardensOpera HallHall of MirrorsChapel RoyalThrone RoomKing's Tennis Courts
Explore Versailles Queen's Chamber

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