Wednesday, August 12, 2020

1600s Formal Garden - Locus amoenus

Wenceslaus Hollar (Czech artist, 1607-1677)  Spring

Allegorical characters, such as "Spring" above, in stories & in art are often located in garden settings, frequently in or near walled gardens such as the one depicted here. The locus amoenus was one of the traditional locations of epic & chivalric literature. As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a type of prose & verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of Medieval & Early Modern Europe.  Locus amoenus (Latin for "pleasant place") is a literary term which generally refering to an idealized place of safety or comfort, usually a beautiful, shady parkland or open woods, or a group of idyllic garden areas, sometimes with connotations of Eden. A locus amoenus usually has 3 basic elements: trees, grass, & water. Often, the locus amoenus garden will be in a remote place & with only components of a more formal, geometric, walled garden. 

The artist Wenceslaus Hollar was born in 1607, the son of an upper middle-class civic official. Very little is known about his early life, but he evidently learned the rudiments of his craft by age eighteen, left his native Prague at age twenty, and likely studied in Frankfurt under Matthaus Merian. His first book of etchings was published in 1635, in Cologne when Hollar was twenty-eight. The following year he came to the attention of the renowned art collector the Earl of Arundel who was making an official visit to the continent, and Hollar subsequently became a part of his household, settling in England early in 1637. He remained in England during the beginning of the English Civil War period, but left London for Antwerp in 1642, where he continued to work on a variety of projects. In 1652 he returned to England, working on a number of large projects for the publisher John Ogilby and for the antiquary Sir William Dugdale. Hollar was in London during the Great Fire of 1666, and remains most famous for his scenes of the city before and after the fire. He was one of the most skilled etchers of his or any other time, which is all the more remarkable given that he was almost blind in one eye. Hollar died in London on 25 March 1677. By his life's end, he had produced some 2700 separate etchings.

Monday, August 10, 2020

17C Garden 1609

1609 Month of April Print made by Adriaen Collaert After Jacques Callot After Joos de Momper  

Friday, August 7, 2020

17C Discovering a Garden in a Painting Background - 1640 Minerva

 1640 Louis Ferdinand Elle the Elder (French artist, 1612-1689) Anne Marie Louise d'Orleans Grande Mademoiselle as Minerva

Thursday, August 6, 2020

17C Discovering a Garden in a Painting Background

Anonymous Artist - Spring with Flowers & a Garden in the Background. Madrid, Museo del Prado. 1601-1650

Spring & "springtime" refer to the ecological, environmental season, and also to ideas of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection & regrowth.

Monday, August 3, 2020

17C Garden 1610

1610 Twelve months  Jacques Callot (Print made by) Adriaen Collaert (After) Joos de Momper (After) 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

17C Garden Fountains & Search for Proper Wife

Style of Caspar Netscher (Dutch artist, 1639-1684) Portrait of a Young Lady at a Fountain

By the 17C & 18C, artists portrayed women & girls, often the eligible daughters of the patrons commissioning the portraits, near a fountain.In these fountain settings, the young lady is often depicted in the mythical realm of Arcady, a fashionable conceit of the time. At the center of Arcady is the Garden of Love, where a figure of Cupid sits atop a fountain. The young lady places her hand in the flowing water...this is a motif much used by Van Dyke & Lely & it makes an allusion to her potential as a wife & mother, recalling Proverbs, Chapter 5, Verse 18 "Let thy fountain be blessed, & rejoice in the wife of thy youth."

Peter Lely (English artist, 1618-1680) Unknown Lady at Fountain

Garden fountains were originally purely functional, connected to natural springs or aqueducts & used to provide water for drinking; water for bathing & washing; & water to nurish growing plants. The painting would announce to the viewer that the parent/patron had enough money, taste, & technological expertise to channel the water through an artistic garden fountain. Water was now not just a necessary component of nature, the garden planner could make it an integral component of art both outdoors in his garden & indoors in the paintings on his walls. He could not only interpret nature, he could control it. And in this painting, he could announce his "natural" superiority, & might chose to have the portrait he has commissioned suggest that his young lady was becoming sexually available for the right marriage partner.

1661 Peter Lely (English artist, 1618-1680) Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, 1637 - 1671. Became The First wife of James VII and II.

1664 Nicolaes Maes (Dutch artist, 1634-1693) Young Lady by a Fountain

Nicolaes Maes (Dutch artist, 1634-1693) Young Lady by a Fountain (For those who did not like a blond, serious sitter, Maes apparently painted this more cheerful brunette.)

Peter Lely (English artist, 1618-1680) Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Egerton (1653-1709)

 Nicolaes Maes (Dutch artist, 1634-1693) Young Lady by a Fountain

1650 Attr David Des Granges (British artist, 1611-c.1671) Portrait of Elizabeth, Countess of Carnarvon(1633-1678)

1650-70 John Michael Wright (British artist, 1617-1694) Miss Butterworth of Belfield Hall

Peter Lely (English artist, 1618-1680) Portrait Of Diana, Countess of Ailesbury

 Peter Lely (English artist, 1618-1680) Portrait of a Young Lady

 c 1693–1697 Adriaen van der Werff (Dutch artist, 1659-1722) Lady by a Fountain

Caspar Netscher (Dutch artist, 1639-1684) Portrait of a Lady with a Fountain in a Garden Beyond the Terrace Wall

 1715 Lady Henrietta Crofts, Duchess of Bolton by a fountain

Nicolaes Maes (Dutch artist, 1634-1693) Young Girl stops at a garden fountain as her dog drinks the water below.

Style of Pieter Nason (Dutch artist, c 1612-1688-90) Portrait of a young Anna Catharina van Heemskerck (1676-1723) seated by a fountain on a draped garden terrace

Brabant school, the end of the 17C. Young Girl at a fountain.

Barent Graat (Dutch artist, 1628-1709) Portrait of a Girl Cleaning Cherries in a Fountain

Nicolaes Maes (Dutch artist, 1634-1693) Young Lady's arm rests on a garden fountain

Barend van Kalraet (Dutch artist, 1649-1737) Lady by a Fountain with a tame Bird

Peter Lely (English artist, 1618-1680) A Young Lady dips her arm in the garden fountain while a dog and child stand nearby

Nicolaes Maes (Dutch artist, 1634-1693) Catherine Peels

1671-80 Style of Peter Lely (English artist, 1618-1680) The Duchess of Lauderdale

Godfrey Kneller (German-born English artist, 1646-1723) Susannah Anlaby (d.1715), later Mrs Foote Onslow

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Off to Versailles Again - 1869 Mark Twain look at Versailles

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) wrote of Versailles in his 1869 book The Innocents Abroad, where Twain chronicals his visit to Versailles.
Mark Twain (1835-1910)

"VERSAILLES! It is wonderfully beautiful! You gaze and stare and try to understand that it is real, that it is on the earth, that it is not the Garden of Eden—but your brain grows giddy, stupefied by the world of beauty around you, and you half believe you are the dupe of an exquisite dream. The scene thrills one like military music! A noble palace, stretching its ornamented front, block upon block away, till it seemed that it would never end; a grand promenade before it, whereon the armies of an empire might parade; all about it rainbows of flowers, and colossal statues that were almost numberless and yet seemed only scattered over the ample space; broad flights of stone steps leading down from the promenade to lower grounds of the park—stairways that whole regiments might stand to arms upon and have room to spare; vast fountains whose great bronze effigies discharged rivers of sparkling water into the air and mingled a hundred curving jets together in forms of matchless beauty; wide grass-carpeted avenues that branched hither and thither in every direction and wandered to seemingly interminable distances, walled all the way on either side with compact ranks of leafy trees whose branches met above and formed arches as faultless and as symmetrical as ever were carved in stone; and here and there were glimpses of sylvan lakes with miniature ships glassed in their surfaces. And every where—on the palace steps, and the great promenade, around the fountains, among the trees, and far under the arches of the endless avenues—hundreds and hundreds of people in gay costumes walked or ran or danced, and gave to the fairy picture the life and animation which was all of perfection it could have lacked.

"It was worth a pilgrimage to see. Everything is on so gigantic a scale. Nothing is small—nothing is cheap. The statues are all large; the palace is grand; the park covers a fair-sized county; the avenues are interminable. All the distances and all the dimensions about Versailles are vast. I used to think the pictures exaggerated these distances and these dimensions beyond all reason, and that they made Versailles more beautiful than it was possible for any place in the world to be. I know now that the pictures never came up to the subject in any respect, and that no painter could represent Versailles on canvas as beautiful as it is in reality. I used to abuse Louis XIV for spending two hundred millions of dollars in creating this marvelous park, when bread was so scarce with some of his subjects; but I have forgiven him now. He took a tract of land sixty miles in circumference and set to work to make this park and build this palace and a road to it from Paris. He kept 36,000 men employed daily on it, and the labor was so unhealthy that they used to die and be hauled off by cartloads every night. The wife of a nobleman of the time speaks of this as an "inconvenience," but naively remarks that "it does not seem worthy of attention in the happy state of tranquillity we now enjoy."

"I always thought ill of people at home who trimmed their shrubbery into pyramids and squares and spires and all manner of unnatural shapes, and when I saw the same thing being practiced in this great park I began to feel dissatisfied. But I soon saw the idea of the thing and the wisdom of it. They seek the general effect. We distort a dozen sickly trees into unaccustomed shapes in a little yard no bigger than a dining room, and then surely they look absurd enough. But here they take two hundred thousand tall forest trees and set them in a double row; allow no sign of leaf or branch to grow on the trunk lower down than six feet above the ground; from that point the boughs begin to project, and very gradually they extend outward further and further till they meet overhead, and a faultless tunnel of foliage is formed. The arch is mathematically precise. The effect is then very fine. They make trees take fifty different shapes, and so these quaint effects are infinitely varied and picturesque. The trees in no two avenues are shaped alike, and consequently the eye is not fatigued with anything in the nature of monotonous uniformity. I will drop this subject now, leaving it to others to determine how these people manage to make endless ranks of lofty forest trees grow to just a certain thickness of trunk (say a foot and two-thirds); how they make them spring to precisely the same height for miles; how they make them grow so close together; how they compel one huge limb to spring from the same identical spot on each tree and form the main sweep of the arch; and how all these things are kept exactly in the same condition and in the same exquisite shapeliness and symmetry month after month and year after year—for I have tried to reason out the problem and have failed.

"We walked through the great hall of sculpture and the one hundred and fifty galleries of paintings in the palace of Versailles, and felt that to be in such a place was useless unless one had a whole year at his disposal. These pictures are all battle scenes, and only one solitary little canvas among them all treats of anything but great French victories. We wandered, also, through the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon, those monuments of royal prodigality, and with histories so mournful—filled, as it is, with souvenirs of Napoleon the First, and three dead kings and as many queens. In one sumptuous bed they had all slept in succession, but no one occupies it now. In a large dining room stood the table at which Louis XIV and his mistress Madame Maintenon, and after them Louis XV, and Pompadour, had sat at their meals naked and unattended—for the table stood upon a trapdoor, which descended with it to regions below when it was necessary to replenish its dishes. In a room of the Petit Trianon stood the furniture, just as poor Marie Antoinette left it when the mob came and dragged her and the King to Paris, never to return. Near at hand, in the stables, were prodigious carriages that showed no color but gold—carriages used by former kings of France on state occasions, and never used now save when a kingly head is to be crowned or an imperial infant christened. And with them were some curious sleighs, whose bodies were shaped like lions, swans, tigers, etc.—vehicles that had once been handsome with pictured designs and fine workmanship, but were dusty and decaying now. They had their history. When Louis XIV had finished the Grand Trianon, he told Maintenon he had created a Paradise for her, and asked if she could think of anything now to wish for. He said he wished the Trianon to be perfection—nothing less. She said she could think of but one thing—it was summer, and it was balmy France—yet she would like well to sleigh ride in the leafy avenues of Versailles! The next morning found miles and miles of grassy avenues spread thick with snowy salt and sugar, and a procession of those quaint sleighs waiting to receive the chief concubine of the gaiest and most unprincipled court that France has ever seen!".

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Longing to be off to Versailles Again - Gardens & Grounds



 I am longing to go back to Versailles. (I am the old one with the very white hair.)
If you have been reading this blog or my Early American Gardens blog, you know that it is not so much the castle, but the grounds that attract me. You can stand at the Chateau's Hall of Mirrors & look all the way down the Royal Path & Grand Canal, past the statues & Water Parterre to the very horizon.
In 1661, Louis XIV commissioned André Le Nôtre to lay out of his gardens. Thousands of men dug & carried soil in wheelbarrows for the flower beds & Orangerie.
An army of men dug the fountains & canal and terraced the grounds. Stonemasons carved & set the stones. Artists sculpted the statues.
Men with horses & carts hauled hundreds trees from all the provinces of France. And thousands of men maintained the gardens, once they were installed, as the king changed his mind about the design moment to moment.
André Le Nôtre planned the 2 large rectangular Water Parterres to reflect sunlight to light up & give the illusion of extending the façade of the Hall of Mirrors. It was all about that sun, wasn't it.
Four reclining bronze statues attended by nymphs & children symbolise the rivers of France. Early Greeks & Romans depicted their rivers as reclining bearded old men, crowned with reeds, holding an oar or a horn of plenty, portraying the water as a source of wealth. After all, water made crops grow, & trade goods were most easily transported by water.
The 1674 Statues of Seasons are a group of 24 male & female figures originally intended to adorn the Water Parterre. There is also an allegorical statue of America dressed as an Indian with an alligator at his feet--a rather disturbing concept of the new world across the Atlantic.
The Water Parterres lead to 2 fountains, the 1697 Animal Combats, announcing a large flight of steps leading down to the central Latona Fountain, attended by 6 allegorical statues: Air, Evening, Noon & Daybreak, Spring, & Water.
André Le Nôtre's Grand Canal transformed the east-west perspective into a long, sunlight-filled sheet of water which would reflect the sun (of couse) & on which members of the court & visitors could play. In the summer the King’s fleet of appropriately-sized vessels sailed along it, while skaters & sleighs full of merry celebrants glided over the frozen waters during the chilly winters.

Workers removed tons of soil to build the Swiss Ornamental Lake and hauled it across the landscape to prepare the king’s vegetable garden, which he reached walking along perfectly geometric paths lined with trees.
If paths form the skeleton of the gardens, the trees form the walls.
Beyond the Parterres, the gardens are criss-crossed by a network of geometric pathways. In the 17th century, workers lined the walks with fences & trees meeting overhead or elms clipped to form green walls.
Some paths offered niches holding statues.
The Royal Walk runs down the middle lined with 12 statues & 12 vases, placed in symmetrical pairs. Paths lead off the sides to the groves.
My long walk down the garden path. The Water Walk is flanked by urns & statues & 22 groupings in bronze holding marble bowls of Languedoc, a wine apparently popular for quenching the thirst of early garden walkers. Promenading can produce quite a desire for additional liquids.
The Bacchus (Autumn) & Saturn (Winter) walks have 2 fountains with gilded lead statues. In his guide to the gardens, Louis XIV speaks of them in these terms: “on the other side, the royal walk, Apollo, the canal, the green groves, Flora, Saturn, Ceres on the right, Bacchus on the left.”
André Le Nôtre believed in light, water, & geometry. He designed water ornaments throughout the gardens: cascading in groves; spraying from fountains; & the still water of the artificial lakes reflecting the sky & sunlight at the Water Parterre & the Grand Canal.
Inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the dominating central Latona fountain illustrates the legend of Apollo’s mother protecting her children against the insults of the peasants of Lycia. She calls on Jupiter to avenge them. He hears her plea & transforms the impudent peasants into frogs & lizards. In general, it is not wise to disparage someone's mother.
The marble fountain of Latona & her children was originally placed on a rock in 1670. It was surrounded by 6 frogs, formerly insulting peasants, emerging partly from the water & 24 other additional frogs around the fountain on the lawn. The grateful mother goddess gazes towards the horizon past the Grand Canal. The Latona fountain is prolonged by a parterre holding the 2 lizard pools. Yes, lizards--more of those impertinent peasants.
The 4 fountains dedicated to the seasons near the Royal Walk are all the same size and smaller than the central Latona fountain. Well, she was, after all, Apollo's mother; and she had been seriously insulted by those insolent peasants, now frogs & lizards.
An Apollo or Swans Fountain had existed there from 1636, which Louis XIV decided to decorate with a gilded lead statuary group representing Apollo on his chariot.
Located at the crossroads of several groves is the fountain of Flora, Roman goddess of flowers & gardens, which, not suprisingly, symbolises spring.
The 1672 Ceres Fountain shows the Roman goddess of harvests & corn, seated on a bed of corn stalks, accompanied by cornflowers & roses. Symbolising summer, this fountain forms a set with those of Bacchus, Flora, & Saturn representing the seasons of the year.
The Neptune Fountain shows Neptune, Amphitrite, Proteus, & the Ocean god. This structure is famous for the number, the force, & the variety of the jets of water playing over the lead sculptures. It reportedly features 99 water effects for an extraordinary aquatic spectacle. There is no explanation as to why they did not try for a round 100.
The Water Path begins with the half-moon Dragon Fountain depicting the Python snake killed by young Apollo's arrow. The unfortunate reptile is surrounded by dolphins & cupids armed with bows & arrows riding on swans. On either side of this fountain paths lead to two groves, France Triumphant, & Three Fountains in the west.
The present-day Queen's Grove replaced the original Labyrinth that illustrated 39 fables of Aesop with lead animals in fountains painted in natural colors. Probably a pretty lively sight. Built in 1669, it was destroyed during the replanting of the gardens in 1775-1776, replaced by the more sedate Queen’s Grove. The present sculpture here was installed in the late 19th century.
The Ballroom was laid out by André Le Nôtre around 1680. The open-air ballroom is also called the Rocaille Grove for the millstones & the sea shells brought back from the coasts of Africa & Madagascar over which water pours down in a cascade. Royal visitors danced on a marble “island” in the center while musicians played above the cascade. Weary dancers could rest, or whatever, in an amphitheatre with rows of grassy seats.
The Girandole Grove, decorated with towering sculptures on tapering plinths, replaced old quincunxes in the south planted under Louis XVI. It is surely true that statues are easier to maintain than those geometrically planted quicunces.
In 1677, two pavilions here of white marble were built surmounted by glorious domes, giving it is present name, although both buildings were destroyed in 1820. Apparently domes are not easily forgotten.
The Encelade Fountain was sculpted in lead aroung 1675. The subject is the fall of the Titans, who were buried under the rocks of Mount Olympus, which they tried to climb in defiance of the prohibition of Jupiter. It is not wise to disobey a god.
The Orangerie offers a very wide space, high trees, & pure lines. It houses (as you might suspect from the name) over 1000 orange trees plus lemon & pomegranate trees which are over 200 years old. Sheltered indoors in the winter, the boxes are carted outdoors when the sun warms the air & placed on geometric flowerbeds, consisting of 6 sections of lawn plus a circular pool.
The South or Flower Parterre, is reached by a flight of steps flanked by 2 of the oldest sculptures of the park, depicting Eros & the Sphinx. In the 17th century, brightly colored flowers were planted & replaced constantly, as they declined. (Much like the tightly managed Disney parks today, where no withering bloom is allowed to remain on a plant--garden fantasy taken to a new level.)