Thursday, 9 February 2012

Once upon a time, before Disneyland...

....there was the LABYRINTH of VERSAILLES...
Cupid and Aesop at the Entrance of Le Labirinthe de Versailles by Jean Cotelle the younger
...a maze of thirty-nine fountains, their basins encrusted with rock-work and shells, each illustrating one of Aesop's Fables with painted metal statues of animals so "lifelike that they seem to be still in the action they depict"*, conceived by Charles Perrault, the author of fairytales, and designed by Louis XIV's gardener, Le NĂ´tre, for the cultural education of the king's son and the diversion of the courtiers. Completed in 1677, the Labyrinth became one of the biggest visitor attractions at Versailles for a hundred years until it was pulled down by Louis XVI in 1778 and replaced with an English landscape garden of trees, more acceptable to late 18th century sensibility.

The fountain of the Fable of the Fox and the Crane, painted by Cotelle
*Perrault's description of the Labyrinth in Recueil de divers ouvrages en prose et en vers, 1675.