Cutting down trees in the park of Versailles

Cutting down trees in the park of Versailles

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  • The entrance to the Green Carpet in Versailles

    ROBERT Hubert (1733 - 1808)

  • View of the Bosquet des "Bains d'Apollon"

    ROBERT Hubert (1733 - 1808)

The entrance to the Green Carpet in Versailles

© Palace of Versailles, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Christophe Fouin

View of the Bosquet des "Bains d'Apollon"

© Palace of Versailles, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Christophe Fouin

Publication date: September 2017

University of Evry-Val d'Essonne

Historical context

Maintain the gardens of Versailles

These paintings by the painter Hubert Robert have for subject the felling of the trees of the Versailles ordained at the beginning of the reign of Louis XVI. The two scenes take place in the small park, in the immediate vicinity of the palace, in the area of ​​the gardens laid out from the reign of Louis XIII.

The history of the paintings is known thanks to the announcement of the Salon of 1777: “Two views of the Gardens of Versailles, in the time that the trees were felled. These two Tables, ordered for the King, are 7 feet wide, and 1 & a half high. " According to the Secret Memories, the order was placed at the start of operations by the Comte d'Angiviller (1730-1809), Director General of Buildings, Arts, Gardens and Manufactures of France. Appointed in 1774 by Louis XVI, the latter "proposed to the king that Mr. Robert draw up the picturesque plan of a frightening but unique spectacle, and which would not be found for more than a century".

For this commission, the painter cultivates his favorite artistic register, uniting destruction with a green natural setting. The scenes are captured on the spot and quickly executed by the artist who is paid from the king's funds 5,000 pounds in 1776. First integrated into the collections of the Louvre Museum, they are deposited with the Ministry of Justice until in 1851, then exhibited in the collections of the Palace of Versailles.

Image Analysis

The remains of nature

The first scene takes place at the level of the half-moon of the parterre de Latone, at the entrance to the Green Carpet and on the edge of the Girandole grove. This view opens onto the row of statues, the Grand Canal and various groves. On the left, behind the statue of Castor and Pollux created by Antoine Coysevox (1640-1720), emerges the circular peristyle of the grove of the Colonnade. To the right of the statue of Milon of Croton by Pierre Puget (1620-1694), we can see the Dômes grove in the distance. Created in 1675, it owes its name to the roofs that surmounted two pavilions, a copy of which is clearly visible, while the whole was destroyed in 1820.

The second painting is taken at the northeast corner of Apollo Baths. The Horses of the Sun emerge from a tangle of trunks, like a preserved element in the middle of a storm. Carved in marble in the 17th centurye century by the brothers Gaspard (1624-1681) and Balthazar Marsy (1628-1674), this white marble group evokes the ardor of the horses of Apollo, hardly contained by the newts. In the background, the geometric mass of the palace contrasts with the confusion of the cutting work, the gaunt trees or the mutilated trunks. To reinforce the sense of clutter and satisfy his unwavering taste for ruins, the artist sprinkles statues and decorative elements on the floor.

Despite the dramatic atmosphere of the site, the artist embellishes his works with dogs and characters who play bucolic sketches, like lumberjacks busy or on break, but also visitors in colorful outfits. On the painting of the Green Carpet, four characters animate the canvas and play seesaw on a tree trunk, all under the eyes of the queen and her children, while the king converses with a man who could be the count from Angiviller. The painting in the Grove of the Baths of Apollo, for example, includes soldiers of the French Guard watching over three player pages, while elegant courtesans converse next to a black servant in livery.


Renew the landscape

Sixty years after the series of paintings by Pierre-Denis Martin (1663-1742) To which they are complementary, the works of Hubert Robert constitute a precious archaeological testimony and reveal the transformations of the gardens of Versailles. This felling operation is followed by a vast replanting program which permanently modifies certain parts of the park. In this context, the artist is again in demand and gives free rein to another facet of his creativity: the landscaping of gardens.

Between 1778 and 1781, the Marais Grove, laid out in 1704 by Jules Hardouin-Mansart (1646-1708), was remodeled by Hubert Robert who was inspired by new aesthetic canons based on the exuberance of nature. A few years before the construction of the Queen's Hamlet, he created an English landscape, the pre-Romantic style of which breaks with the cult of symmetry deployed a century earlier by André Le Nôtre (1613-1700). The redeveloped grove includes an envelope of man-made rocks, with a cave adorned with ancient columns to house the statue of Apollo framed by two groups of horses.

  • Versailles
  • Louis XVI
  • garden
  • architecture
  • absolute monarchy
  • Hardouin Mansart (Jules)
  • Le Nôtre (André)
  • Louis XIII
  • pre-romanticism
  • Art fair


Hubert Robert, painter poet of the Enlightenment, Art File No. 237, March 2016.

Patricia BOUCHENOT-DÉCHIN, André Le Nôtre, Paris, Fayard, 2013.

Jean de CAYEUX, Hubert Robert, Paris, Fayard, 1989.

Guillaume FAROULT (dir.), Hubert Robert: 1733-1808, a visionary painter, Paris, Somogy art editions / Louvre museum editions, 2016.

Vincent MAROTEAUX, Versailles, the king and his domain, Paris, Picard, 2000.

To cite this article

Stéphane BLOND, "Felling the trees in the park of Versailles"

Video: Versailles fountain show, orange trees everywhere and how big is this garden? HD 1080


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