Le Labyrinte de Versailles

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Text by Charles Perrault and Isaac de Benserade; etchings by Sébastien Leclerc the Elder; published  by L'Imprimerie Royale (Paris, 1677)

Le Labyrinte de Versailles
André Le Nôtre's 1665 design for the Labyrinth was enriched between 1671 and 1674 by numerous fountains. Featuring more than three hundred painted-lead sculptures of animals from The Fables of Aesop, the waterworks "surprise the eye here and there in the winding alleys," according to Martin Lister in 1698. Although torn down in 1775, the maze lives on in a series of etchings made by Sébastien Leclerc that were included in the first illustrated guidebook published in 1677. Following a map and key are illustrations of the figures of Aesop and Amor (Cupid), which flanked the entrance gate. The subsequent plates depict each fountain, always showing the waterworks in action. Set either in greenery, in trelliswork pavilions, or at the intersection of alleys to create a sense of perspective, Leclerc's representations demonstrate what an enchanting place the Labyrinth must have been. The guidebook contained a description of each fable as well as quatrains for the fountains written by the court poet Isaac de Benserade. This popular publication, immediately translated and then reissued in 1679, also appeared in counterfeit copies produced abroad.

Le Labyrinte de Versailles
Text by Charles Perrault (French, 1628–1703) and Isaac de Benserade
Etchings by Sébastien Leclerc the Elder (French, 1637–1714)
Published by L'Imprimerie Royale (Paris, 1677)

This online book is produced in conjunction with the exhibition Visitors to Versailles, on view at The Met Fifth Avenue, April 16 through July 29, 2018.

Organized with the Palace of Versailles.

Learn more at metmuseum.org.

Credits: Story

Le Labyrinte de Versailles. Text by Charles Perrault (1628–1703) and Isaac de Benserade; etchings by Sébastien Leclerc the Elder (1637–1714); published by L'Imprimerie Royale (Paris, 1677). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1931 (31.77.30)

Learn more at metmuseum.org.

#VisitorsToVersailles

This online book is produced in conjunction with the exhibition Visitors to Versailles, on view at The Met Fifth Avenue, April 16 through July 29, 2018.

Organized with the Palace of Versailles.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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