The first aerial view of the Palace of Versailles

View of the palace and gardens of Versailles, seen from the avenue de Paris in 1668 by Pierre Patel

By Palace of Versailles

View of the Palace of Versailles by Pierre PatelPalace of Versailles

Versailles. 1668. A monumental project.
The artist Pierre Patel gives us a very precise image of the Palace and its gardens in 1668, at the end of the first campaign of works carried out by Louis XIV.

Sun King. Heart and soul of the place. First project manager of the works.
The absolute monarch is not depicted here, but his presence is suggested by the royal carriage, drawn by six white horses, that is about to enter the Palace courtyard.

Foreground. Outline of the road layout.
When the works started, Versailles was simply a hunting lodge. Nevertheless, in 1668, the town layout may be seen around the Palace and we can see the precursors of the three main roads that are still visible today: avenue de Sceaux on the left, avenue de Paris in the centre and avenue de Saint-Cloud on the right.

Installation of the king. Installation of the court.
Louis XIV wanted to make Versailles the centre of power as soon as possible. He allocated the first houses to great noblemen…

Inhabited, vibrant Palace.
One can see small figures, skilfully painted with a fine brush, depicting the daily life of the Palace…

There are also sketches of characters, bearing witness to Patel’s work.

… Here, litter-bearers fight over and forget their clients, who have fallen over…

… The “half-moon” courtyard is thronged with carriages, soldiers and horsemen. The king’s guard is preparing to welcome the royal carriage, whose arrival is imminent.

Royal residence. Seat of power.
The Palace itself is the main character in the painting: all the lines of the composition converge on the central section, containing the king’s bedchamber…

Eternal water. Departed water.
To the right of the Palace, the reservoirs, which still exist, supply the fountains in the gardens. Just beside them, the grotto of Thetis, which contained the group of sculpted figures Apollo served by the Nymphs, is on longer there.

Spaces. Perspectives.
Behind the Palace, the general layout of the park has already been determined…

...the slope to the north is laid out and still dominated by the Mermaid Fountain...

...to the south, the green wood occupies half of the site of the future South Parterre...

...finally, in the background, the first vessels of the flotilla are already sailing to and fro on the canal, which is not yet “Grand”.

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