Restoration of the grove of Apollo’s Bath
Places of entertainment, designed by the gardener and architect André Le Nôtre, the groves of Versailles were often redesigned over the centuries. Fountains, vases and statues decorate these green spaces where Louis XIV and his Court came regularly to relax and dance.
Drawing rooms of greenery laid out in the wooden areas on either side of the paths and walks, the groves form small enclosed gardens surrounded by trellises or palisades of foliage reached along unobtrusive paths, with metal gates closing off the entrance. A contemporary of Louis XIV, the marquis de Dangeau, called them “the hidden fountains”. Adorned with fountains, vases and statues, the groves offer surprises and areas of fantasy inside the great garden. They were used as open-air salons and the Court came here to enjoy collations, listen to music and dance.
Under the reign of Louis XIV, the gardens of Versailles had fifteen groves. A counterpoint to the strict regularity of the general layout of the gardens, their decor and form were different and their purpose was to surprise the visitor by their diversity. André Le Nôtre designed most of the groves but some of them were modified by Jules Hardouin-Mansart. However, owing to their costly and difficult maintenance, some groves deteriorated quickly and were closed off in the 18th century. One of the most celebrated, the Labyrinth, was destroyed during the replanting of the gardens in 1775-1776. Others such as Apollo’s Baths were transformed in line with the vogue for English-Chinese gardens under the reign of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. In the 19th century, the royal island was filled in and became the King’s Garden planted with rare and exotic trees.