And though I've never seen them mentioned in so-serious garden history analyses of the landscape, my favorites Views of Versailles are the watercolors of Alexandre Benois (1870-1960).
|The King Walked in Any Weather|
I love them because they teach me something new about the landscape...how ridiculous it all was.
It's difficult to see a famous, beloved garden with fresh eyes. But Benois' 1897 series "The Last Walk of Louis XIV" juxtaposes the frail, slightly cartoonish characters of an aging king and a few handlers against the bareness, not just vastness, but bareness, of Le Notre's scale.
|Louis XIV is feeding fish|
|At the Pool of Ceres|
In his paintings the garden is beautiful still, but we become aware of its strangeness.
Benois helps me know, not about the layout or which fountain was built first, but about the experience of Versailles, not to those who visited it but to those who inhabited it. And since I am a garden historian not so much for the plants as for the people and their stories, they're my favorite Views of Versailles.
|King's Walk (note the irony)|
[all images via wikipaintings]