The hedged maze of Versailles was created by André Le Notre in 1668 in the gardens of the palace. It was based on an idea by Charles Perrault, who was in charge of defining the iconography of royal artistic works. The 38 fountains constituting it - a 39th was added later on - were built between 1672 and 1674 at the intersections of paths, after the water system had been installed. Each one was adorned with animal sculptures in polychrome lead, rocks and shells and illustrated an episode taken from Aesop’s fables.

It was perhaps to make this maze better known to a wider public, since access to it was restricted by locked metal gates, that Charles Perrault published The Labyrinth of Versailles in 1675. The first part of this work contained a description of the iconographic themes for the maze, and the second part included 40 engravings by Sébastien Leclerc, depicting the plan, the entrance to the Labyrinth and the 38 fountains which existed at the time, with quatrains composed by Isaac de Benserade based on Aesop’s fables as captions for the fountains.

The copy in the Petit Palais, whose binding bears the cipher and coat of arms of Louis XIV, only contains the second part of the work, i.e. the quatrains by Benserade and the engravings by Leclerc, richly illuminated by the painter Jacques Bailly.

The Labyrinth of Versailles was destroyed in 1775 to make room for an English garden, named “The Queen’s Grove” in homage to Queen Marie Antoinette. Bailly’s illuminations are a magnificent portrayal of this amazing grove, of which all that exists today are a few remains of lead statues.

C. M.

City of Paris municipal collection's website

City of Paris municipal collection's website

The online catalogue of the Petit Palais collections includes around 35,000 notes and is added to regularly. Some notes have minimal information; others are more detailed. They are illustrated or they will be shortly.

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Extern databases

Discover a selection of databases online presenting works from the Petit Palais or documents concerning the history of the museum.