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The Gardens of Versailles during the Early Reign of Louis ⅩⅣ: Three Studies

Thomas F. Hedin, University of Minnesota, Duluth, Summer Fellow 2009

In my application for a summer fellowship, I staked out three areas of research on the gardens of Versailles during the reign of Louis ⅩⅣ. First and foremost was my ongoing research on a book-length manuscript, The Latona Fountain: Louis ⅩⅣ and the Premier Versailles (revised title), which took a new, more promising direction in the third week of my stay. I owe this positive development to conversations with colleagues at Dumbarton Oaks, and to the discovery of the identity of the author of a key archival document in Paris. My book now covers a shorter period of time, but paradoxically, it will be more substantial and lengthier than originally intended. A tangential project, dealing with some unpublished papers in the Archives Nationales, Paris, also moved forward during the summer, and it overlaps in important ways with my book on the Premier Versailles. The papers allow me to revise the conventional dating of almost all the early fountains in the gardens. This detailed dating bears heavily on their relationships as well as their meanings, which were being determined at a time when the king began thinking of expanding Versailles from a modest country house to a more suitable residential retreat. My article on the archival papers is nearly complete. My third study, which focuses on Andre Le Notre's idea of symmetrical analogy in the gardens, took a backseat to the others, and although I put a few dents in the research, it suffered as a consequence of my (entirely rewarding) decision to rework the outline of my book. I hope to return as a Reader in a few years to complete this article.

Developing my arguments in the tranquility of Dumbarton Oaks (not to mention the precious sources in the Rare Book Collection and the stacks outside my office), has been a luxury. I am deeply appreciative to the administration, staff, and fellows of the Garden and Landscape Studies program for an inspiring, thoroughly enjoyable summer.