For the first time in over 300 years, a new fountain has sprung up in the legendary gardens of Versailles.
Made from 2,000 glass beads, Les Belles Danses is a new permanent installation in the royal estate. It was designed to honor Louis XIV, better known as France’s powerful and meticulous “Sun King.”
The fountain’s creator, French sculptor Jean-Michel Othoniel, turned to the history books for inspiration. Louis XIV was obsessed with the design and upkeep of his gardens, explained Othoniel at a talk at the French embassy in New York this month, and was among the first to intentionally use art for political influence.
When Louis XIV moved his court from Paris to Versailles in 1682, he spared no expense to transform the rural hunting lodge 12 miles from Paris into a lavish estate. The new Versailles was designed to embody French superiority in all matters, with over 45 kilometers (28 miles) of gardens and over 2,000 water jets.
The early engineers who built Versailles’s first dazzling fountains also made France’s canons at that time. To create the impression that France had the ability to use and constantly show off this quasi-military technology, the king himself wrote a manual for the use of Versailles’s gardens, called Manière de Montrer les jardins de Versailles (How to Present the Gardens of Versailles), which he annotated by hand and modified six times before his death in 1715.