The gardens of Versailles are the epitome of the jardin à la française or formal French garden. Their layout and character were determined largely by André Le Nôtre (1613–1700), Louis XIV’s principal gardener and landscape architect. Playing on the site’s topography, he defined the main axes (east-west and north-south) and created an “infinite” vista toward and beyond the Grand Canal.
Within this overall scheme, Le Nôtre set up a grid of smaller sections, each with its own individual design. Surrounding the palace are several parterres, flat and open zones arranged in ornamental patterns. The lower-lying areas are occupied by bosquets (groves), wooded outdoor salons configured in a variety of ingenious and unpredictable ways. Throughout, sculptures and fountains play an important role and demonstrate the union of art and nature.
Whereas the general configuration of the gardens has been maintained since the time of Le Nôtre, their individual components have undergone countless changes. This alcove and the neighboring cases present some examples illustrating these vicissitudes, as well as the international diffusion of the French garden model.