From Italy to France: Gardens in the Court of Louis XIV and After

See works of art
  • Traité du Jardinage selon les Raisons de la Nature et de lArt
  • Veue du chasteau de Versailles (View of Versailles, garden facade)
  • Le Bassin dApollon [The Fountain of Apollo, Versailles]
  • Nouveau Theatre de la Grande Bretagne: Ou Description Exacte des Palais de La Reine, et des Maisons les plus la Grande Bretagne
  • Landscape with Architecture
  • View of the side facade of the Palazzo Pamphili and its garden (Secondo prospetto per fianco del palazzo con diversa veduta del giardino del Bel respiro...Pamphilio)
  • Settee (one of a pair) (part of a set)
  • The Huis ten Bosch at The Hague and Its Formal Garden (View from the South)
  • Panoramic view of the the Palace and Gardens of Versailles
  • The Gardener from a set of the Italian Village Scenes
  • The Swing

Works of Art (12)


The late sixteenth-century Italian garden with its monumental terraces, sculptures, and waterworks such as those at Villa d’Este and Villa Lante, was much admired and imitated in northern Europe, particularly in France (Saint-Germain-en-Laye). Recorded in detail in the print books by Giovanni Battista Falda, the expansive Italian estates near Rome, such as the Villa Doria Pamphilj (61.532.26[20]) and the Villa Aldobrandini at Frascati, would continue to be admired as an aesthetic ideal. By the 1630s, however, the epicenter of garden artistic activity had gravitated to the North, led by the French royal garden architects André Mollet and Jacques Boyceau de la Baraudiere. Each of these published treatises combined practical advice with new aesthetic concepts, adding models for novel “embroidered” boxwood and flowerbed ensembles called parterres de broderie (, including the celebrated parterres of the Jardin du Luxembourg (26.104.2) and the Tuileries in Paris. Mollet and Boyceau laid the groundwork for the supremacy of the French garden style under Louis XIV, culminating in the work of André Le Nôtre at Vaux-le-Vicomte (1660) and Versailles (1670–90) (20.41[126]; 52.519.84[88]; 52.184). The basic elements of Le Nôtre’s design, later codified by Antoine Joseph Dézallier d’Argenville in La théorie et la pratique du jardinage (1709), consisted of a strongly unified composition, carefully balanced and proportioned for optimal visual effect. Centering on the palace and its dominating axis, a broad vista over the whole layout was offered, showing a hierarchical arrangement of parterres and waterworks within a grid plan, strictly lined by hedges and bosquets.

The Spread of the French Garden Style: The Anglo-Dutch Garden
From Austria (Belvedere in Vienna) in the South, to Sweden (Drottningholm) and Russia (Saint Petersburg) in the North, French gardens became the model for garden design, often necessitating the reworking of Le Nôtre’s principles to fit the peculiarities of the various sites. During the reign of William III of Orange and Mary (1688–1702), the so-called Anglo-Dutch garden evolved in England (Hampton Court; 52.519.69) and Holland (Het Loo). Using Le Nôtre’s principles, adapted to fit the local wet climate and level terrain, these gardens were prime examples of the current French international style, which also would define the layout of the early eighteenth-century English estates depicted in the Britannia Illustrata (1707).

The French Rococo—Garden-Park 
In France, from the death of Louis XIV in 1715 onward, new gardening principles led to new forms of social leisure in increasingly asymmetrical, more intimate and randomly planted Rococo garden-parks. The models for these gardens were the dreamlike park-scenes by Antoine Watteau and François Boucher (64.145.4), filled with colorful picnickers seated on grassy slopes among artificial ruins, whimsical pavilions, and playful fountains. Hubert Robert’s (17.190.27) park scenes with antique villas, obelisks, and aqueducts epitomize the vision of idyllic landscape, which became the central theme of eighteenth-century interior decoration (61.21.2), ranging from restrained classical wall designs in the North, to flamboyant Rococo furnishings for an actual garden room (1974.356.120a) in southern Germany.

Vanessa Bezemer Sellers
Independent Scholar

October 2003


Sellers, Vanessa Bezemer. “From Italy to France: Gardens in the Court of Louis XIV and After.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003)

Further Reading

Avery, Kevin J., and Peter L. Fodera. John Vanderlyn's Panoramic View of the Palace and Gardens of Versailles. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988. See on MetPublications

Kisluk-Grosheide, Daniëlle O., Wolfram Koeppe, and William Rieder. European Furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Woodbridge, Kenneth. Princely Gardens: The Origins and Development of the French Formal Style. New York: Rizzoli, 1986.

Additional Essays by Vanessa Bezemer Sellers