At the Grand Trianon in Versailles, water spurts out in cascades

The Grand Trianon water buffet, in the park of the Palace of Versailles, June 7, 2023.

It had been more than a century since water had sprung from the mouths of the winds Boreas, Euros, Auster and Zephyr, since nothing had flowed from the urn held by Neptune and Amphitrite, except the marble basins white were dry. So when, on Wednesday June 7, Jacques Moulin, chief architect of historical monuments, gives the top of the restoration of the Grand Trianon water buffet, in the park of the Palace of Versailles, the emotion can be read on the faces of the craftsmen – marble workers, masons, gilders, welders, fountain makers – present around the president, Catherine Pgard, at the inauguration of the majestic fountain.

“There is always a little anxiety before D-Day”, says Thierry Bouilly, one of the estate’s nine fountain engineers who worked to restore all the lead piping to working order. The concern is quickly lifted. Water gushes and flows in cascades over the various trays of the Italian-inspired masterpiece, giving the marble and gilding a beautiful shine.

After eighteen months of work, this monument, 6.2 meters high, 12 meters deep and weighing an estimated 260 tons, carved in four different marbles and adorned with gilded lead sculptures, has regained its brilliance. of origin. Completed in four years, it had been commissioned in 1682 from Jules Hardouin-Mansart by Louis XIV, who wanted to mark the crossing point of the main walking paths surveyed when he retired to his country residence, the Grand Trianon, elegant building dressed in pink marble, located 1.5 kilometers from the castle.

Not to Louis XVI’s taste

But, dissatisfied, the monarch demanded alterations – including additions of purple marble between the reds and whites, replacing a pair of dragons with lions. “Louis XIV had an eye, he knew exactly what he wanted and had a concern for perfection”, emphasizes Jacques Moulin. A patina had been added to the stones and to the statues in order to attenuate the tinsel from which a monument at this point cannot escape. An effect that the craftsmen in charge of the renovation have endeavored to reproduce. “The gilding, done with gold leaf, must reveal the sculpture rather than dazzle”, says Florent Bruneau, head of the Ateliers Gohard who works on the exteriors but also the interiors of Versailles.

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Appreciated in the time of Louis XIV, the Buffet d’eau was not to the taste of Louis XVI, who let it deteriorate. Despite some work undertaken under Napoleon, the monument quickly lost its luster – blackened statues, stones eaten by moss and mould… To the point that visitors to the park ended up passing by, unaware of its existence. It is thanks to the patronage of the Bru Foundation that the funds, 3 million euros, were raised to restore the building.

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