Monday, September 17, 2018

History lesson

The newly restored Trois Fontaines Bosquet at its unveiling. June 16, 2004. Photo: JH.
June 16, 2004. At 11 AM Saturday morning, there was a visit to Eglise St. Roch, one of the most beautiful churches in Paris, only 16 feet shorter than Notre Dame. The foundation was laid by Louis XIV in 1653 when he was sixteen. Le Notre was christened, married, and buried here. His atelier was also located in the cupola. Its architect, Le Mercier also designed the Sorbonne and the Square Courtyard of the Louvre, among many other buildings in Paris. Admiral de Grasse, the winner of the battle of Yorktown, which was a decisive victory for George Washington’s armies, is buried here also.

Afterwards there was a Champagne reception in the Hotel de la Marine on the Place de la Concorde. The palace was designed by Gabriel and was originally where all the royal crown jewels were stored. Since the Revolution, this palace has housed the Ministry of the Navy. Louis XVI and Benjamin Franklin signed the Treaty of Friendship and Trade between France and the 13 independent States of America in the adjacent building.

Saturday night. We left the hotel at six for the drive out to Versailles for the big night – Le Grand Bal du Bosquet “Un Reve Magique,” the American Friends’ Grand Finale Celebration of the opening of the Trois Fontaines – the first unveiling at 7 PM

Hundreds were arriving at the chateau, cars and buses lined up at the gates as far as the eye could see. We walked across the marble court, into the chateau, across the earliest galleries and out onto the terrace where long cart-buses were waiting to take us on the half mile or so ride to the Neptune Fountain outside the arbor where the Trois Fontaines is located.

Becca Thrash
It was a night of fashion. There were more than 400 Americans present, the men in black tie and all the women beautifully dressed often in bright pastels, pinks, lavenders, and rose satins and chiffons. They came from all over America: Texas, California, Chicago, Denver, Aspen, Michigan, Philadelphia, New York – and all of Europe, including France – Doda Voridis from Athens, with her granddaughter Katherine Embiricos, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, the Comte and Comtesse Mortemart, Jean and Sandy Yturbe, Edouard and Anne-Marie de Ganay, Ariane Dandois and her daughter Ondine de Rothschild, the Segerstroms from Newport Beach, Patrick Coulson, Katie Stapleton from Denver, Terry Butler from Aspen who came with an entourage of friends including Chris Walling, Elizabeth Stribling and Guy Robinson, Mark Fabry, Jonathan Marder and Gregory Grimes, Allison Lisk (who did the flowers for the dinner), Barbara de Portago, Florence van der Kemp, Matilde Stream, Mr. and Mrs. Christian Odasso, Francine LeFrak-Friedberg, Judy and Peter Price, Mr. and Mrs. Stanislas de Quercize from New York; Dottie Cherry, Mr. and Mrs. Juan Pablo Molyneux, Lucia Bryan from Texas along with her daughter Ashley Bryan and Brian Solon from San Francisco, James Fisher from Harvard and Texas, the Maurice Tobins from Washington, D.C., Rita Rome from Philadelphia, Marisa Berenson, Carole Holmes from Michigan with her son Howard (Howdy) Holmes IV, Mimi Stafford from New York, Arnold Scaasi and Parker Ladd, Susan Gutfreund, Claude Roland from Paris, Bunky Cushing from Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. John Lee from Dallas, Mrs. McDermott from Houston, Steven and Kimberly Rockefeller, Patty Hearst and her daughters Gillian and Lydia, Sharon Hoge from New York, Amyn Aga Khan, the Comte de Rohan, to name just a few off the top of my head.

Waiters served trays of pink champagne by the pitcher, along with fresh orange juice, sparkling water and white wine while we waited for the crowd to assemble. About seven-thirty, they opened the gate for us to file up the long alley bordered by tall hedges and tall green trellises up to the open triple terraces of the fountains. 
Ariane Dandois and Ondine de Rothschild
Camille Varlet and friend, Erin Till, Robert Atchison, Tennessee Hamilton, Tammy Graham, Kimbel Hastings, and Nick Henderson
Looking across the Neptune Fountain en route to the Trois Fountaines
Barbara de Portago
Nancy and Steven Crown
Dottie Cherry and Christopher Walling
Mrs. and Mr. Josh Berman
Barbara Main
Angel Milou and Rita Rome
Mrs. and Mr. Juan Pablo Molyneux (center) and friends
Marisa Berenson
Margaret Jurka, Michael Levin, and Susan Gutfreund
Bunky Cushing and friends
Jimmy Buffett
Claude Roland with Princess and Prince Michael of Kent
Katherine Embiricos and Doda Voridis
Marisa Berenson with Lee and Berna Huebner
Curry Glassel-Roberts and Anne-Marie de Ganay
Olivier, Vicomte de Rohan and Libby Horn
Arnold Scaasi, Judy Price, Parker Ladd, and Peter Price
Bunky Cushing and Susie Forstmann Kealy
Susan Gutfreund
Jules and Liz Stiffel
Catharine and David Hamilton
These fountains were inaugurated for Louis XIV in 1677 when he was forty years old. Already suffering from gout, he moved around in what we now call a wheelchair. The terraces were designed by his man Le Notre (aforementioned re the Eglise de Roch) who designed the fountains, and he made sure that the stone steps had (the first handicap access) ramps so that the King could move upwards or downwards to view the fountains in action. Louis loved fountains. Many were different in visual function, which amused the King. They were the 17th-century version of the Video Game: something to see, to intrigue, to amuse.

There were hundreds of fountains at Versailles, maybe even a thousand in its heyday. More fountains than they had water pressure for so that when Louis was heading for a fountain, they turned it on, and then when he left to tour another fountain, they turned the previous one off. The French learned conservation early.
The first unveiling of the Trois Fontaines Bosquet. Saturday night at 9:00 PM.
As I’ve written in earlier pages about this trip, the Trois Fontaines fell into neglect during the reign of Louis XVI, a century after they’d been built for the Sun King. By the end of the Revolution, at the beginning of the 19th Century, they had disappeared and were consumed by overgrowth.

This night was the first time in more than 200 years, thanks to Catharine Hamilton and her devoted band of volunteers and the generous gifts of many of the Americans present on this night, that the fountains were completely restored and working again.

It must have been close to nine o’clock, and still very light out when we saw them – beginning on the top terrace, slowly spurt and burst, and shower and flower, and then fall to the second and then the third, on the ground level.

This restoration is a tribute to the donors, the artisans, gardeners and technicians who worked to recreate Le Notre’s concept of a baroque fountain where the sky, the water and the earth all come together. The horns blew, the crowd applauded and the waters danced.
The entrance to the Orangerie
Afterwards we moved on to the orangerie – another architectural feat – the largest and grandest in the world, where dinner, created by the famed traiteur Potel & Chabot was to be served. I’d never been in the Orangerie before.

Photographs do not convey the mammoth proportions of the gardens or the Orangerie with its doors and windows two and three stories high (so that the palms and orange trees can be easily moved in and out according to the seasons). Bars were set up in the garden serving more champagne, wine and water. I am not a champagne drinker by habit and although I may be imagining it, the champagne in France – all of it – is different from the champagne we get here in the United States. You could drink it all night and hardly notice except for the pleasantly mild buzz.
The Orangerie from across the grounds
About ten o’clock we went into the Orangerie for the dinner: Verrine Melon Glace, Raviole de Langoustine, Crème de Corail, Molleux de Veau “Gremolata” aux asperges, and Dessert des Trois Fontaines. Alex Donner and his orchestra from New York played. After dinner (for 600), everyone moved out into the garden again for a display of fireworks, in the style of the Sun King (who loved his fireworks almost as much as he loved his fountains). After the fireworks, back in the Orangerie, Mr. Jimmy Buffett who had flown over from Palm Beach in his jet, wearing black tie and flip-flops, looking like a very prosperous Palm Beach banker, took the center stage with his guitar and gave us a concert of his hits along with the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There,” which got everyone (of a certain age) singing. And then the dancing resumed under the baton of Mr. Donner.
Fireworks in the style of the Sun King
We left the party about one-thirty but I heard that it was three AM before the Sun King’s Orangerie really began to empty out and the fancy folk from all over the world got into their cars and buses and returned to Paris.
Looking across the vast Orangerie
Dancing to the Alex Donner Orchestra
Henry and Elizabeth Segerstrom (right) and friends
Steven and Kimberly Rockefeller
Anne-Marie and Edouard de Ganay
Alexandra Pinto, Lydia Hearst, and Alexis Tobin with her brother
Francine LeFrak and friend
Joan and Maurice Tobin
Paula Crown with her daughter
Ondine de Rothschild
Mrs. Kerry Ciardelli-Olson and her daughter
Sharon Hoge
Christine Albanel
Maria Manetti Farrow
Diana Hall
Florence van der Kemp and her son
George Sheinberg and Marie Gabrielle Lesne
Libby Masterson
Jimmy Buffett "rocking in the house of the Sun King"

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