Thanks to a gift by the Fondation Philanthropia, Latona's Fountain and Parterre, two masterpieces of the gardens of Versailles, are getting a new lease of life. This exceptional restoration project has taken more than two years and has called upon a remarkable synergy of knowledge.
Created by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, Latona's Fountain is without doubt the most famous work in the gardens of Versailles with its tiered polychrome marble centrepiece, rich sculptures in lead and marble and cleverly designed water jets. Situated in the centre of Le Nôtre's Grand Perspective, it is also the key structure in the hydraulic system of Versailles.
More than three centuries after its creation, deterioration had affected the fountain and its components. Work on the infrastructures, hydrant system and sculptures was needed urgently. Modifications had affected the structure's overall stability with impacts on the general watertightness of the pool. Launched in 2013, the work is now complete.
The restoration Latona's Fountain is one of the major works of public interest for which philanthropy has proven its importance and utility. Private funding complemented State financing and responsibility, and Fondation Philanthropia's support to the estate of Versailles for Latona's Fountain is a fine example of this. The foundation, created for clients of Lombard Odier bank, aims to facilitate their philanthropic engagement.
«Fondation Philanthropia is committed to supporting the restoration of Latona's Fountain because transmitting heritage is one of its major concerns. In the case of the fountain, this universal piece of heritage is not only an architectural gem and its restoration a technical challenge, but it also reveals the immense wealth of artistic professions involved in its renovation. »
Thierry Lombard, President of Fondation Philanthropia
This exceptional ‘open air’ restoration project has been followed step-by-step by the millions of visitors to the gardens of Versailles. With the objective of re-creating the composition's original appearance, restoration was planned for the overall structure including plant life, the hydrant system, materials and sculptures.
This required employing the best techniques and materials of the past and present, as well as a number of crafts, notably some rare and highly specialised artistic professions. Multiple craftsmen, art masters and engineers have worked on the project under the leadership of Pierre-André Lablaude, Head Architect for Historic Monuments, and the Heritage and Gardens Directorate of the Palace of Versailles.
In a manifest desire by the Palace of Versailles to preserve heritage and transmit knowledge, and with the support of Fondation Philanthropia, a special focus was placed on preserving the knowledge and techniques of those who have worked on this major operation. This approach has taken on concrete form with the training of apprentices by specialist companies; lead sculptors, marble workers, gilders, fountain engineers, stonemasons, metal restorers and gardeners have all contributed to restoring Latona's Fountain to its original splendour.
«The restoration of Latona's fountain has allowed a 'bond of excellence' to be established between the past and the present through the timeless work of artistic professions. It has offered the public the opportunity to see the transmission of knowledge but has also, more concretely, allowed the employment of ten or so apprentices. We have decided to systematise this training across all our heritage projects from now on. This invisible yet exemplary chain that connects the craftsmen and artists of today to those of the past is what gives the Masterpiece of the gardens of Versailles its sparkle.»
Catherine Pégard, President of the Public Institution of the Palace, Museum and National Estate of Versailles.
About Fondation Philanthropia
A philanthropic public-benefit foundation connected to Lombard Odier bank, Fondation Philanthropia facilitates the implementation of its donors' philanthropic initiatives in all areas of citizen engagement, including art and culture, social action, education, the environment and medical research.