John Vanderlyn (American, 1775–1852)
Oil on canvas; 12 x 165 ft. (360 cm x 49 m 50 cm)
Gift of Senate House Association, Kingston, N.Y., 1952 (52.184)
This magnificent circular-shaped panoramic view of the palace and gardens of Versailles, now installed in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum, was painted in New York in 181819. The artist John Vanderlyn (17751852) had visited Versailles a few years earlier and made sketches to prepare his giant canvas. The panorama was first exhibited in a special building called the Rotunda located near City Hall in downtown New York, and subsequently toured around the country. The artist depicted himself, pointing at Czar Alexander I and the king of Prussia standing around the Basin of Latona, beneath the garden facade of the palace. In addition to the remarkably precise rendering of the palace itself, Vanderlyn provides a detailed view over the main axis, or Allée Royale, to the Grand Canal, now appearing somewhat forlorn without Louis XIV's pleasure boats. A comparison of Vanderlyn's early nineteenth-century rendering of the Versailles gardens and Adam Perelle's seventeenth-century prints (20.41.126) shows that, in spite of the slightly barren look of the grounds and lack of floral detail in parterres, the layout of the garden remains essentially as André Le Nôtre designed it in the late seventeenth century.