The Landscape Guide
Germany had to begin almost all over again from the middle of the seventeenth century, after the Thirty Years’ War. The cultivation of the garden is a peaceful art; and it was only exceptional men such as Wallenstein and Maurice of Nassau who tried to keep the country to its peaceful occupations while they were in the midst of war, weapons in hand. For the most part the war had left wasted lands bare of inhabitants, but there was more than this—the tradition that was never very strong in Germany was completely destroyed. It was just this state of things, however, that drove a generation hungry for peace to seek for teachers whose instruction it could follow with delight. One important factor in making garden art flourish in Germany was the increased power of the many princelings, great and small. The feeling of sovereignty showed itself in the second half of the seventeenth century, when prosperity was increasing, in the creation of splendid homes. For most of the princes, especially those in the north and west. Versailles served as a fascinating visible example. Only a few, who were interested in Italy, took their inspiration in these days from the old forms of art on the other side of the Alps. Le Nôtre’s was the truly great name, and as soon as his reputation had once extended across the Rhine, it was considered good luck to secure a garden artist who had somehow or other got his education by actual study of the works of Le Nôtre.

Duke Ernst Johann Friedrich of Hanover reckoned himself one of the fortunate ones when he secured Charbonnier, who belonged to the school of Le Nôtre, to lay out his garden at Herrenhausen. The architect for the house was Quirini, a Venetian, and he gave it an Italian look with two wings of one story, which jutted forward and showed a flat roof with balustrades. At small German courts, we often find, as late as the middle of the eighteenth century, a partnership of Italian architect and French garden artist, for the French style in building arrived later in Germany than the garden style, and was never really naturalised. The duke loved magnificence, and he rejoiced in the stir and bustle that a tribe of foreign artists, French and Italian, brought to his place.

Although the keeping up of the pleasure-grounds at Herrenhausen cost nearly six thousand dollars in 1679, the year of Duke Ernst Johann’s death; and although his successor, Prince Ernst August, was very angry about the extravagance, it was this very successor who extended the garden to double its size, and gave it pretty much the appearance that it still has (Fig. 449). 

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It is natural to think of the close relationship between the Hanoverian and French courts, which was kept up in the liveliest way in the correspondence of the gay Princess Sophia of Hanover with her niece Lieselotte, Duchess of Orleans; and it may easily be believed that as the two ladies took such an interest in gardens, they shared some direct advice and even plans by Le Nôtre. The plans were as formal as any we know, giving the impression of an example in a school-book. There seems to be a kind of anxiety not to omit any of the rules or injunctions: first there are the fine parterres with a central fountain, behind them four almost square ponds, then a simpler parterre with two little pavilions, which have now disappeared. They formed the connection with the boskets, which were traversed by regular star-arranged paths with tall hedges of box, and which all had a basin in the centre.

There was a very large round pond at the end of the middle walk, and the two side paths led to summer-houses built like temples. Avenues of limes encircled the whole garden, with canals running beside them, which formed a semicircular bay behind the round basin in the middle axis. The first half of the garden, which lies nearest to the house, shows clear traces of the earliest phase of Versailles. The grotto occurs at exactly the same point; but as complete regularity demanded a corresponding site on the opposite side, here were the so-called cascades and a wall with grotto and shells, enlivened by waterfalls and springs. Here also was the attractive orangery beside the castle, and corresponding to it on the other side a garden for flowers or vegetables.

The only part that was not formal was the theatre on the east of the great parterre. This stands on a made terrace, varying the monotony of the otherwise level ground. The back of it is occupied by the stage, from which steps lead to the garden beside a beautiful fountain at the supporting wall. The side scenes are trapezium-shaped, meeting together at the back, and cut out like small green dressing-rooms, with statues in front of them (Fig. 450).

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 The stage is separated from the amphitheatre for spectators by a low wide gangway, on a level with the garden, and approached by steps from the stage. This must have been a great help to the performances, as it served as a sort of orchestra. The garden was quite finished by 1700, but the theatre was so placed in the body of it that one may perhaps assume that it was adopted into the ground-plan, and it thus would be one of the earliest of the kind. The garden at Herrenhausen had no particular park of its own; from the treatment of the canal surrounding the whole place, this would have been impossible. The omission may have been due to Dutch influence, for gardeners from Holland were working here later.