SEEKING THE AUTHENTITY OF THE PARK
 
Regimantas Pilkauskas
Translated from Lithuanian by Irena Laptevaite
Summary
My interest in the history of Palanga park was aroused in the autumn of 1963 when the Palanga Plan, 1913 discussion of the project of its restoration [1, 2] demonstrated the lack of authentic information about the park and its creators.
Fact finding
The first authentic data about the park were obtained by digging the ground. In 1964 the rose-garden was investigated by making furrows with a horse-plough. Fragments of gravel paths were discovered, which enabled to recreate the path network [3]. In 1979 the flower-garden (Fr. fardin fleuriste) marked on the plan by L (I b inset) was investigated likewise - students of the Vilnius Academy of Fine Art dug ditches. Information was obtained about the exnetwork of paths the route of the water supply pipeline and the sites of pedestals (2, 3, 4 repr.).
The first important piece of information on Palanga park was found by me in Paris. In 1983 I went to Paris as I was participate in the international park project La Villette competition. Walking along the paths of Buttes-Chaumont I noticed concrete steps in the form of tree roots, which looked exactly like those by the Palanga park pond (5 repr.). So I called on the Paris Lithuanian Mr Petras Klimas, whose father had been up to 1940 Lithuanian ambassador in France. I told him what I had seen in Buttes-Chaumont park, he in his turn showed me a coloured inset with the view of Palanga park, which he had bought from a Parisian antiquary. The inscription on this picture “Revue Horticole” brought the name of this magazine to my mind. Being in Moscow in the winter of 1986 I found at the library of the Botanical Gardens this magazine of 1906 with the above-mentioned inset (I b inset) and the article of Rene E. André about the Palanga park. It contains thorough information on the principles which underlie Edouard André creative activity.
In 1984 at the IFLA congress in Siófok (Hungary) I made the acquaintance of some colleagues from France. Through the mediation of Mrs Frederique Tanguy of Angers I received in 1987 from Mr Daniel Lejeune, director of green plantations of Bourges, two lists of Edouard André published projects, which he used as visiting cards. The first list (6 items) names three parks designed in Lithuania, at that time occupied by Russia, namely Traku Voke, Uzutrakiai and Palanga, the second list (7 items) mentions the fourth - Lentvaris.
In 1995 I got in touch with the Edouard André Association and its president Mrs Florence André Kaeppelin, a great grandniece of E. André. She gave to Palanga park excellent copies of the plans of Palanga and Lentvaris parks. These ancient plans are invaluable documents on the history of Lithuanian landscape architecture and Pakeliui iš Užtrakio į Lentvarį, keliantis keltu tarp galvės ir Skaisčio ežerų, 1898 m. birželio 21 d. Karietoje sėdi Edouardas Andrė (su skrybėle). Renė Andrė nuotrauka iš Laurent Penicoud archyvounreplacable material to park restorers.
On 15-17 April, 1998 I participated as an invited guest at the expense of Edouard André Association in the international colloquy “Landscape architect and botanist Edouard André round the whole world”. There I obtained information about Edouard André and his relatives, saw pieces of his creation and visited his holding La Croix. Mrs F. André Kaeppelin gave to me several family photographs and a few copies of letters of count Tiskevicius to E. André [10, 11, repr.]
Annotations, evaluations, suggestions
Now we know about two visits of E. André and his son Rene to Lithuania. That are the copies of the photographs given to me by Mr. Laurent Penicaud, a great grandnephew of E. André inscribed by the date June 18-27 1898 and the notebooks of René André [13] from which we may learn about their visit in May, 1899. In the course of this trip they visited two parks in the present Poland: Samotszel (Polish Samostrzel) and Potulice, which are included in the list of E. André most important works (6, 7 items).
The comparison of the authentic plan of the park (I b inset) with the present park shows many deviations.
The plan bears the inscription in French “Parc de la Birouta”. For hundreds of years the high sand dune of the park and the forest surrounding it, which later became park, was called Birute. In I960 the Soviet government named the park “botany”. It still bears this name.
The parterre in front of the mansion has no more pillars joined by garlands. The tennis court (E) is neglected and overgrown with grass. The two arbours (D) (Fr. kiosque) are gone. The only memory of the estate stables (B) is the drawing made by architect Vladimiras Zubovas in 1947 (12 repr.).
If many of these things were recreated the park would come alive. As we now have the authentic plan the flower-garden can be easily recreated (L). According to the authentic plan the flowerbeds should lie round the mansion and in the flower-garden. Growing colourful flowers which are now being planted in forest glades, along the paths and at random places should be given up. I suggest that a new vase with a dedication inscription to Edouard André be put on the ancient pedestal in the flower garden. That would remind everybody of the projector of Palanga park.
The Lourd at the foot of Birute hill is not foreseen in E. André plan. It was constructed on the initiative of the owners of the park, as it was the fashion at that.time and one must admit it being in harmony with the site. E. André did not plan a single sculpture, at present there are seven in the park. Some of them are in harmony with the park, marking the history of this site.
The statue of the “Blessing Christ” is a problem. Instead of the vase originally planned in the flower-garden was erected by wish of the park owners in the past and at the initiative of some energetic people in the present a high metal figure dull and lifeless, the sun being at its back. Thus the artistic harmony prevailing between the mansion and the parterre was thoroughly changed and may be distorted.
The wide-spread opinion that a beautiful object suits always and everywhere is wrong. It may be proved by the effect of the erection in I960 at the frontal entrance of Palanga park of the sculpture “Egle the Queen of Grass-Snakes” by Robertas Antinis (father). This excellent sculpture could become the centre of composition of some new square, but an easier though wrong way was taken.
By the insertion into the space of the old park of the striking sculpture the scenery of the approach to the mansion became changed, so does the sequence of the impressions of the visitors of the park: the culmination being carried to the prologue. The park was changed, reformed, its author, the great creator of parks, mocked at.
The seekers of the authentity of the park might dream that the “Blessing Christ” was moved to a church-yard and “Egle the Queen of Grass-Snakes” would rule over an important square of Palanga.
The creators of the park delighted in Palanga forests René André has written: “We took care to leave in the parts which are far away from the mansion the uneffected forest, to preserve its severe and grand character” [6]. To go by him in many places of the park the woods should not be thinned but thickened.
Palanga park is the best looked after park in Lithuania. The new data about the park enable us to make it really examplary.
 
Prepared by: Pilkauskas R. Seeking the authentity of the park // Lietuvos zeldynu ateitis /sud. Regimantas Pilkauskas. - Vilnius, Publishing Office of the Vilnius academy Arts. 2001. P. 65-67

Photos from the book Pilkauskas R. Seeking the authentity of the park // Lietuvos zeldynu ateitis /sud. Regimantas Pilkauskas. - Vilnius, Publishing Office of Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts. 2001. P. 65-67

  

     ©  Lithuanian Art Museum,                                                                                                                                                                           Page update 07.13.10
     ©  Palanga Botanical Park,                                                                                                   
     © Information Centre of Samogitian Cultural Association