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Title: The Brochure Series of Architectural Illustration, vol. 06, No. 4, April 1900 - The Petit Trianon: Versailles, English Carved Fireplaces
Author: Various
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Brochure Series of Architectural Illustration, vol. 06, No. 4, April 1900 - The Petit Trianon: Versailles, English Carved Fireplaces" ***

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                          THE BROCHURE SERIES
                     The Petit Trianon: Versailles
                       English Carved Fireplaces
                              APRIL, 1900


                            BROCHURE SERIES

                     1900.      APRIL      No. 4.

                    THE PETIT TRIANON: VERSAILLES.

During the first years of his reign, Louis the XIV. of France resided,
as his predecessors had, at St. Germain in summer; but for some
reason--it is alleged that it was because the windows of the palace
commanded a view of St. Denis, the royal mausoleum--he conceived
a dislike to it, and resolved to build another summer palace for
himself at some spot not far from Paris. Why he chose Versailles is

Whatever may have been the motive, however, he decided to erect upon
this desolate, waterless and uninhabited site a vast palace to be
surrounded by a park.

The cost of accomplishing this project was fearful, not in money
alone (although this was more than one thousand million francs), but
in human life. In 1681 twenty-two thousand soldiers and six thousand
horses were employed on the work, and so unhealthy was the site that
the workmen died by thousands. Writing in 1767, Madame de Sévigné says:
"The King is in haste that Versailles should be finished; but it would
seem that God is unwilling. It is almost impossible to continue the
work owing to the fearful mortality among the workmen. The corpses are
fetched away by cartfuls during the night,--night being chosen that
they who still live may not be terrified into revolt by the sight." But
no difficulty, nor the pestilence, nor the ruin of the treasury was
allowed to interfere with the King's pleasure. The palace rose; the
stately gardens, peopled with statues, spread about it; and a royal
city sprang up where before had been only a desolate forest; and,
after 1682, Versailles became the permanent headquarters of the Court.

In the immense park, some three-quarters of a mile northwest from the
terraces of the palace, Louis XIV. built a little palace to gratify
Madame de Maintenon, which, from the fact that it stood on the site of
the parish of Trianon, which was demolished to make a site for it, and
because its façade was ornamented with porcelain plaques of blue and
white faience ware, was called the "Trianon de Porcelaine"; but in 1687
Louis, who had as Saint-Simon said, "a rage for building," demolished
this frail structure and replaced it with another, designed by Mansart,
which we now know as the "Grand Trianon." This building was the King's
delight for a few years, but after 1700 he wearied of the plaything,
and turned all his attention to his new château at Marly.


During the Regency the Trianon was almost abandoned; but when, under
Louis XV., the Court returned to Versailles, the building became a
favorite refuge for the King; and he later gave it to his mistress,
Madame de Pompadour, for her own. She, being at her wits' end to devise
some new scheme to distract the daily increasing melancholy of the
King, hit upon the expedient of establishing in the grounds which were
attached to the Grand Trianon, a real practical dairy and farm; and
for that purpose imported from Holland a herd of fine cows, and
collected a number of rare varieties of hens and pigeons, which Louis
amused himself for some time in breeding. But in 1754 the royal caprice
again changed, and Louis abolished the farm, and made the land into a
botanical garden. Here he established conservatories for raising fruits
out of their natural seasons, and collected a great number of exotic
trees and shrubs of every variety and species. Taking great delight
in this garden, which was some distance from the Grand Trianon, he
conceived the notion of building in the midst of it a still smaller
château, modelled upon the Grand Trianon as that itself had been a
miniature of Versailles. This château, the Little Trianon, was erected
in 1766 by the royal architect, Gabriel, and was given by the King to
the mistress who had succeeded Madame du Pompadour in his favor, Madame
Du Barry. It was while staying at the Petit Trianon that Louis was
attacked by the small-pox, of which he died.

[Illustration: "TEMPLE OF LOVE"      PETIT TRIANON]

The château of the Petit Trianon is an interesting building,
architecturally, marking, as it does, the transition stage between
the styles of Louis XV. and Louis XVI.--a return to purer classical
traditions. The façade is ornamented by a portico with four detached
Corinthian columns, and the whole is surmounted by a balustrade. The
reception and billiard rooms occupied the first floor, while the second
was occupied by the private apartments.

While Marie Antoinette was still the Dauphine, she had often expressed
a desire to have a château, apart from the palace, for her own, where,
free from the intolerable restraints of Court etiquette, she might
amuse herself as she chose; and shortly after his accession to the
throne, Louis XVI. is said to have presented her with the Trianons with
the words, "They have always belonged to the King's favorites, and
should therefore now be yours." The Queen answered laughingly that she
would gladly accept the Little Trianon, but only upon the condition
that it should be unreservedly her own, and that even the King should
come there only upon her express invitation.


Marie Antoinette's first wish, after becoming mistress of her new
domain, was to establish there a garden after the English style. The
rage for the English garden had just then seized French society, for
it was believed to be a return to Nature--Nature which Rousseau
just then had made it the fashion to adore, and the nobility were all
for playing at rusticity, and full of sentimental admiration for the

The King humored the whim, and gave orders that the gardens already
existing at the Trianon should be remodelled, that the strip of land
joining it should be added, and the whole surrounded with a wall, and
the work pushed as rapidly as possible.

The plans for the English garden were drawn by Comte de Caraman, an
officer who had already arranged such a garden in connection with his
own residence, and this garden the Queen had visited. In 1775 the new
royal architect, Mique, seconded by the painter, Hubert Robert, the
sculptor, Deschamps, and the landscape gardener, Antoine Richard,
joined in working out the plans of the Comte de Caraman, and created an
English garden after the Queen's fancy. Unhappily, however, in order
to create this new garden it became necessary to destroy a large part
of the botanical garden which had before existed; but many of the fine
exotic trees were employed in working out the new design, and these
trees still remain the finest ornaments of the park.

The plan for the English garden was comprised as follows: In the
more formal portions of the grounds near the château an artificial
grotto and a "Belvedere," and, shadowed by overhanging trees, a little
"Temple de l'Amour." Separated from these classical constructions by an
artificial lake, bordered with rustic paths and intended to represent a
bit of natural country, was erected a picturesque miniature hamlet of
nine or ten rustic cottages in which the court ladies, under the lead
of the Queen, might play at peasant life.

The grotto was a work of some elaboration, and it was said that
no less than seven relief models of it were made before the Queen
expressed herself as satisfied with the design. It is an arrangement
of artificial rocks covered with moss, through which flows the outlet
stream of the little lake. It was at one time proposed, after the then
fashion in English gardening, to build on the top of the grotto a
picturesquely contrived ruin, but this project was abandoned.

Near the grotto stands the Belvedere--a coquettish little octagonal
pavilion set on a stone platform. Four windows and four doors are set
alternately in its eight surfaces, and a balustrade surrounds the domed
roof. The interior was ornamented in delicately frescoed stucco.

The Temple of Love consists of twelve Corinthian columns supporting a
cupola. The pavement is of white blue-veined marble. In the centre is
a carved pedestal on which stands a statue of Cupid drawing his bow,
modelled by Bouchardon.


The most picturesque feature of the garden was, however, the village or
hamlet, and it is here the life of the Trianon centered in the time of
the Queen.

The houses with which the hamlet was comprised were situated on the
farther shore of a small artificial lake; and were divided into two
groups separated by a running stream. The first group was made up of
the "Queen's House" and its connected "Billiard Hall," and the "Mill":
the second originally comprised five buildings;--a "Gardener's Lodge,"
a "Poultry House," a tower, called "Marlborough's Tower" with a "Dairy"
attached to it, and, at some distance from these, a "Farm House" with
its dependencies.

We have preferred in the description to adhere to the names by which
these buildings were originally called rather than to adopt the more
fanciful nomenclature given to them later by an imaginative German,
Dr. Meyer, who visited France in 1796 and who invented the story that
the Queen, playing at rural life, had entrusted the King with the
rôle of the farmer, while she became the farmer's wife and the Count
d'Artois the huntsman, the Comte de Provence the miller, and the
Cardinal de Rohan the curé of this tiny community. In accordance with
this unfounded tale the Queen's house has been nicknamed the "Maison du
Seigneur," the poultry house the "Presbytère" and so forth,--and these
nicknames have clung to them ever since.


The simplicity of the buildings of the hamlet makes it unnecessary
to describe them in detail. They were erected during the years 1783,
1784 and 1785 from designs by the architect Mique. The exteriors were
covered with stucco to represent old brick, weather-worn stone and
worm-eaten wood, and all of them, with the exception of the "Queen's
House" which was partly covered with tiles, were roofed with thatch.

The "Queen's House" and "Billiard Hall" were connected by a rustic
gallery, painted olive-green. The former contained a dining-room and
some private apartments. The "Billiard Hall," as its name implies, was
mainly occupied by a billiard room over which were sleeping chambers.


The "Mill" was at one time furnished with a mill-wheel and actually
and practically used to grind grain for the inhabitants of the
tiny village. The "Gardener's House" has been demolished. The
"Poultry-House" was at one time used for the care of fowls and pigeons
of which the Queen had a large number.


As we have said, an almost indispensable feature of the English garden
of this time was an artificial ruin; but although many models were
made for the erection of such a ruin at the Petit-Trianon, none was
ever erected. As a substitute however, a round tower was built, and in
honor of the original the "Chanson de Marlborough," with its simple and
plaintive air, which had just then been revived in popular favor, was
named "Marlborough's Tower." It is probable that the building was
supposed to suggest that tower from which Marlborough's widow saw the
page "_tout de noir habillé_" who came to tell her of her husband's
death. The tower ascended by an exterior staircase, and at the top was
a circular balcony from which a view of the whole domain was visible,
and from which signals might be exchanged with the palace at Versailles.


The tower was connected by a passage with the "Dairy,"--an actual and
practical creamery on a small scale, in which the Queen and her ladies
played at making butter and cheese. The walls and floor were tiled with
marble, and the tables on which the pans and utensils--all of decorated
porcelain--were set out were also of marble. A running stream of water
was conducted through the dairy to keep it cool.

The "Farm" buildings comprised a group of constructions, in which the
farmer lodged, and in which were stables for cows of which the Queen
had a splendid Swiss herd.

The completed gardens of the Little Trianon excited the most lively
praise. The poet, Chevalier Bertin, dedicated a whole elegy to them;
the Prince de Ligne wrote, "Here truly one may breathe air of happiness
and liberty. One might believe one's self a hundred leagues from the
Court." The village presented a real aspect of a rural hamlet. Indeed
the Queen had under her eyes a living picture of the country, whence
she could see the cows grazing, peasants laboring in the fields, the
cultivation of gardens, the pruning of trees, the cows coming to drink
at the lake, the washwomen washing their clothes at the stream which
flowed from the mill, and the little mill itself, grinding grain for
the inhabitants of this miniature village.

It was at this Trianon that Marie Antoinette spent her happiest
days. "The Queen," writes Madam Campan, "spent sometimes an entire
month together at the Little Trianon, where she had established
her pianoforte and tapestry frames." There were but few apartments
in the château of the Little Trianon and although Madame Elizabeth
usually accompanied the Queen here, the ladies of honor could not be
accommodated, and unless by special invitation from the Queen it was
the rule to come from Versailles only at the dinner hour. The King and
the Princess came regularly to sup. A white muslin and a straw hat was
the accustomed dress of the princesses, and the pleasure of running
about the little village to see the cows milked and to fish in the
lake, enchanted the Queen, and with every successive year she showed
less inclination for the stiff etiquette of the Court.

Here on the 5th of October, the news was brought her of the arrival at
the Court of the crowd of women from Paris, and she was forced to go
immediately to Versailles to meet them, never again to see her little


                       English Carved Fireplaces

In adopting the Renaissance style as a motive in interior decoration,
England lagged behind the Continental nations. Such English mansions
and furniture as remained after the Wars of the Roses were all of the
Gothic type; and with no other models available, it was but natural
that the first efforts of English workmen, after art began to revive,
should be Gothic in feeling. Moreover, for a long time most of the
carved wood-work and furniture in the new style with which England was
supplied, was imported from Holland, and it is in some measure to Dutch
example that the heavy character of the Elizabethan style in furniture
and carving must be attributed.

The style was, therefore, neither Classic nor Gothic, but a mixture of
the two, tinged with Dutch and Flemish influence; and yet, mongrel as
it was, it had an individuality of its own--a certain, royal, dignified
and stately charm.

The first distinguishing feature of Elizabethan ornamental carving
is "strap-work," a term which exactly describes this elaborate
tracery,--an imitation of straps and buckles, varied sufficiently to
atone for the meagreness of the type, and relying for its decorative
value upon its repetition and symmetry. There are many rooms in old
English houses where this strap-decoration is carried out with so
delicate and fanciful a use of the interlacing line as to be nearly as
satisfying as the Saracenic work of the same type; but it is, after
all, nothing but a play of line, and, while allowing the greatest
scope to the individuality of the artist, requires genius to properly
develop it. Too frequently it is but the merest medley of uninteresting
sequences; and when the shield-work (and pierced shield-work at that)
was superadded, it sometimes became mere confusion.


Another distinguishing motive of shield-work,--the cartouch--is simply
what its name implies, the representation of the armorial shield with
its supports. The supports were pierced in every conceivable manner
with circles, lozenges, crescents and all sorts of openings.

"The Elizabethan, pure and simple," writes Mrs. Spofford, "has this
strap-work sometimes finished off with slight scrolls--'foliages,' the
Italians called them--and associated with some classical ideas not yet
very exclusively or carefully managed; straps appearing well riveted to
the middle of classic ornaments, and antique shapes rising, from the
curious Renaissance pilaster, which was neither a vase nor a pilaster,
in truth, broken as it is half way by the rising shape, like those
of the Termae, with which the ancients made their boundaries sacred,
smaller at the base than anywhere else, and bearing straps, arabesques
and rosettes on its face."

You will sometimes find an Elizabethan chimney-piece, the fluted and
channelled columns, and the entablature of which are almost quite pure
in style, and yet, almost invariably, somewhere about their length
strap-ornament is sure to be introduced.


With the accession of James I. to the English throne a new influx
of foreign influence made fresh havoc with such Gothic as remained.
The shield, which, through a preference for the strap had been but
sparsely used in the preceding reign, came now to be the centre of all
decoration, and was lavished everywhere in a wild whirl of flourishing
curves, together with the previously common straps and buckles
and general tackle of war. Its universal use gave a somewhat less
interesting air to the decoration than when the purer interlacing of
the strap, with but here and there the convolutions of the shield,
supplied its place.


But the Jacobean by no means contented itself with this simpler form
of the Renaissance. In other characteristics it tended more and more
to the Classic, though never arriving at purity. In construction, the
horizontal of the antique mingled with the vertical of the mediæval,
and a volute upheld the pointed arch; in ornament, the Tudor leaf with
a Grecian frieze, with other equally inappropriate arrangements. It
was not for a hundred years thereafter that pure Classic came to be
understood in England. The scallop shell seems, at this period, to
have caught the fancy of the designers as a motive, and they used it
at every turn. These shell forms and the shell in decoration disputed
with cartouch and straps, with rosette and scroll, with the fabulous
griffins, and with grotesque mermaids, whose tails, turning into
scrolls, are seen dividing to the right and left in the ornamentation
of Jacobean furniture and chimney-pieces.


But the influence of the Italian form of the Renaissance, through the
filter of the Flemish, made itself very distinctly felt in the Jacobean
style; not so much in the effort of the Italian toward æsthetic
perfection, as in the play of fancy, stimulated by the sight of new
forms, but unacquainted with the laws that should control them.

Upon whatever architectural or decorative scheme it was based, however,
the carving of this period was extremely rich and beautiful; and in
consequence the time has come to be known as the "Cinquecento period"
in English art, which corresponds in many of its characteristics to the
style known in other countries by the same name. The illustrations show
the development of these styles and the main characteristics which have
been pointed out.


                          Transcriber's Note:

Italics are indicated by _underscores_.

Small capitals have been rendered in full capitals.

A number of minor spelling errors have been corrected without note.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Brochure Series of Architectural Illustration, vol. 06, No. 4, April 1900 - The Petit Trianon: Versailles, English Carved Fireplaces" ***

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