It is the middle of winter here in Las Vegas and I found myself looking at pictures from last summer in Paris. The famous Bagatelle rose garden was in full bloom and the ducks, geese, swans and peacocks were having children. It was a magical time in a fantasy world. The thoughts of it make me happy that I was there and sad that I am not there now. I have some pictures and I thought I would share them here. I was so inspired by the lily pond, near the house, that I painted the moment in an expressionist style. I included the picture to show the contrast between what the camera saw and what I saw that day. I love to paint as a hobby and I hope you like the painting.
The Wallace Collection is a national museum in London which displays the works of art collected in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the son of the 4th Marquess. It was bequeathed to the British nation by Sir Richard's widow, Lady Wallace, in 1897. I have written a background post on the union of the Seymour and Conway families which can be found here. This post explores the life of the first four Marquess of Hertford and the life of Sir Richard Wallace.
Much of Parc Monceau is ringed with 18th- and 19th-century mansions, some evoking Proust's Remembrance of Things Past especially since he frequently wandered here. Louis Carrogis Carmontelle designed it in 1778 as a private hideaway for the duc d'Orléans (who came to be known as Philippe-Egalité), at the time the richest man in France. The Duke was a close friend of the Prince of Wales, later George IV, and a lover of all things English. His intention was to create what was then called an Anglo-Chinese or English garden, on the earlier model of Stowe House in England (1730–1738), with its examples of the architectural folly, or fantastic reconstructions of buildings of different ages and continents. It was similar in style to several other examples of the French landscape gardens built at about the same time, including the Desert de Retz, the gardens of the Château de Bagatelle and the Folie Saint James.
As I have discussed in previous posts, the neoclassical Château Bagatelle was built in about two months in 1777 as a wager between Marie Antoinette and the Count d'Artois, Louis XVI's younger brother. The central building above is the Château, modified in 1835 by Lord Seymour, marchion of Hertford. Wanting a house wider than the existing building, he removed one floor, which transformed its proportions. It contained the largest part of his extensive collection of French paintings, sculptures, furniture and works of decorative art, most of which went to form the Wallace Collection in London. Bagatelle underwent five years of redecorating and extensions, and then Lord Hertford did not reside in it until 1848. He also built the “Trianon”, seen in the above picture to the left of the château, for his son Richard Wallace.
When we visited Bagatelle, an exhibition of Robert Arnoux was discretely placed in the gardens. For ten years, his strange characters have been walking their slender oversimplified silhouettes, solo, couple or family, in the most beautiful parks and gardens of France. Auvers-sur-Oise, Saint-Jean de Beauregard , Le Vert Bois, Le Point du Jour, and Séricourt “Garden of the Year 2012” where he was invited last summer. The figures are carved from a single block of stone. Their silhouettes are like a mirror held up to the walker, a concentration of humanity frozen and yet terribly alive. His works, which tend towards abstraction, purifies the essence of being together as a human comedy outdoors.
I am breaking this post on Bagatelle into smaller pieces, this is the second part on the gardener's house, seen above. As I said in the previous post, the Count d'Artois, Louis XVI's younger brother, and thus Marie-Antoinette's brother-in-law, had bought a house, in very bad condition, existing on this site. Marie-Antoinette, amused by the poor condition of the place when she visited it for the first time, said to her brother-in-law that she hoped to be accommodated there two months later. Artois took up the challenge, and it is said that he bet 100,000 pounds with the Queen. Artois won his bet, two days later the architect Bélanger had drawn the plans of the folie, and nine hundred workmen leveled the buildings and prepared the ground. By November of 1777 the house, or as the French call it folie, was completed. The name Bagatelle comes from the Italian bagattella, means a trifle, or little decorative nothing. In 1777 a party was thrown in the recently completed house in honor of Louis XVI and the Queen.
It was a little cloudy out today but we decided to go out and visit the Bagatelle gardens. It was so beautiful I took over one hundred pictures. I have decided to break my post on Bagatelle into several sections rather than one long post. This post is the charming little restaurant located on the grounds. Marie-Antoinette waged that the Count of Artois, who had bought this property in 1775, could not turn it into a serviceable property in 64 days. Belanger designed the house and Thomas Blaikie built the gardens, to the day’s in-vogue anglo-chinois taste. Bagatelle park and chateau only barely eluded obliteration during the Revolution, but a string of owners altered them considerably. The orangerie, gates and stables date back to 1835, and the guard’s lodgings were built in 1870, along with the Trianon and the two terraces. The restaurant is in the old stables.