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.