Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Petit Trianon

Like a Palladian villa, the Petit Trianon is perfection of architecture. Nestled on the grounds of Versailles, the Petit Trianon was built by Louis XV from 1762-1768 ( don't you always need to use the roman numerals for the french kings, haha ) first for his Mistress Madame du Pompadour and later after her death for Madame du Barry ( to whom i'm distantly related! ).

The architecture is Neoclassicist that at the time was taking hold over the formerly popular rococo style. As precise as a calculated formula, strict rules were followed for porportions and the Corinthian 'orders' of decoration. This was then set into a 'natural' english garden. The plan of the building is square similar to the other 'perfect' neoclassical building, the Villa Rotunda by Palladio.
When Louis XVI took over the throne when his grandfather died, he gave the jewel to his wife, Marie Antoinette in 1774. Marie used the petit trianon as a refuge from court life ( which she hated ) and to escape with her friends into a world of flowers and fun. Even her husband the king wasn't allowed except by invitation!In the movie 'Marie Antoinette' (which you can read a bit about in my posting on the subject) you see Kirsten Dunst channeling Marie and having dinner parties with friends, roaming its gardens with her daughter and lounging with lovers in the secretive interiors ( she had mechanical mirrors installed as 'blinds' to keep people from peering inside ). The privacy was so intense that even servants couldn't observe her as the dining room table came up through a hole in the floor and they weren't required to serve the meal!
some interiors at P.T.; notice the lack of gilding on the boiseries leaving it simple and elegant .
All these interior photos were taken on the Piano Nobile ( the main floor with largest windows ) and it leaves me to wonder what the spaces are like on the top floor -whether they are similar or even more simple. All the lighting is from lanterns because the globes protected the candles from the open windows. No chandeliers here, function first! This was mainly a summer-time retreat, although Marie Antoinette was a year-round occupant, spending more time here than with court at Versailles up the street, especially after giving birth to her 2nd child.the stair hall with lantern

The Petit Trianon has been copied and referenced endlessly, and recently this 'copy' sold for $20 million!!!! It's sort of tacky and right on a city grid, but goes to show that everyone ( good taste and not ) appreciates the Petit Trianon!The bad copy -but nice landscaping
One of my prized possessions is an antique book about 200 pages thick and a huge coffee table size that has detailed drawings of all the plans, elevations, interior elevations and details of the millwork. I'll have to scan some of these in to post at a later date. The Petit Trianon is currently being renovated ( from profits from renting it out for the movie perhaps? ) and its contents have been in San Francisco and I'm so disappointed I never got to see them there. Hopefully one day soon I'll be able to visit and see them in their own restored home. a garden pavilion on the grounds of the petit trianon


Anonymous said...

Hello, first I'd like to say, that I love your blog, and am looking forward to your posts on the petit trianon. The bad copy, is distasteful and repulsive.
I plan on building an EXACT copy of it, right down the the floors and which way the wood runs.

I am an Orleans family member and it is nice that you are related to dubarry, regardless of what everyone else in the nobility thinks. MA forgave her, and so can I.

You can reach me at anytime, if you would like to discuss all forms of architecture, I could go on for hours ;]

Bruno said...

I'm from Brasil and as reading an article about the petit trianon and stumbled upon your blog. It is awesome. I loved your way of writing about it and the pictures. I wish i could see more of them, such as: Inside, rooms, and you name it.
I'm looking forward to it.
Anyways, Thank you for sharing it with us.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful pictures I have had the great pleasure of visiting the Petit Tri anon and you have captured the intimate elegance of the chateau. Often called the most perfect Neo-Classical structure in the world actually owes more to your ancestor than with which history has credited her. Madame Du Barry's taste was highly restrained and she was a great patron of the decorative and fine arts. The historian Clark said that if the Chateau was a bit more ornate it would be too much so and a bit planer it would be too plain.

Anonymous said...

I am aware of several Petit Trianon "knock-offs". The one you show on the blog, I believe, is in San Francisco. The interior is appalling!
There is another in Greenwich, CT that sits at the end of a long drive.

David said...

Hi. I live in S.F. and drive by the "appalling copy" every day while dropping my daughter off for school. There are many aspects that are terrible -- e.g., in the 80s someone PAINTED the stone, and, as a previous commenter noted, the interior is entirely of turn of the 19th century, when it was built, and not at all neoclassical. More recently, and unforgivably, someone installed "Parisian" verdigris streetlights in a very clearly 19th century style on the entrance courtyard steps. And don't get me started on the landscaping, which is absolutely atrocious from an 18th century perspective (I was kind of shocked to read the approving comments on the landscaping, as it's by far the most inappropriate aspect of the house from an historic perspective -- vines on (half of) the stone facade????). But I'm surprised by the comments because the house itself is a nearly perfect copy of the Petit Trianon. If you ignore the inappropriate landscaping, the silly lighting on the terrace, and the separate party/service buildings off to the left, the main house itself is about as close a reproduction as one could hope for (especially considering that this house was damaged extensively in the 1906 earthquake). What exactly makes it "appalling"???

Anonymous said...

I just visited the Queens hamlet and the Petit Trianon with my friend from Paris. She was born in Paris and she got me started on digging more for facts on Marie Antoinette who she thinks was badly maligned. She said her country went crazy and I have to agree with her, just like with the Salem witch hunts and other highly volatile periods in many countries. Some interesting things I have read from her daughter, and of her marriage does not point seem to point to a frivolous careless person. First point the Petit Trianon was given to her by Louis XVI as a wedding gift. They were married when he was 15 and she was 14 but never consummated the marriage for 7 years. Louis XVI was also the only monarch NOT to have a royal mistress. They were both affectionate and loving to their children also. So, maybe things are not always what they seem at first... I will enjoy the rest of my research into this