The Remote Gardens and Pavilions of Versailles

Set far back in the grounds of Versailles are the refined gardens and pavilions of…

Set far back in the grounds of Versailles are the refined gardens and pavilions of the Petit Trianon. Together, they show how European garden design transitioned in the 1700s with two contrasting styles: On the west side, there’s a calm yet uplifting formal French garden, and on the east side, a romantic and picturesque English landscape.

The French garden style was originally inspired by the classical harmony and order of the Italian Renaissance. The Petit Trianon Garden displays this in the calm horizontal lines of the Linden trees as the rhythm of their trunks provides a sense of stability, while the geometry of the pavilions, the linear promenade, and circular ponds create order.

The colorful, aromatic flower beds nourish that inner realm. The linear approach frames and presents both the French Pavilion and the Petit Trianon’s elegant west façade. Both buildings were designed by Ange Jacques-Gabrielle in a simple classical style that would later be known as Neoclassical.

Louis the XVI ascended the throne in 1774; he soon married the young Marie Antoinette and gifted her with the Petit Trianon. Marie was instrumental in the design of the English gardens and pavilions. This style was based on recreating an idyllic and pastoral landscape similar to those depicted in English and French landscape paintings.

This romanticized view of nature was in effect a gentle revolt against the calm order of the formal garden. The English garden also combined components imported from China.

Louis XV’s large botanical gardens that stood on the grounds were removed to make way for the new garden design. Marie and her official architect, Richard Mique, developed two pavilions, the Love Pavilion and the Belvedere. Although the two garden styles greatly differ, they inspire awe in their respective domains and create a harmonious setting for those who visit.

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The French formal garden was thought of as a place where the sovereigns could occasionally entertain, or just enjoy walks in the refined setting. In 1749, King Louis XV directed architect Ange Jacques-Gabrielle to create the French Pavilion in the garden as a dining room; it was built in the reserved classical style from 1749 to 1750. (T. Garnier/Château de Versailles)
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Royal architect Ange Jacques-Gabrielle designed the French Pavilion as a vast rotunda supported by four small wings. The four façades represent and depict the four seasons. The façade is topped with a balustrade, sculptures of children, and flower-filled vases. (J.H. Smith/Cartio)
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The main octagonal reception room of the French Pavilion where summer luncheons and royal feasts would occur. The bas-relief ornamentation above the columns represents a variety of fruit and vegetables grown on the estate. (T. Garnier/Château de Versailles)
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A view from the reception room through to one of the wings in the French Pavilion reveals the refined gold leaf plaster work and subtle green and pink hues of the marble, which draw on colors found in the surrounding garden. (T. Garnier/Château de Versailles)
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The Cooling Pavilion is set amid private gardens with trellis panels that would invite vines to grow on the building and columns in front to aid in cooling the building. The vases at the top of the façade further celebrate flowering plants. The Cooling Pavilion was used to preserve fresh food for royal dinners. Louis XV would enjoy sampling the fresh farm food ahead of luncheons and events. (J.H. Smith/Cartio)
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The colorful aromatic flowers ornament the formal French Garden en route to the Petit Trianon. The sculpted Linden trees appear on either side. (T. Garnier/Château de Versailles)
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The Belvedere is the name of this pavilion and also a term to describe a place that offers a view of the surrounding landscape. The pavilion’s timeless classical architecture combined with the weathered grotto in the lower left is set in a mature natural landscape to create an ancient atmosphere. It was positioned to offer views out over the pond and the landscape beyond. (T. Garnier/Château de Versailles)
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Royal Architect Richard Mique’s octagonal Belvedere continues the refined neoclassical design of the Petit Trianon with subtle material color and classical design motifs. (T. Garnier/Château de Versailles)
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An imaginary, or trompe l’oeil, oculus (opening at the top of the dome) appears painted on the ceiling with a cherub to one side, implying a portal to a divine realm above inviting one to contemplate such realms. (T. Garnier/Château de Versailles)
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The Love Pavilion was also designed by Richard Mique and is set on an island amidst the picturesque garden, and which aligns with the Petit Trianon and French Pavilion beyond. Marie Antoinette enjoyed a direct view of the pavilion from her apartment on the second floor of the Petit Trianon. (T. Garnier/Château de Versailles)
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With the refined elegance of neoclassicism, the Love Pavilion became a centerpiece for events at the Petit Trianon. The pavilion rises up from the island with 12 Corinthian columns in a circular form completed with a gentle shallow dome. (J.H.Smith/Cartio)
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Ornamentation above the columns enjoys a similar exquisite treatment with the Petit Trianon as it is adorned with rosettes and Arabesque scrolls. The rosettes can also be seen here on the interior ceiling. (J.H.Smith/Cartio)
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Set as the focus of the interior, the Pavilion provides a place for a copy of Edme Bouchardon’s “Cupid fashioning his bow from Hercules’ club” (1750). The sculpture is the work of Louis-Philippe Mouchy under the direction of Marie Antoinette. (J.H.Smith/Cartio)