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The Pavillon Frais: visit to the restoration site

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The French Gardens



The Art of Symmetry

In 1749, encouraged by Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV, settled at Grand Trianon, extended his estate by creating a new “French Garden” with its characteristic geometrical and symmetrical lines. The flowerbeds were designed by architect Gabriel and the gardens were supervised by Claude Richard confirming the scientific vocation of the new estate. Vegetables, a fig garden, rare flowers and fruit complete the nursery.

French Pavilion

This pavilion is known as the “French” pavilion because it was located in the middle of one of those regular gardens which began to be known as “French” gardens in contrast with the budding trend of English gardens. Built by Gabriel in 1750, it was one of Louis XV’s first creations at Trianon, the estate to which he had felt drawn towards since childhood. It consists in a vast circular living room flanked by four small rooms used as a boudoir, warming room, kitchen and wardrobe. Accompanied by Madame de Pompadour the king would go there to relax, listen to music after his visits of the botanical garden or having enjoyed a light meal at the nearby Cool Pavilion.

The Pavillion Frais

Louis XV, who appreciated the intimate life of Trianon, decided in 1749, spurred on by Madame de Pompadour, to establish a menagerie nearby. To brighten up the royal visits, architect Angel-Jacques Gabriel added a garden to the menagerie; it was both pleasant and useful, centred on a pavilion for games, light meals or concerts known as the “French Pavilion”, which was completed in 1750. The following year, a second, smaller pavilion was added to be used as a dining room where the products from the dairy and vegetable gardens could be enjoyed. In front of that pavilion, known as the Pavillion Frais, there was a small garden. It was surrounded by a rectangular portico of trellis-work. On both sides of the pavilion there were two pathways of trellis-work arcades against a tree-covered hedge. The portico was supported by iron structures covered with trellis-work, installed in July 1752 at the same time as the trellis-work of the pavilion.

Its pilasters concealed the trunks of lime trees pruned into spheres. The two main pilasters, which framed the entrance to the garden, were surmounted, like the pavilion, with an entablature and large wooden baskets. Fifty four other smaller baskets were included to adorn the keystones of the archways. Each archway sheltered an orange tree. In 1756, two statues representing “Illness” and “Health” by François Anguier, from the Antiques Room of The Louvre, were placed in two trellis-work niches located at the end of the pathways of the portico, set on white marble pedestals. The garden was composed of two decorated rectangular flowerbeds, two oval basins and hanging boxwood palmettes. In the centre, there were baskets of flowers surrounded by a ribbon of grass. The entire area was framed by flower beds. The edges of the basins were made of Languedoc marble as was the chimney of the pavilion. The bottoms were decorated with a paved, coloured pattern and a sheaf of decorated lead. The Pavillion Frais was destroyed in 1810, but a part of its foundations were saved. Since being rebuilt in 1980, it awaits the return of its trellis-work, flowerbeds and basins.

To find the substructures of the garden, archaeological excavations were carried out over a period of two years in half of the garden. In 2006, the basin was excavated and three boreholes were opened on the site of the portico to locate the foundations. In 2007, the study of the basin was completed and nearly all of the foundations of the portico were brought to light.

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