Marie-Antoinette and the Last Garden at Versailles
I recommend Marie-Antoinette and the Last Garden at Versailles by Christain Duvernois, with photographs by François Halard. I own, thanks to a gift certificate that was burning a hole in my pocket, a copy of the French version, more soberly titled Trianon: le domaine privé de Marie-Antoinette (“Trianon, the private domain of Marie-Antoinette.) I guess “last garden” sounded more melodramatic and likely to sell copy.
Here is the publisher’s presentation:
Marie-Antoinette has been idolized as the height of eighteenth-century French style and vilified as the spark that ignited the French Revolution. This book departs from such traditional interpretations of the infamous queen’s reign and chooses to reflect on the humanistic aspects of her private realm.
To escape the formalities and royal obligations of Louis XVI’s court, Marie-Antoinette created a private realm of pleasure for herself at the Petit Trianon and Hameau, where she planted the first Anglo-Chinese garden; created a trysting grotto; a working farm; and revolutionized architecture and gardening trends for the century to come.
Marie-Antoinette’s entire private domain and its story are told in beautiful photographic detail by François Halard for the first time since its recent restoration and accompanied by well-researched texts by garden expert Christian Duvernois.
I find the style of the text a bit pedestrian for the subject. But so much is informative and the photographs… well, they are the true reason why this is a great gift idea for any 18th century lover. Simply beautiful. I couldn’t reproduce them here for obvious copyright reasons, but will try to give you a taste of the contents.
First here is the little Belvédère. You can admire the inside, with its paneling and beautiful marble flooring, on the book cover.
Then a view of the famous Queen’s Hamlet. It reflects the desire, inspired by Rousseau’s works, to return to natural style after the runaway ornamentation of the rococo. The taste for faux pastoral that was so fashionable in the late 18th century, and so enthusiastically embraced by Marie-Antoinette, is in full display here.
Then my favorite place at Trianon: the jewel-like, blue, white and gold Théâtre de la Reine. Even the ceilings are exquisitely detailed.
There the Queen liked to set up plays, in particular Beaumarchais’s Les Noces de Figaro, in spite of the fact that it had been banned by the royal censors because it was deemed subversive…
You can almost hear her light footstep on the stage, imagine her, playing the part of the maid Rosine…
Photograph of the Belvédère by Sheynhertz-Unbayg.