Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Little Privacy...Please!

The Petite Trianon
Hello Dear Friends! As promised, more on Versailles. Today, I was reading about the Petite Trianon and remembering how much fun I had rambling through the gardens and playing at the Grotto. It has been many years since I have been in Versailles but if I close my eyes, I can still picture myself there as though it were yesterday. I have not been there since the Petite Trianon has been restored, so to learn about it and see the photos is so interesting to me. It makes me ache to go back to France even more now (is that possible)?

Another view of the Trianon. This tree was planted in 1774

The Petite Trianon is a tiny chateau that was origionally built for Madame de Pompadour and upon her death (she died 4 years before its completion) Louis XV gave it to his new favorite Madame du Barry. The charming little palace was given to Marie~Antoinette by Louis XVI in June of 1774 legend has it that the King uttered these words to her "You love flowers Madame, and so I have a bouquet to give you, this pleasure house is yours". With that he handed her the key to the Petite Trianon on a ribbon graced with 531 diamonds.

The Main Stairway ~ The banister with the famous MA pattern has been refurbished

Here at the Trianon, the Queen was free to do what she pleased away from that pesky court formality. She held a very private existence here and none were permitted to enter without the Queen's express permission (not even, it was said, Louis XVI). Such exclusivity alienated the court nobility since only the queen's "inner circle" including the Princess de Lamballe, and Gabrielle de Polastron, duchesse de Polignac were invited. Louis never slept here and when he did come to visit her, she and her friends would turn the clocks up so he would leave earlier! All was done "de par la Reine" (by order of the Queen) at the Trianon.

Marie~Antoinette longed for the privacy she so lacked at court so she had a system of mirrored panels that, by the simple turning of a crank, could be raised or lowered to obscure the windows and thus providing a bit of privacy. In this time this was a very advanced idea!

The famous and innovative "Mechanical Room". It caused much gossip among the nobles who not privy to the an invitation to the Trianon.

Also, in the quest for privacy she had begun work on a "floating table" in the salles à manger, conceived to be mobile, mechanically lowered and raised through the floorboards so that the servants below could set places unseen. The tables were never built, but the delineation for the mechanical apparatus can still be seen from the foundation.

MArie~Antoinette's bedroom as it is seen today after the refurbishment. Much different from when I last saw it. So pretty and dainty! What a contrast from her bedroom in the main palace.
The Petite Trianon has recently undergone an extensive renovation. They opened the doors on October 2nd, a very symbolic date because it was three days before the anniversary of her departure from Versailles in 1789. The chief designer for the project said, "We wanted to stop the story at that time, as if we said to visitors: the queen is not there, take it. For the first time, all the interior of the building, garden and the French Pavilion is accessible."

Before, as I remember, it was possible to visit the apartments of the Queen, the "noble floor", and the staircase. I believe that the ticket kiosk was in one of the servants quarters.

The scenery, paint and wallpaper have been restored, they refurbished the apartments with much of the original furniture. The staircase and wrought iron ramp have been refurbished. The ground floor, is now as it was at the end of the Ancien Regime, it is the guard room, billiard room, a réchauffoir with the furnace room and called silverware, here you can see two sets of manufacture de Sevres, including the bust "in pearls and barbels," commissioned by Marie-Antoinette in 1781.

In the upper levels, is the bedroom of the queen and a small cabinet, with the mechanical mirrors. They also rebuilt the library of the Queen. When they were refurbishing the walls in the library they found the original Louis XV woodwork.
Behind the modern woodwork one can see the Louis XV painted décor in what was formerly a staircase.Samples of Louis-Philippe wallpaper have also been preserved Photo: D. Rykner

Over time, Versailles has tried to find original furniture, sold or disappeared during the Revolution, to the Trianon space, it was marked with a PT (Petit Trianon). Some of it is now properly housed where it belongs.

Some of Marie~Antoinette's personal effects. The museum wanted one to feel as though the Queen had just stepped out for a moment and you looking into a day in her life.

The original colors or copies of vintage wallpaper have been processed from shreds discovered during the work. The apartments of the queen and decorations are full of flowers and fruit, recalling the gardens. The windows of origin, with large tiles have been restored. In the attic, along with furniture pieces of Louis XIV we can now see the chambers of Ms. Royal, the Empress Marie-Louise and the boudoir of the Duchess of Orleans .

The Queen's famous portrait

Another new portion of the Petite palace open to visitors is the warming kitchen. This kitchen was used to warm the food brought from the main kitchen. The food was not prepared here as to not let the smell of cooking food permeate the Trianon while Her Majesty was enjoying her day. The executors of the grand refurbishment wanted to show the stark difference between the Noble Floor and the servants areas.

The warming kitchen

I was very lucky to meet a curator who was heading into the theatre, visitors were not allowed in at the time and my Mom & I were invited in. To see him unlock the great gate with his old keys and to be inside of that precious jewel box, virtually alone, was something I will never forget! I was allowed in the back of the stage and got a wonderful private tour *sigh*. These pictures do not do justice to the gorgeous shade of Blue this theatre is decorated in. To be inside is truly like being inside of a jewel box. Lush Velvet and yards of luxurious fabric sweep you up into another world. We sat on the very benches Marie and her friends may have sat on and looked onto the very stage Marie~Antoinette performed her much talked about plays! It is breathtaking. Luckily the Theatre was overlooked and untouched by the throngs of people looking for "the walls of the whore, plastered in Gold and Diamonds" during the Revolution as it is tucked away. It is in the exact condition the Queen left it in. You can also see an original backdrop displayed on the stage.

I may be mistaken but I do believe that it is here in the theatre that a grand reception was held for Louis & MA after they were married. The floor can be raised level to the stage floor and thus create a large room for a grand party!

The Garden of the Trianon. "A furious Duc de Croÿ exclaimed in 1780 that 'the large green-house [the most costly and scholarly in Europe] has been replaced by tall mountains, a large rock, and a stream. Never have two acres of land been so totally changed, nor cost so much money.' In order to create her landscape garden, Marie-Antoinette changed everything. Between 1776 and 1783 architect Richard Mique built her a Chinese tilting ring, a Temple of Love, the Rock Pavilion, a theatre, and then the Hamlet. Receptions and nocturnal celebrations followed one after another, restoring to the Petit Trianon the spirit of the festivities that marked the early years of Versailles".

~From the official Versailles website

A view inside of the Belvedere
Also belonging to the Petite Trianon are the Grotto, the Belvedere, the French Pavilion, and the Hamlet (which has a lovely dairy). It was in the Grotto, a man made rock formation with passages, waterscapes, and a charming "rock seat" that Marie~Antoinette first learned the news of the storming of Versailles.

The Grotto
To stroll along these magnificent gardens and grounds is indeed an enjoyable experience. Every time I have gone, it has been rather empty of people (lucky for me)! It's so easy to escape into another world and see what her life was like. It is just a beautiful place to spend the day. There is so much to see and learn.
The Temple of Love, it is said that she would have secret meeting with Count Fersen here

The view of the Temple of Love from her bedroom window.

There is so much one could write about the Petite Trianon alone, not to mention the other sites related to it. I could spend a week exploring everything! So I will leave you with this, a few morsels of information about this magical place.

Bisou Mon Amis!

Photos via flickr

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  1. Another beautiful post! Bravo, Judith.

  2. I'm partial to "A view inside of the Belvedere" and garden grotto views. Beautiful settings.

  3. Fabulous, all takes my breath away. I have not been to Versailles (in this life - ha!) and it breaks my heart that I did not get there before the horific winter storms that leveled half the gardens. And you toured behind the velvet rope !!

  4. Hello! I saw your comment on Tea at Trianon and decided to come see your blog. I'm so glad I did. It's absolutely beautiful, charming and very interesting. I just had to add you to my blogroll. I love hisorical fiction and have a blog on hisorical facts and tidbits and some book reviews as well. Please come visit at

    I'd love you to follow.

  5. Judith, another amazing post!
    I don't know how you find the time for so much research and writing! Simply brilliant and so fun to read!

  6. Bravo Judith!!!

    That was educational as well as entertaining. I love the theater. I cannot wait to go back for another visit. You'll have to come as well to be our personal tour guide. Great post. Looking forward to your next.

  7. Judith I am inspired....
    I am going to make a visit to the Petite Trianon at Versailles this year -another resolution. This magnificence jewel is only 700 kilometres away from me, what is that when we are talking about beauty. xv

  8. Dear Judith.

    thank you for your kind comments, i felt slightly intimidated at first as i have been following your blog for a long time.

    Unless you already knew, there's a gorgeous dvd with a concert called "La Petite Musique de Marie-Antoinette", released in 2006 on Armide classics. It contains charming airs, ballet music and symphonies by Grétry and Gossec, two of Marie-Antoinettes favorite composers. It's really wonderful!



  9. Lovely post as always Judith,
    I am thrilled you mentioned the swedish Count Axel von Fersen, one of my favourite subjects of swedish history.
    If you want to read more about him, let me know and I will give you some titles of interesting books.


  10. What an incredibly beautiful post. I adored all of the pictures. Thank you for this amazing post, and I look forward to many more.

  11. I just love going on your trips with you! You take the best pictures. lol

  12. Excellent photos! May I use them for a blog post, linking back to your blog, of course?

    The theater shown is Marie-Antoinette's private theater at Petit Trianon. It was constructed mostly of papier-mâché. The wedding reception of Louis and Antoinette occurred in the Versailles opera house.

    Thank you for this beautiful post!

  13. When my husband and I went to Versailles we were at the Petit Trianon as the sun set. We wandered the gardens and little hamlet at our ease until the night. No one asked us to leave. The security guard waved us away. It was like we could spend the night should we choose. It was haunting and like a dream to wander at night through the village, peering into the windows, and hearing the echo of the birds on the water. I miss it terribly. It's a place stalled by time.

  14. Hello there! I'm an interior design student at UCLA and am doing a research presentation on French Neoclassical design. Would it be okay with you if I use your photos in my presentation? If you don't mind, can we exchange contact information? If possible, could you share your high resolution copies of these photos for my powerpoint presentation?


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