Anglo-Chinese gardens of France decorated with fabriques

Temple of Love in Neuilly, relocated from park Monceau


the most famous

In this page :
Petit Trianon
the Monceau park


The English gardens external link had multiplied in France, in place of formal gardens (or French gardens), and the evolution towards the Anglo-Chinese external link begun at the corner of 1770'. This was later than in some other European countries : kings of Sweden and Prussia built Chinese pavilions in 1750-1755.

But after having been accepted in France, it is there that the Anglo-Chinese gardens had the greatest extent, specially with the building of fabriques, which are small pavilions or ornamental buildings supporting a philosophical device.

I am devoting this page to several famous Anglo-Chinese gardens of France or parks with fabriques, all located in Paris area. They owe their prestige to their extent and the quality of the constructed landscape :

Petit Trianon and Queen's hamlet ... Rambouillet ... Chantilly ... The Monceau park

The Désert de Retz, Méréville, Ermenonville and Bagatelle are in dedicated pages

I am also including some information about gardens that are regarded as less important, either because they were less famous in their time, or because only one monument has survived from the original garden.

The Queen's hamlet at Petit Trianon
  (Versailles, Yvelines)

Commissioned to Gabriel by Louis XV for Madame de Pompadour, but completed in 1768, too late for her to enjoy it, the Petit Trianon external link was Marie-Antoinette's refuge from the formal court life of Versailles. She received the place from Louis XVI as a present in 1774. She altered the park external link completely, in two steps.      

From 1776, Marie-Antoinette arranged an Anglo-Chinese garden, which relates to Petit Trianon, the main pre-existing element. The architect Richard Mique carried it out with painter Carmontelle, from drawings by the count de Caraman, an inspired amateur like Monsieur de Monville.

The scientific greenhouses (built for Louis XV at great expense) were levelled, allowing the extension of the new garden. Richard Mique built the temple of Love, housing a former statue by Bouchardon "the Love cutting an arc in the bludgeon of Hercules" and the Belvédère, at the top of the upper lake. In that corner is the rock, including the Queen's grotto, which could have been designed by painter Hubert Robert, specialist of ruins(and further designer of the park of Méréville)

There was also a Chinese merry-go-round game ("jeu de bagues"), now destroyed. The park features brooklets and splendid trees (the trees have suffered major damages from the storm of December 26th, 1999).

The Temple of Love at Petit Trianon
temple de l'Amour temple de l'Amour

Filled with wonder by the Désert de Retz, Ermenonville and Chantilly, Marie-Antoinette wanted an even more informal place, according to the last fashion. Visiting the Désert de Retz, she would have exclaimed, seeing the temple of the god Pan there, "But, it is a temple of Love!" (she was a little shorted on that side, since the behavior of her royal husband was opposite of that of his predecessors and the Queen was not making any improprieties which the people told).

So, in 1782 the Queen commissioned the hamlet external link, a "ferme arrangée" at the edge of its pond, a quarter mile north-east of the Petit Trianon. A "ferme arrangée" is a rustic building, designed to play perfectly that role in a park. Even in French that expression is altogether rare and precious. One also could say a "ferme ornée", that is an ornamental farm. The rest and game houses stand at the east side of the pond. The ornamental dairy and the tower of Marlborough (supposed to be fisheries) lean on opposite bank, the farm itself is behind plane. Kitchen gardens which one could say "arrangés" (i.e. precious) extend between the hamlet and the ornamental dairy. The designer of the hamlet isn't identified; it could be Hubert Robert. In any case the Richard father and son, gardeners for Versailles, were intricated in the works.

The hamlet, at the edge of the pond  -  The ornamental dairy and the Marlborough tower
hameau autour de l'étang La laiterie et la tour de Marlborough

Entry of the hamlet  -  The mill and the Marlborough tower
hameau de la Reine hameau et tour de Marlborough

The farm of the Queen's hamlet
ferme du hameau

The hamlet is a manner architecture, far from a true chef-d'œuvre like the Petit Trianon, by the design and the quality of crafting. However, it's a place where one can't avoid dreaming to the life and to the fate of the Queen external link.    


Queen's Laiterie
Queen's Laiterie

Louis XVI created for Marie-Antoinette the Laiterie of the Queen, with a Greek temple being a tasting room, contiguous to a cave of the nymphs (by Thévenin, in 1787).

In French, a laiterie is a dairy; but the Laiterie de la Reine at Rambouillet, as well as the Laiterie of Méréville, more than ornamental dairys, are precious buildings with luxury artistic apparatus.

Apart the front, which is nice with its columns, the building is nearly blind and somewhat heavy and common. Inside, the fore-part is a tasting room with marble apparatus; the set of tasting cups in Sèvres has flew away, but some parts are in museums. The second room is a grotto decorated with a statue of Amalthee with a goat.

The thatched cottage out of shells cottage out of shells

In the English garden, the duke of Penthièvre built for his daughter-in-law the princess of Lamballe ("l'ange de la Reine") a thatched cottage out of shells. The walls inside are covered with shells and blue ceramic.

Large trees, thickets, channels, form the landscape.  Unfortunately they are not maintained in an appropriate way, whereas the castle and its grounds, on the other side of the main pond, are superb, since it is a presidential residence.

Authorities probably hope that a wealthy American, falling in love for these pieces of history, spend his money to restore them. This is not impossible, as it has still been done for La Malmaison, châteaux de la Loire, the Désert de Retz itself, not mentioning Versailles.

Rambouillet : the English garden

Opened daily, excepted Tuesday. Closed for New year, May the 8th and Christmas. Summer : 10h-12h / 14h-17h30 - Winter : 10h-12h / 14h-15h30. Fee 15 F for dairy and the cottage both.

On the site of the University of Nice draw of the time (a cut) by Percier of the dairy with the cave of Amalthée external link.



The site is sumptuous. If it does not rival Versailles by the nobility of the architecture and the importance of the frame, it easily exceeds it by the grace of the overall composition. From a spot located in the foreground of the castle one can view all the site, in which modelled relief and diversity of the styles avoid any monotony, without offering the least discordance in the overall design.





The extent of the site overfill the 140 degrees of that picture. The large horse houses,
the most renown building, are out on the left

Within this unit the hamlet and the English garden correspond to the matter. The hamlet created in 1775, inspired the Queen's hamlet at Trianon. It is next to a garden of the philosophers, created during the previous century (they are not the philosophers of the Siècle des Lumières but the writers of the 17th century, contemporaries of the Grand Condé).

The English park is a late realization of 1820, following the revolution. The princes wanted to renew the castle and the park, which was devastated during their exile. Planted with large trees, crossed by brooklets, it's decorated with a former temple of Love in the Anglo-Chinese taste, thus joining again with the decades preceding the fall of the monarchy.

The Monceau park
  (Paris XVIInd)

The park was created for Philippe d'Orléans (also known as Philippe Egalité), duke of Chartres and the King's cousin. He was a liberal, probably hoping a political role in the new order, because he was denied a role under the old monarchic system. He was put under arrest during a dinner which was also attended by Monsieur de Monville and he was later decapitated.

Beeing the Great Master of Grand Orient de France (the mother of French Masonic lodges), some fabriques were designed in a Masonic style, like the tomb in shape of pyramid and the obelisk.

obélisque et pyramide


The obelisk and the tomb in shape of pyramide      -       the naumachia


obélisque et pyramide


The pyramid      -       the naumachia



The grotto (built in the second part of XIXth century)

Louis-Philippe (son of Philippe Egalité) created a marvellous garden in the île de la Jatte at Neuilly, where he gave outstanding parties for upper society. He installed there the temple of Mars of the Monceau park, that he changed into a temple of Love, with a statue of a nymph. Circa 1930 the temple was slightly moved. Now it decorates the forepart of the island.


Ile de la Jatte


The temple in île de la Jatte

Acknowledgments to Kirk Johnson, contributor external link to Suite101, for his kind corrections to this English translation.

top of page backback table of content homepage  

external link : external links


Copyright of the author : Dominique Césari
Last update : Sunday, January the 23th, 2000