"ET IN ARCADIA EGO"
The Garenne-Lemot stands both on Clisson and Gétigné in the department of the Loire Atlantique, about twenty miles in the southeast of Nantes. The obelisk is located at Cugand in the Vendée.
The Garenne-Lemot can't be understood without knowing the state of devastation of Clisson at the end of the wars of the Vendée. These grounds even would undoubtedly not have existed without these tragic events. However thus, the town of Clisson in 1797 was completely ruined, its buildings burnt and its inhabitants decimated or ran away. A small half of the initial population survived in the neighbourhoods in wooden huts. The Cacault brothers, from Nantes, of the rising middle-class and art lovers, projected to rebuilt Clisson while putting in synergy art and construction. They created a school of painting on one of the slopes (the building was destroyed in the second part of 19th century) and initiated the use of an Italian style for the rebuilding, giving the opportunity to artists and to architects to see and implement these elements (1).
The sculptor François-Frederic Lemot (1771-1827), winner of the Grand Prix de Rome (2), in connection with Cacault, came in Clisson for this artistic cenacle and was extremely allured by the place. Since his first stay in 1805 he outlined his project of grounds and bought for this purpose the Garenne, from long time the hunting park of the lords of Clisson. He continued until is death in 1827 to arrange the grounds, including a residence, known as "Lemot Villa", surrounded by a landscaped garden taking advantage of the small valley where the river Sèvre runs, and sights on Clisson. Lemot gave to his park two orientations. Initially, an Italianizing park, by the reproduction of the antique and the Roman countryside, with the style of the dwellings and the plantations of Mediterranean species (in particular of the majestic pines). In the second way, a philosophical park with fabriques (i.e. follies). Lemot led a career of official artist in Paris and stayed only in summer at Clisson. He was helped by his friend the architect Mathurin Crucy from Nantes, and by the real estate manager Gautret living in Clisson.
The work is late and is thus somewhat shifted from the parks quoted in these pages. But the fabriques are perfectly in the spirit of Ermenonville, prototype of the philosophical park. The "rock of Jean-Jacques Rousseau" and the "Delille rock" (where is engraved the famous but somewhat grandiloquent sentence of the Delille abbot "its indestructible mass tired the Time" (3)) testimony of the inspiration of Lemot.
Although having been able to arrange a field incomparably more ambitious than one that an easy person could consider today, Lemot was not fortunate like the owners of the other gardens described in these pages. He gathered progressively the money while rising in his career, which he indeed was constrained always to give priority (4). He paid attention to collect the necessary money is also pointed out by regular investments in smallholdings in the area of Clisson, for which he trusted in Gautret. This is also why the installation of the park spread out over twenty years and probably for the same reason that he carried out only at the end the villa, the most expensive building. The relative limitation of money is strongly marked in the fabriques, very simply crafted. Compare the temple of Vesta with that of Petit Trianon or the one of Méréville ! This modesty is very also a linkage with Ermenonville.
The heirs of Lemot, and the former his son Barthélemy, proceeded to many rehandlings during the 19th century, relating mainly to space in front of the villa, but very little on the small valley devoted to the fabriques. The field remained in the family until it had been purchased by the General Council of Loire-Atlantique in 1968.
The river Sévre dug in the plate a small deep valley, with ample shadowed sinuosities, nearly narrows, at the bottom of which it runs, soft and broad, crossed by the thresholds of mills. The sloping banks wear enormous boulders. The site is really exceptional and few creators of Anglo-Chinese gardens, in all Europe, benefited of such an asset. Vlasim, Ermenonville, the Leasowes, come in mind. However, the upper fields of the Garenne-Lemot are deprived of brooks, not allowing the creation of cascades.
The bottom of the small valley was levelled, to border the river of meadows, happy counterpoint to the rocky slopes. Few of other work for the ground. The other components are the planted species and the small buildings. These are organized in four orders: the villa, the houses in Italian style (of which the mills), statues and fabriques.
The fabriques, at the number of a dozen, are located on the banks of the river Sèvre and their slopes.
On the right bank: the temple of Vesta, the Roman milestone and its mounting block (a rock footboard to climb on a horse), the column of Madrid, a tomb and a niche in an antique style, the cave of Héloîse and the rocks Delille and Rousseau, already quoted.
Right in the river Sèvre, the baths of Diane, which are not a construction but an arrangement of small islands.
On the left bank: the temple of the Friendship, the column of Henri IV and the obelisk. These fabriques of the left bank, established on the line where the plate fall in slopes, are visible from the terrace of the Villa.
The ruins of the medieval castle of Clisson were a fabrique in the mind of Lemot, as was the tower of the Belle Gabrielle in Ermenonville, the Gothic church in the Desert de Retz or Fountains Abbey (which are also authentic ruins). Their presence are an additional asset for the site, and it is not a chance. Picturesque at the most point, Lemot had purchased them, and had coordinated the place of the Villa to use them the best way. He also made some work to enhance their romantism.
The italianizing buildings include the Villa, the house of the gardener, the house of the gatekeeper and the water mills. A bunch of statues led in front of the Villa. Four of them intermingle with the course with the fabriques with right bank. One had been relocated in the alley leading to the gate. The three others are today absent for restoration. They could change the perception of the fabriques.
The fabriques and houses are works of Crucy. About 1820, the Parisian architect Van Cleemputte took over Crucy to finalize the villa, which was completed only in 1825. Lemot and Crucy had projected many successive drafts of the villa. Gautret, with his subtle but square character, complained besides about the multiplication of alternatives of Lemot for the many details of installation which were entrusted to him. He suggested a lot of issues and ways to carry out final choices, and has a part in the creation.
Most of the fabriques are perfectly preserved or restored, except for a disappeared hut of logs. The site of the cave of Ossian remains hypothetical. It could be the dolmen of Grenotière, upstream on the river Sèvre, unless it broke down or, badly located, standardized among numerous other anfractuosities of the boulders. In spite of the resumption of the maintenance of the park the plantations are not as well as possible. They are struck by the age and thrived too much, stopping sights. Many majestic trees are senescent or disappeared, in particular the pines, reducing the italianizing character. Subsequently to storms of 1999 and 2000 the large pine inclined in front of the villa and the chestnut trees of the round close to the house of the gardener disappeared.
Photographs of the park
The Roman milestone was erected to mark the supposed layout of a Roman way. Being on the spot, anyone can understand that one of them could not have laid there. The higher ball was lost, it was restored.
The column of Madrid would come from the castle of Madrid, old royal residence on the north side of the Bois de Boulogne close to Paris, contiguous of Bagatelle. Decayed, it was sold like national property in 1794 and cut down for the sale of materials.
It is recognized that the tomb carried the sentence "Et in Arcadia ego" inspired by the painting of Poussin "shepherds of Arcadia" (5).But Lemot had had vexations with the engraving of the inscriptions and it would have been satisfied to make paint this one, which disappeared.
One finds a great similarity of form with the tomb of Jean-Jacques Rousseau on the island of the Poplars in Ermenonville, but much simpler crafted.
Lemot had left the mill "as it is". During the 19th century, it was rebuilt and then extended in the Italian style, such as we see it now.
It shelters a base of canoe-kayak, within the framework of the installation of this bank for leisure, sport and walk of the public.
On the photograph on the right in full size, one may see the obelisk at the rear, in the mid atop the mill.
The sentence of the Delille abbot had been engraved initially on a rock of Mortefontaine (3 (a)).
The poetry of the Rousseau Rock is adapted of a text that was engraved in Ermenonville in the cave of the fountain (6).
At the time of Lemot the kitchen garden was a seedbed. There one took care of the acclimatization Mediterranean species, essential to the southernmost aspect of the park.
The colonnade was added by Barthelemy. Lemot had in mind a simple plantation of chestnut trees. Until these last years a superb tilted umbrella pine was held on the line, getting one an exceptional eye-catcher.
The temple of the Friendship stand in the cemetery of Clisson. It is an old funerary vault that Lemot had acquired. He had had a Doric gantry added on the back . That face is seen from the Villa. From that side, the addition of the gantry gives a very convincing, ancient and pure perception. While going in the cemetery, one sees the building from its side. Its perception is completely different and quite disappointing because it is unbalanced by the addition of the gantry. The Cacault brothers would have to be buried there, the project was for that purpose, but they haven't been. Lemot is buried there. The temple celebrates the friendship that transcends the death.
The column Henri IV is today at the end of an uneven alley and, seen of its foot, appears also disappointing. But it is intended to get a prospect from the terrace of the Villa. The sights necessary having been preserved during the urbanization, the column could play its part on the condition that it would be released out of the greenery. It is the same for the obelisk.
Valentin was of Lemot's friends. He was the only one of them to join Lemot, purchased a sold-out abbey, refurbished it to add some Roman character and lived there. The Garenne-Valentin faces the Villa Lemot and added to the style of its vicinity.
Links, bibliography, contacts
The Garenne Lemot
44 190 Gétigné Clisson Tel.: 33 (0)2 40 54 75 85
The opening hours and the plan of access , are on the site of the General Council.
Free visit. Guided tours: look to the schedule page.
Wide free automobile car park in the grounds.
The Temple of the Friendship and the Column to Henri IV are on the other bank of the river Sèvres. Plan a distinct part of your visit and drive there. Move in direction of Cugand and park near the cemetery. The Obelisk is not accessible.
Notes1 - The presentation that you read is directed towards the fabriques, the remainder is only outlined as an environment. However these other aspects of the field are dominating. Moreover the Italianism of Clisson and its area largely overflow the framework of the Garenne-Lemot.
return to (1)
return to (3) return to (3 (a))
return to (4)
Imitez le Poussin. Aux fêtes bocagères
il nous peint des bergers et de jeunes bergères,
les bras entrelacés dansant sous des ormeaux,
et près d'eux une tombe où sont écrits ces mots :
et moi, je fus aussi pasteur dans l' Arcadie.
ce tableau des plaisirs, du néant de la vie,
semble dire : " mortels, hâtez-vous de jouir ;
jeux, danses et bergers, tout va s' évanouir "
Imitate Poussin. During fiests in the woodlands
He depicts to us shepherds and young shepherdesses,
Their arms interlaced, dancing under the elms,
And close to them a tomb where these words are written:
And me too, I was a sheperd in Arcadia.
This painting of the pleasures, of nothing at the end of the life,
Seems to say: " Mortals, hasten you to enjoy;
Games, dances and shepherds, all will disappear "
That is the sense opportunately pointed in the Cahier de l'inventaire n°21 quoted in the bibliography.
return to (5)
In the Cahier de l'inventaire n°21, the poem is announced page 179 as adapted from the one engraved in the "cave of the nymphs". This is a slight mistake of this book, at least firmly written if not scientist.
There is no cave of the nymphs in Ermenonville. According to the the work of time of Thiébaut de Berneaud, and then of Samaran (op cit.page 71 réf 40), this poem was engraved in the cave of the fountain, now disappeared. In the "Promenade ou itinéraire des jardins d'Ermenonville" (walk or route of the gardens of Ermenonville) of 1788 (op cit.), the inscription is reproduced after a passage devoted to the bocage (shrub). The cave of the fountain is not mentioned explicitly but as this description follows the course of a walk and than the cave of the fountain is close to the bocage, the localization is clearly that one.
It is not a question of a confusion with the cave of the naiads, also quoted page 184 of the Cahier de l'Inventaire n°21,
whose inscription, correctly allotted, begins with "Us, fairies and nice naiads.." The sources indicated in the Cahier de l'Inventaire are:
- for the quotation of the cave of the naïads (réf 168 of Ch. 7): "Copy of the inscriptions in the enclosure of the park of Ermenonville etc."
- for the rock Rousseau (réf 126 of Ch. 7): catalogue of the exposure "Jardins en France 1760-1820 Paris 1977", indirect quotation less sure.
return to (6)
Translated with the help of Systran on line