Monday, February 4, 2008

Trianon de Porcelaine

Le Trianon de Porcelaine was a tea-house built in 1670 by Louis XIV for his mistress, Madame de Montspan. According to The Garden and Landscape Guide:
Louis wanted to please Madame de Montespan with the little house: it was only a tea-house where you might take refreshments at midday in the heat of the summer. It was about this time that reports had arrived from the French missionaries in China, which were destined in a short time to play such an important part in the story of the changes of taste in gardens; and these reports had astonished the world. People began eagerly to collect porcelain, stuffs, and paintings from China, and the porcelain tower of Nanking was the eighth wonder of the world. Louis desired to have something of the same kind, and so he must have the small Trianon tea-house adorned à la chinoise. Owing to lack of porcelain they used faience in the Dutch manner, but this was produced at a factory of faience newly founded at Trianon itself. On the façade faience plaques were put everywhere, and great blue vases on the cornices and on the steps which led to the canal, with white marble busts on plinths of faience. The inside was to correspond; and you passed through one large room in the middle with a separate apartment on each side of it. The room was all white, with blue figures as ornament, and the floor was paved with faience tiles in the same colouring.


Versailles and all the other places of the king were regarded with veneration in France, and also in Europe, where all eyes were fixed upon France: of this people were very well aware. In 1686, the Mercure Galant writes: “ The Trianon at Versailles aroused in all private persons the wish to have something of the same kind, and almost all great lords who possessed country houses had one built in the park, with smaller ones at the end of the garden. The burghers, who could not go to the expense of these buildings, dressed up some old booth, or perhaps a sentry-box, as a Trianon or at least as a kind of cabinet in their houses.” And all through the eighteenth century this custom grew. The Encyclopædists followed the lead of the Mercure Galant, which had only been in jest with the catchword “ Trianon.” Trianon and Hermitage became synonymous. In the great Universal Lexicon of Zeller, which appeared in 1734, we find “ Hermitage, a retreat, a low-built pleasure-house, in a shrubbery or a garden, furnished with rough stones, or poor woodwork, and left practically wild, so that one may cultivate solitude and live in the fresh air, It is also called a Trianon.” A building like this has gone far afield from the pretty porcelain Trianon—and into a new world. True, Louis himself had aimed at a certain kind of solitude at the Trianon. In his fine barge on the canal he often made his way in the afternoons to this place, whence, looking back, he enjoyed the ensemble of his garden and house. But he soon felt that he was still too near the pomp and show from which he wanted to escape....
The Trianon de Porcelaine was not durable enough to last; Louis XIV tore it down and replaced it with the Grand Trianon in 1687. By then, Louis XIV was married to Madame de Maintenon, his devout morganatic wife, to whom, by all accounts, he was faithful. The Grand Trianon served as a place where they could go to be with their family.

The Petit Trianon was later built in 1760's by Louis XV for Madame de Pompadour, who died before she could inhabit it, and so it was passed on to her successor, Madame du Barry. The fact that the Trianon de Porcelaine and the Petit Trianon were originally build by kings for their mistresses tarnished them in the public mind. Louis XVI did not take a mistress but instead bestowed Petit Trianon upon his queen, Marie-Antoinette, to be her sanctuary from the life of the court. Sadly, the sordid implications from the previous reign were fastened upon her. Share


Anonymous said...

I never thought about the derivation of the name 'Trianon'.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the interesting information regarding the story behind how Trianon came about.

elena maria vidal said...

You are welcome!