The Trianon

The Trianon was a village demolished for an expansion of the royal grounds of Versailles under the reign of Louis XIV. Equally influential in the development of garden and park design, the Trianon was built to provide a respite from the formality of the court at Versailles, and in the process and in combination with the influences of English advances, informs the American built environment to this day.

The front of the Grand Trianon, the main building in the complex, faces a plaza of cobblestones. The entire building is no more than one room wide, so that views of the parkland are visible out of both sides of the chambers at all times. Long before Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas of bringing the outside inside, Jules Hardouin-Mansart was doing this at the Grand Trianon.

Andre Le Notre then designed the gardens which are perhaps just as formal but are not punctuated with as many statues or ornate fountains as nearby Versailles.

Long vistas are not as long, and they are not anchored by buildings as we see in the Baroque era of garden design.

Likewise, these breezeways, like the one I am standing in for this photo, allow for the passing between the inside and outside while still being under the same roofline.

The interior has been largely altered since Louis XIV, but the overall form of the rooms are similar to their original appearance.

Colossal order pilasters interrupt the arcade of windows on the exterior.

Masks representing the goddess Diana, easily recognized due to the crescent moon in her crown, remind me of the long lost cast iron heads on the Clemens Mansion.

Leaving the Grand Trianon, we head out into the grounds, where we spot an Ha-Ha, which is a garden folly that any visitor to the St. Louis Zoo is familiar. Designed to give the impression of a natural landscape, the Ha-Ha keeps animals in and allows their safe viewing for humans. They were invented in European game parks, such as here.

More of the parkland is similar to the later English Garden at Caserta, which I looked at back in 2010. The grotto before is supposedly where Marie Antoinette was informed of the beginning of the French Revolution.

This quiet brook flows through the rocky ground of the woods around the grotto.

The belvedere, as its name suggests, comes from Italian concepts of providing a pretty view over the countryside of a villa.

I was surprised this belvedere was not placed on a higher hill as it looks out over this lake. The French term is bellevue.

We then arrive at the Petit Trianon, which replaced the Porcelain Trianon, a previous structure that had deteriorated badly since French ceramicists had not found the chemical formula for “true” porcelain yet (Saxon chemists perfected what had been a closely held Chinese secret in the early Eighteenth Century).

It’s a magnificent example of the evolving Neo-Classical style, and was constructed by Louis XV.

There are various auxiliary structures built around it, but the overall theme is austere simplicity.

The gardens are even more rectilinear, as well.

The main façade shows the cool, mathematical and stern architecture of the ancient world, which was being espoused by the Enlightenment. It is ironic that the ideas of that philosophical school would eventually lead to the overthrow of the men who commissioned these palaces.

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