Life in a French country house

The Château de Juvisy, by Pierre-Denis Martin (1663-1742), oil on canvas, 165 x 265 cm, c.1700. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Château de Juvisy, by Pierre-Denis Martin (1663-1742), oil on canvas, 165 x 265 cm, c.1700. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Victoria and Albert Museum is hoping to acquire this splendid bird’s-eye-view of the château de Juvisy. It will play a pivotal role in its ‘Europe 1600-1800′ galleries, which are currently being redeveloped.

Detail of the château de Juvissy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Detail of the château de Juvissy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Accurate depictions of French country estates are rare, and this one is even more unusual in showing many aspects of life as lived in a château and its grounds in about 1700.

Group of figures in the foreground of the view of the  château de Juvisy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Group of figures in the foreground of the view of the château de Juvisy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

It is thought that the group in the foreground depicts Louis XIV with his entourage.

Detail of the formal gardens in the view of the  château de Juvisy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Detail of the formal gardens in the view of the château de Juvisy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The V&A gallery in which it is proposed to hang this picture will focus on the rise of France in the period between 1660 and 1720.

Detail of the kitchen gardens in the view of the château de Juvisy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London1000

Detail of the kitchen gardens in the view of the château de Juvisy. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London1000

The V&A is appealing for donations to help it raise the final £500,000 of the £1,300,000 purchase price.

10 Responses to “Life in a French country house”

  1. Susan Walter Says:

    Absolutely fascinating. Thank you Emile. The undulating bare earth in the foreground is particularly interesting as it gives you a very clear idea of how awful the roads were. Seeing the potager is nice and how extensive the estate was.

    I see the building is now the local archive centre, after having been bought by the commune in 1900 and badly damaged in both the Prussian and Second World Wars.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes and I am curious about those lines visible in the forecourt and around the external staircase – cobblestones? or gravel raked in a pattern?

    The local authority website (http://www.juvisy.fr/histoire-de-juvisy/) describes how the house was rebuilt in the seventeenth century by the poetically named courtier Antoine Rossignol – ‘Anthony Nightingale’. He wasn’t particularly poetic-looking (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rossignols), but as a skilled mathematician he became chief code-breaker and -maker for the French kings Louis XIII and XIV. And yes, he does appear to have nightingales in his coat of arms.

    And yes of course the kitchen gardens should be called the potager in this case! :)

  3. Susan Walter Says:

    I’d be willing to bet they are big limestone paving blocks.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thank you!

  5. littleaugury Says:

    Emile, tried to post this comment-but could not…”

    a wonderful acquisition-(one hopes) I can not help thinking about the Trs Riches Heures scenes-perhaps it is the time of year (I got the book for Christmas one year) with its depictions of daily life and architecture. Emile, best of holidays to you and yours-pgt”

    On Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 6:30 AM, Treasure Hunt

  6. visitinghousesandgardens Says:

    Thank you for the share Emile!

  7. Lex van Haart Says:

    They could be tiles of ‘pierre de taille’ – Arduin in onze taal, Emile :) – I have seen tiles of that sort on a few country estates in the northern part of France dating from the same period.
    But in general, yes, it’s definitely pavement of some sort. About the bigger lines; I remember the words of an old friend of my family, who owned a smaller estate (definitely smaller than this one!), in the north of France, which was rather authentic in its landscape and setting around the house. There too, the tiles were separated from each other by rather broad lines of earth/sand – the children used them for hopscotch. The reason why, according to him, is relatively simple: It’s a country estate, you are there for a limited period of time, and mostly when it’s good weather. Tiles of that sort were expensive when one would pave the whole forecourt and more; especially as they were (in that time) only really necessary for carriages. So as long as a carriage could cross it to the door, it was picture perfect enough. Basically, he meant: Close enough for the wheels not to get stuck, far enough to save some money. Rather pragmatic, not?

    Another great post, that painting is just gorgeous and I’ll pass a link down to a friend who studies garden architecture of the 17th century.

    ~ Oh, and a happy New Year, Emile! Keep posting these lovelies!

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Lex, thank you very much, and a happy new year to you too. And thank you for those suggestions about pierre de taille/arduin and the practice of using flagstones sparingly – which makes perfect sense and gives a flavour of the realities of country life.

    It also reminds me of something I witnessed at a traditional tea ceremony school in Kyoto, where the gardens were similarly sparingly paved. The hereditary head of the school was due to make an appearance, but as it was hot and dusty the path was sprinkled with water to make it cool and fragrant – another practical but at the same time rather evocative practice.

  9. Susan Barsy Says:

    A swell picture–I would want to own it, too!
    I see that the V&A is about half-way to its funding goal. I hope it can raise what it needs. SB

  10. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thank you. Yes, here’s hoping…

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