Chinese style at Versailles and Woburn

View of the chinoiserie pavilion and carousel near the Petit Trianon at Versailles, by Claude-Louis Châtelet (1753-1795), black chalk, watercolour and gouache, 1786. ©Château de Versailles

View of the chinoiserie pavilion and carousel near the Petit Trianon at Versailles, by Claude-Louis Châtelet (1753-1795), black chalk, watercolour and gouache, 1786. ©Château de Versailles

In a comment on a previous post, François-Marc Chaballier kindly alerted us to a current exhibition entitled ‘China at Versailles’, about the diplomatic and cultural links between the French and Chinese courts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I immediately ordered the catalogue and am eagerly awaiting it.

Looking at the exhibition’s web pages I saw the above picture of a chinoiserie pavilion built near the Petit Trianon at Versailles for Queen Marie-Antoinette in about 1776.

The Chinese Dairy at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire. ©Woburn Abbey

The Chinese Dairy at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire. ©Woburn Abbey

The low, stretched-out silhouette of this pavilion reminded me of the so-called Chinese Dairy at Woburn Abbey, which was designed by Henry Holland for the 5th Duke of Bedford in 1787 and completed in 1794.

This application of the Chinese style to an ornamental dairy is unique in Britain. In France, however, the fashion for ornamental dairies (as described by Meredith Martin in her recent book Dairy Queens) coincided with a taste for garden pavilions in the Chinese style. The idealisation of milking, butter-making and country life in general chimed with the ‘physiocratic’ view of China as an admirably stable and productive agricultural society.

The chinoiserie pavilion cum dairy grotto in the garden of Claude Baudard de Saint James, from J.-C. Krafft, Plans, coupes, élévations des plus belles maisons et hotels construits à Paris et dans les environs (c. 1802).

The chinoiserie pavilion cum dairy grotto in the garden of Claude Baudard de Saint James, from J.-C. Krafft, Plans, coupes, élévations des plus belles maisons et hotels construits à Paris et dans les environs (c. 1802).

Marie-Antoinette had dairies included in her Hameau or ornamental village at Versailles in the mid-1780s. Her husband, Louis XVI, built another one for her at the Château de Rambouillet in 1787.

The link between China and dairies was made even more explicit in the garden structure built by François-Joseph Bélanger for Claude Baudard de Saint James at Neuilly-sur-Seine in the late 1780s: a chinoiserie pavilion with a dairy in a ‘grotto’ immediately below it.

Henry Holland is known to have visited Paris in 1787. It seems likely that he saw at least some of these pavilions and dairies and that they informed his design of the Chinese Dairy at Woburn – but this is just a hunch and needs more research.

4 Responses to “Chinese style at Versailles and Woburn”

  1. Sarah Kay Says:

    Emile – See also then following book: ‘Pleasure Pavilions and Follies in the gardens of the Ancien Regime’ by Bernd Dams &
    Andrew Zega (ISBN 2-08013-561-9) pub. 1995 by Flammarion. Part IV: Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette: The Rage for Exoticism shows four chinoiseire follies in the gardens of Bagatelle, Bois de Boulogne, built for the Comte d’Artois, also by Belanger / Blaikie: the Chinese Bridge, the Grand Wooden Bridge, the Philosopher’s Pavilion and the Chinese Tent.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks very much for that reference Sarah. It is fascinating how there was a surge of chinoiserie pavilions in France in the 1780s, just as the style was temporarily out of fashion in England. The French even called this phenomenon the ‘jardin anglo-chinois’, which gives a wonderful if slightly puzzling insight into how artistic influence works: the French seeing English rococo and early landscape gardens which combined picturesqueness with lots of garden pavilions, and then developing that further even as the English went the other way, increasingly emphasising the landscape and stripping out the buildings.

  3. pgt Says:

    Emile, I am off to get the Martin book-Dairy Queens. what an interesting investigation- the Henry Holland Hunch is bound to turn out right. pgt

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Excellent, Gaye 🙂

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