Monday, April 14, 2014

Pavillon Frais Restoration

The garden of Le Pavillon Frais
near the Petit Trianon.
Photo: Versailles.
J'adore le treillage!  Yes, Bunny Williams' and John Rosselli's shop of course, but I am referring to the French term for architectural trellis-work, treillage.

Pavillon Frais with partial mock-ups
of the flanking arcades.
Photo: Versailles.
There is a small garden structure near the Petit Trianon at Versailles that is sometimes referred to as the Pavillon du Treillage because it was covered with trellis-work.  But the official website of the chateau refers to it as Pavillon Frais, so that name will be used here.  Both the building and the surrounding garden have recently undergone a very interesting restoration.

Drawing of Pavillon Frais dated December, 1751.
Image: Archives Nationales.
At the encouragement of Madame de Pompadour, King Louis XV settled at the Grand Trianon in 1749, away from the rigid court formality of the palace, and away from the courtiers who disapproved of her being the favorite of the king.  (Previously, the mistress of the king was of high noble birth, but Jeanne Antoinette Poisson who was given the title of Marquise by the king came from a non-aristocratic background, though she was particularly well-educated).  The royal architect Angel-Jacques Gabriel designed additional Trianon gardens and, in 1750, was asked to design a pavilion in the middle of a garden laid out in geometric beds, contrasting with the trend in English gardens for a more natural landscape.  Both the pavilion and the garden began to be known as "French" because of this new style.  A menagerie was added nearby, not for exotic animals, but for cows, chickens, and similar animals.  In 1751, another small pavilion designed by Gabriel was added consisting of a small dining room where the fresh products of the diary and vegetable gardens could be served;  this was known as the Pavillon Frais.

In this site plan, the Pavillon Frais is in the lower left corner
above the wording "Avenue".
The French pavilion is the shaped building above it.
Image: American Friends of Versailles.
The garden in front of the pavilion was surrounded by trellis-work creating a courtyard.  An arcade of trellis covered iron supports against a dense hedge flanked the pavilion, installed in July, 1752, at the same time as the trellis design covering the pavilion.

In this site plan detail, the Pavillon Frais
can be made out, backing up to the tree-lined avenue,
with the courtyard garden in front, above.
Image: Versailles.
The entrance to the garden consisted of lattice piers built around the trunks of lime trees pruned into the shape of spheres.  The main piers were like the pilasters of the pavilion and mounted with large wooden trellis urns.  Fifty-four smaller urns adorned the keystones of the archways of the arcades, each with an orange tree.  In 1756, statues of "Illness" and "Health" from the Antiques Room of the Louvre were placed on marble plinths at each end of the arcades.

This 1751 plan of Pavillon Frais by Gabriel has a reversed orientation
from the two previous garden plans,
with the northern direction towards the bottom.
Image:  Wikimedia.
The one room interior was primarily used for dining on pleasant spring and summer days, although there was a fireplace with a Languedoc marble chimneypiece.  The walls were painted boiserie decorated with carved floral garlands and inset sheets of mirrored glass.  The floor was a black & while marble checkerboard covered with a large Savonnerie carpet, commissioned in 1754 but not completed until 1760.  The furniture included two canapés and two fauteuils upholstered in green & white toile de perse, a chic but casual cotton fabric with a printed Persian floral design.  A later inventory also included sixteen assorted side chairs.

The interior of Pavillon Frais
as it appeared in 2013,
with representations of the boiserie.
Image: Wikimedia.
The pavilion was essentially destroyed in 1810, with only the foundation remaining, and the lattice courtyard enclosure was pulled down the next year.  Some restoration was begun in 1980, enabling the stone structure to be reconstructed, but more progress was realized when a support group, The American Friends of Versailles, took the project on.

The restored garden elevation of Pavillon Frais
by the office of the Chief Architect of Historic Monuments,
Pierre-Andre Lablaude.
Image:  the Facebook page of
The American Friends of Versailles.
Test pits and archaeological excavations found the original locations of the basins as well as fragments of their remains.

'Before' and 'After' views of Pavillon Frais
showing the restoration efforts of
The American Friends of Versailles.
Images: Facebook.
The fragments of the bottom of the basins revealed a mosaic design in marble that were reproduced in the restoration.

One of the pair of restored basins
in the garden of Pavillon Frais.
Image: Facebook.
The flanking arcades and courtyard enclosure have not been recreated, but a representation of how that would look is given with two flat theatrical mock-ups flanking the pavilion.

The back of the arcade mock-up
at the Pavillon Frais.
Image: Facebook.
The treillage on the building has been wonderfully restored, however, by the French company which specializes in such work, Tricotel.

The restored entrance doors of
Le Pavillon Frais.
Photo: Tricotel.

The original layout of treillage
was created for Pavillon Frais.
Photo: Tricotel.
With the success of the work so far, perhaps the recreation of the interior and the arcades will follow.  The American Friends of Versailles has also sponsored the restoration of the Trois Fontaines Bosquet and is dedicated to preserving interest in Versailles through seminars and educational exchanges as well as specific restoration projects at the palace and its gardens.

Le Pavillon Frais.
Photo: Tricotel.
Those more interested in plant material than garden structures will enjoy Elisabeth de Feudeau's book published in September, 2013, FROM MARIE ANTOINETTE'S GARDEN: AN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY HORTICULTURAL ALBUM.  Based on archival documents, the book uses eighteenth-century illustrations to present the plants, flowers and trees loved for their beauty, scent, and herbal qualities.


  1. Le Pavillon Frais is an exquisite building and it really is to be hoped that the inside with also be restored. A lovely thing, but those pathways remind me of long hot hours walking over dusty gravel.

    1. Blue, I love period rooms and would appreciate this recreation so much. I understand some of the original furniture exists so it could be replicated, along with the fabric (or a close approximation). Perhaps paneling fabricators, furniture makers and fabric houses could be brought in as sponsors. Cheers to the American Friends of Versailles and all the good work they have done so far.

  2. The site plan looks like a treillage. Do you suppose that was the idea? What a very worthy undertaking by the American Friends of Versailles. I must say that although a very long time ago, I enjoyed my visit to the palace immensely. Don't think I ever got to this part of the grounds, but it was summer and hot, so perhaps that's what discouraged me.

    1. C., the first manned hot air balloon flight in France did not occur until 1783, so I don't know that aerial views were taken into account. I think it was more Man's Conquest Over Nature, making the trees, bushes, and shrubs do what man wanted them to do. And there's the whole water issue, too. But what an enduring design sensibility, no?

  3. Thanks go to Devoted Reader, C.G. in Paris, who pointed out that my reference to Madame Pompadour's background as being "humble" was not the most accurate description. Although she was not raised as an aristocrat, as was the case with the other mistresses of the King, Madame Pompadour had a very good education. The text has been edited to give a better indication of that.

  4. I've always been a big fan of treliage, and I enjoyed the link to Tricotel. The urns that they fashion in the treliage style are like the cherry on top of the sundae!

    1. Mark, those lattice urns are fantastic, aren't they? I hope they'll soon replicate the other model used on the arcade. Thank you for your comment.

  5. This is a fabulous post, and a marvelous education. Thank you for sharing this delicious pavillion, and its ongoing restoration, with us your fortunate readers. I haven't been to Versailles since the mid 1980s, and I understand it is much improved since then. We are going to Paris for a long weekend in June, with Malmaison and Vaux le Vicomte on our itinerary. Now I am determined to return to Versailles on my next trip to Paris! And yes, one does so adore treillage in all its glory...

    1. Reggie, I have just learned that the 18th century galleries of period rooms have been reworked and restored to open June 6 after being closed for a decade; that would be a good rainy day back-up. Thanks for commenting.

    2. I neglected to say that the location is the Louvre.


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