The scent of roses fills the air and a little wedding cake of a chateau serves extraordinary lunches. The Bagatelle is the prize jewel of Paris’ Bois de Boulogne, where lovers of roses-and lovers of all sorts-come on a Sunday. Commissioned by a vain count who bet Marie Antoinette he could build and estate in weeks, the Bagatelle is no mere caprice.
The gardens are the height of 18th-century romance, each corner a perfumed painting.
“Exploring Bagatelle today is like passing from a Renoir to a Seurat, or from a Manet to a Bonnard,” wrote Denise and Jean-Pierre le Dantec in “Paris in Bloom”, “as if every painter who loved color and light had gathered together to create a patchwork of perfumed paintings.”
Like many a royal patron, the extravagant Comte d’Artois (brother-in-law of Louis XVI), who commissioned the Bagatelle in 1779, was only vaguely aware that an artistic masterpiece was flowering on his grounds. Thomas Blaikie, his Scottish master-gardener, wrote in his diary of the Comte, “ I never saw a more Lazier and a Man of less taste and…he had not once come to see the Garden since he Lodged there.”
But perhaps that was all to the good. With the Comte’s francs-and without his interference-Blaikie was free to break from the rigid French tradition of ordered plantings and paths.
Considered capricious at the time, Blaikie’s innovative approach, known as the picturesque style, borrowed the principles of painting, choosing plants for their pallets and textures composing them according to his artistic sense.
The result was a series of stunning landscapes set off by fast green lawns and clusters of large trees.
The Bagatelle acquired and added painterly touch in 1905, when the city of Paris took possession of the land and hired a friend of Claude Monet, Jean-Claude-Nicolas Forestier, to restore and reinterpret the park. Greatly influenced by the Impressionists, Forestier grouped a dazzling array of differently hued flowers, obtaining strong contrasts in some places, masterly nuances in others.
The Bagatelle of Forestier is the Bagatelle of today, and its centerpiece remains the extraordinary rose garden. There, it seems, no two roses are alike, for 700 different varieties have been gathered from around the world, all with the same degree of ostentation that the Comte d’Artois exhibited when he created the park over two-hundred years ago.
My last post(for a while) from Paris mon amour. We are off, I will keep you posted friends. Much love...