In an attempt to gain some brief respite from courtly etiquette, the kings of Versailles built themselves more intimate spaces close to the main palace. Adjoining the Petit Parc, the estate of Trianon is home to the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon palaces, as well as the Queen’s Hamlet and a variety of ornamental gardens. Construction on the estate began under Louis XIV, who had the Grand Trianon Palace built at the far end of the northern branch of the Grand Canal. The estate is perhaps most closely associated with Queen Marie-Antoinette. The wife of Louis XVI regularly sought refuge at the Petit Trianon, where she commissioned marvellous landscaped gardens centred around a hamlet of cottages built in the rustic style then in vogue.
Chateau de Versailles
The Petit Trianon was built on the site of a botanical garden developed about a decade earlier by Louis XV, within the grounds of the Grand Trianon, Louis XIV’s retreat from the Palace of Versailles to the southeast. It was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel by order of Louis XV for his long-term mistress, Madame de Pompadour, and was constructed between 1762 and 1768. Madame de Pompadour died four years before its completion, and the Petit Trianon was subsequently occupied by her successor, Madame du Barry. Upon his accession to the throne in 1774, the 20-year-old Louis XVI gave the château and its surrounding park to his 19-year-old Queen Marie Antoinette for her exclusive use and enjoyment.
The Petit Trianon is a celebrated example of the transition from the Rococo style of the earlier part of the 18th century to the more sober and refined Neoclassical style of the 1760s and onward. Essentially an exercise on a cube, the Petit Trianon attracts interest by virtue of its four facades, each thoughtfully designed according to that part of the estate it would face. The Corinthian order predominates, with two freestanding and two engaged columns on the side of the formal French garden, and pilasters facing both the courtyard and the area once occupied by Louis XV’s greenhouses.