Friday, November 5, 2010

Marie Antoinette recycled; When she could!

Cupid Cutting His Bow from the Club of Hercules copy after Edme Bouchardon 
Never had someone spent so much money turning one of the most beautiful gardens in the world into a natural landscape. It was said about Marie Antoinette's English gardens at Versailles. French Queen Marie Antoinette was highly criticized for Sacrificing the famous studied botanical garden of Louis XV and turning them into to what was called at the time Jardin Anglo-Chinois. A style of Landscape garden which emerged in England in the early 18th century, and spread across Europe, replacing the more formal, symmetrical Garden à la française of the 17th century as the principal gardening style of Europe. The English garden presented an idealized view of nature, often inspired by paintings of landscapes by Claude Lorraine and Nicolas Poussin. It usually included a lake, sweeps of gently rolling lawns set against groves of trees, and recreations of classical temples, Gothic ruins, bridges, and other picturesque architecture Follies, designed to recreate an idyllic pastoral natural looking landscape. Marie-Antoinette put her architect Richard Mique and painter Hubert Robert in charge of creating a picturesque garden. At the time, English gardens were all the fashion, with their artificial succession of “natural” landscapes scenes. The Queen dreamed of a living nature that was not imprisoned in greenhouses or flowerbeds as in the French gardens.

View of the Temple of Love from the Petit Trianon

Marie Antoinette was been represented with a straw hat and a white muslin dress with pleated and tight pleated sleeves. This painting was exhibited in the 1786 Salon, but the Queen's unpopularity was already strong, then the backbiters said that the Queen had portrayed herself in a blouse.
If one wants to see the real Marie Antoinette and not the Queen you must leave Versailles and go to the château of the Petit Trianon and the Hameau de la Reine. Marie Antoinette did not like the strict court life of Versailles but was more at home at her play village and Petit Trianon also called the anti-Versailles by the court, a smaller, messier, more feminine site then Versailles where Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France’s Ancien Regime, sought refuge. Marie Antoinette did not want power. She just wanted happiness. At the Petit Trianon she could choose objects and decorations that reflected her personal style, rather than opting for the taste imposed by the social demands and traditions of the royal court at Versailles. On the grounds of the Petit Trianon is where she tried to create happiness. It was here that the queen gambled, played parlor games, held concerts, put on theatrical performances performing as milkmaids, shepherdesses, and village maidens and received intimates. It was also here that she discovered the joys of a simpler life — churning butter, raising farm animals and indulging her passion for horticulture. She even took to wearing lawn dresses and a straw hat.

View of the Temple of Love and  the Petit Trianon

Cupid Cutting His Bow from the Club of Hercules copy after Edme Bouchardon 

Cupid Cutting His Bow from the Club of Hercules copy after Edme Bouchardon 

The Temple of the Love one of many Follies on the grounds of the Hameau de la Reine at Versailles was the setting for many fêtes , The queen could see it from her bedroom window at the Petit Trianon, Built on a man made island behind the Petit Trianon, it was erected by Richard Mique in 1778 in pure neo-classical style. Built entirely out of marble, this invaluable building is especially notable for the quality of the highly detailed sculptures by Deschamps which adorn its Corinthian capitals, its friezes and the inside of its dome. This exceptional quality is explained by the fact that it was built to house a recognized masterpiece of French sculpture from the mid 18th century, Cupid cutting his bow from the Club of Hercules by Bouchardon whose original, now on display at the Louvre, was replaced by a replica by Mouchy, another great 18th century sculptor. Marie Antoinette recycled this Louis XV rococo masterpiece that was not so well received when it was new. During the period of Louis XVI it had become a highly praised French masterpiece that Marie Antoinette would build the Neoclassical Temple de l'Amour around. During Marie Antoinette's life time she was also criticized for not being interested in anything old or out of fashion. This is not true as she bought at auction old decorative arts collections belong to Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's mistress and loved her large collection of old Japanese lacquers her mother left her.

Marie Antoinette happy with her children, Louis Charles and Madame Royale by Adolf Ulrich Wertmüller, 1785. Note temple of Love.

Detailed sculptures by Deschamps which adorn its Corinthian capitals, its friezes and the inside of its dome.


Cupid Cutting His Bow from the Club of Hercules

Cupid Cutting His Bow from the Club of Hercules by Edme Bouchardon 1747-1750

Edme Bouchardon portrays Cupid as an adolescent playing a trick on Hercules. The god of love has an impish look on his face. The gentle contours and the spiral motion of the body invite the viewer to walk around the sculpture. This daring work, in which the sculptor sought to realistically portray a naked, unidealized adolescent, was considered shockingly crude at the time.

Cupid, portrayed here as an adolescent, has stolen the weapons of Mars and the club of Hercules. Proud of having disarmed these two formidable deities, he laughs maliciously as he tests the spring of the bow he has carved out of the club. Bouchardon showed the terra-cotta model at the 1739 Salon; a marble was commissioned by Philibert Oudry, director of the King's Buildings, in 1740, but as Bouchardon was fully occupied by the Grenelle fountain, he did not begin work on it until 1745. The sculptor made several studies from life to give his figure a natural appearance and exhibited a plaster model at the 1746 Salon. He worked on the marble from July 1747 to May 1750, carrying out the sanding and polishing himself, tasks usually carried out by assistants. However, the astronomical fee - 21,000 livres - he received for the sculpture more than compensated for this. The sculpture invites one to move around it, no doubt because it was destined to be placed in the middle of the Hercules Room at Versailles.

Cupid Cutting His Bow from the Club of Hercules by Edme Bouchardon 1747-1750

The blank-eyed face has a uniform, classical beauty. But instead of giving the god an idealized physique, the sculptor chose a lifelike representation of an adolescent. At that age, the body is not yet fully developed, parts of it have grown quicker than others; Bouchardon has kept these anatomic irregularities. The work was too innovative for its time. In 1739, Voltaire considered the idea of Cupid engaged in a manual task ingenious but incongruous, and it annoyed Diderot. The statue, installed at Versailles in 1750, was disliked by both king and court. It was considered vulgar, and Cupid was likened to a porter. The statue was admired by only a handful of art lovers, including Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's mistress, who ordered a copy (apparently never executed) for the Bosquet de l'Amour at Bellevue. In 1752, the sculpture was relegated to the orangery of the Château de Choisy-le-Roi. Despite this, the work soon became famous. It appeared in drawings and paintings, including a portrait of Bouchardon by François-Hubert Drouais (1758, Louvre), and a version in Sèvres biscuit was produced in 1768.

Portrait of Bouchardon by François-Hubert Drouais

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