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date: 03 April 2020


  • Susan B. Taylor


French landscape garden near Senlis, at the edge of the forest of Chantilly, Oise. Laid out by its owner, Louis-René Marquis de Girardin, between 1766 and 1776, it became one of the most influential examples of the Picturesque garden in 18th-century France. In contrast to the flat terrain of many French parks, Ermenonville (approx. 850 ha) was varied and had an abundant water supply. Girardin made a large lake to the south of his modernized château; this flowed into two cascades, becoming a meandering stream north of the château. The lake and stream together defined the central north–south axis. The park itself he divided into four areas, in order to maintain the distinctly varied character of Ermenonville’s topography: the farm, east of the château, was essentially a ferme ornée, whereas the Désert, to the west, was a rocky landscape of sandhills, pine trees and boulders. The fine views to the north and south of the château, improved by the lake and stream, encouraged Girardin to exploit his domain—recomposing the landscape so as to resemble the scenery to be found in the works of celebrated landscape painters. Consequently, southerly views from the château—an area that included an ‘Arcadian’ field framed by the woods surrounding the lake, cascade and grotto—suggested paintings by Claude Lorrain; those to the north, a flat, marshy area containing a rustic mill, canal and windmill, evoked in the spectator’s imagination ‘northern, meditative’ landscapes. This latter area also included the Tower of Gabrielle (destr.), a Gothick tower dedicated to the mistress of Henry IV. Elsewhere, the views recalled the types of scenery associated with paintings by Hubert Robert, Salvator Rosa and Jacob van Ruisdael....

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