Reopening of the Petit Trianon after restoration

1.The Petit Trianon seen from the French Garden
Photo : Château de Versailles, Christian Milet

4/10/08 — Restoration — Versailles — The Petit Trianon and the Pavillon Français have just been inaugurated and will reopen for the public this week after two years of restoration work.

The ground floor which until now had welcomed visitors has been turned into an exhibition space and the entrance hall has been transferred to the Maison du Suisse, adjacent to the building.

2. Petit Trianon
Building the library (22/7/08)
Photo : Château de Versailles, Patrick Tournebœuf,
Tendance Floue

3. Petit Trianon
Library known as “Marie Antoinette’s”
Behind the modern woodwork one can see the
Louis XV painted décor in what was formerly a staircase.
Samples of Louis-Philippe wallpaper have
also been preserved
Photo : D. Rykner

As is fitting, the décors have been put back in place, in an understated way, fortunately. Ideally, the public should be better informed of what it is seeing and the true, or fake, nature of the objects and décors. Thus, in the Salle de l’Argenterie (Silver), where the tile floor is original, several armoires present silver and porcelain de Sèvres objects. Thanks to old plans, it was known that these armoires existed but not their design. They have been restored by the architect Pierre-André Lablaude according to 18th century models found in engravings by the cabinet-maker André Jacob Roubo. These armoires are thus justified. Rather than installing modern display cases, the choice of this reconstitution is understandable for its evocative power. Still, visitors should be told that these armoires were just built and that they do not necessarily reflect existing conditions at that time, just as the billiards table [1] is from 2006
Art historians will no doubt feel even more reservations about the restitution (ill. 2) - according to a plan by Richard Mique, Marie Antoinette’s architect-of the library on the mezzanine level. There is no museographical justification for this library which partially conceals the (modest) original Louis XV décor (ill. 3), discovered under the Louis-Philippe wallpaper.

4. Petit Trianon
The big dining room
Photo : Château de Versailles, Christian Milet

5. Pavillon Français
Photo : D. Rykner

To be totally fair : generally (and on condition, after a full inventory and comparison with the previous state have been made), the restoration of the Trianon seems to be rather acceptable. Reconstitutions are limited and the mezzanine level (apart from the library) has retained its paintings, worn but in their original state. This floor, which until now was not open to the public, had not undergone too many previous restorations. Along with the attic, it will now be available for visits by small groups. The so-called Noble floor (ill. 4), the only one open to the public before, had already benefited from a restoration. It has been modified only slightly. Some of the furniture has been removed, other pieces put in, among these recent acquisitions.
On the whole everything is so discreet as to wonder how it reflects the five million euros it all cost. This can be mostly explained by those elements which cannot be seen : the electrical installations and, above all, the work on the foundations to prevent water from infiltrating. One million alone was devoted to restoring the Pavillon Français (ill. 5).

The operation was funded entirely by the patronage of the Swiss group Breguet. As a matter of fact, their name was hard to miss as it was omnipresent. The company has also “reconstituted” from some old photographs and documents “Marie Antoinette’s watch”, an object designed for the Queen but which she never saw as it was finished long after she died. This watch, which belongs to a museum in Jerusalem, had disappeared a few years ago after having been stolen [2]. There could be no better symbol of Versailles than this reconstruction of an object from old documents, then acting as if the original piece itself had been discovered [3].

Version française

Didier Rykner, dimanche 5 octobre 2008


[1] The billiards table is the so-called “Louis XVI” (see article in French)one which left the château and now finds itself in the Trianon.

[2] The Israeli museum had just recovered it recently as a matter of fact.

[3] At least of Versailles these last few years ; Jean-Jacques Aillagon states that he opposes these restitutions in the interview granted to us.

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