La Chaumière aux coquillages de Rambouillet. La fabrique de l’illusion au XVIIIe siècle

Work published with the financial support of the CRCV.

Antoine Maës, La Chaumière aux coquillages de Rambouillet. La fabrique de l’illusion au XVIIIe siècle, Montreuil: Éditions Gourcuff Gradenigo, October 2018, 112 p., 16,5 x 24 cm, €17 (ISBN: 978-2-35340-288-5).


In 1761, the publication of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Julie ou la Nouvelle Héloïse, which advocated a return to nature, was instrumental in the emergence and development of picturesque gardens in France in the last third of the eighteenth century. The Rambouillet princely estate was no exception to this trend. Like the Prince of Condé in Chantilly, or Queen Marie-Antoinette in Trianon, the Duke of Penthièvre ordered the construction of three exotic, rustic follies ̶ a Chinese gazebo, a retreat and a thatched cottage ̶ to ornament his English-style garden, landscaped in his residence’s grounds from 1779 to 1780. The thatched cottage, built in the middle of an island, was to be enjoyed by the Princess of Lamballe. Entirely restored in 2005, this building, in which naturalism finds strong expression, includes a living room adorned with remarkable aquatic decor that still chimes with the sumptuous furniture designed by François-Toussaint Folio. To the daughter-in-law of the Duke of Penthièvre, the shell cottage in Rambouillet was what the estate’s dairy would later be to Marie-Antoinette: an architectural gem against a backdrop of greenery, where refinement elicits awe.

A graduate of the École du Louvre and Sorbonne University, Antoine Maës has carried out extensive research on the Rambouillet royal estate under Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.

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