Gardens of the French Renaissance

The Gardens of the French Renaissance is a garden style, initially inspired by the Italian Renaissance garden, which evolved later into the grander and more formal Garden à la française during the reign of Louis XIV, by the middle of the 17th century.

In 1495, King Charles VIII and his nobles brought the Renaissance style back to France after their war campaign in Italy. They reached their peak in the gardens of the royal Château de Fontainebleau, the Château-Gaillard of Amboise, the Château de Blois, and the Château de Chenonceau.

French Renaissance gardens were characterized by symmetrical and geometric planting beds or parterres; plants in pots; paths of gravel and sand; terraces; stairways and ramps; moving water in the form of canals, cascades and monumental fountains, and extensive use of artificial grottoes, labyrinths and statues of mythological figures. They became an extension of the châteaux that they surrounded, and were designed to illustrate the Renaissance ideals of measure and proportion, and to remind viewers of the virtues of Ancient Rome.

The gardens of the French Renaissance are characterized by symmetrical and geometric flowerbeds or beds, potted plants, sand and gravel paths, terraces, stairs and ramps, running water in the form of canals and waterfalls. and monumental fountains, and by the extensive use of artificial caves, labyrinths and statues of mythological characters. They became an extension of the castles they surrounded, and were designed to illustrate the ideals of measure and proportion of the Renaissance and to recall the virtues of ancient Rome.

The gardens of the Renaissance pass from the utilitarian pen, full of Christian symbolism, to broad perspectives using the pagan vocabulary, and whose main purpose is the only delight, the pleasure. The aesthetic and personal considerations then become primordial. The space of the garden is less and less influenced by religious precepts (notwithstanding the visions of Erasmus and Palissy ). The iconological references are no longer exclusively classical: they belong to mythology through the use of its symbolism, illustrated themes, statua… The gardens also have a political dimension (the large gardens are designed to the glory of the master places), and the evolution of the art of living makes it the setting for parties and sumptuous banquets. Their history is also a reflection of that, parallel, of botany (introductions of new species, more and more scientific approach) and the evolution of theories and cultural practices.

Italian influence
In the 13th century, the Italian landscape architect Pietro de ‘Crescenzi published a treatise, Opus Ruralium Commodium, which presented a formal plan for the gardens, adorned with topiary carvings, trees and shrubs carved in architectural forms, following a tradition started by the Romans. King Charles V of France had it translated into French in 1373, and the new Italian style began to appear in France.

Another writer of great influence was Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), who in 1450 wrote a booklet, De re aedificatoria, for Laurent de Medi. He applied the geometric principles of Vitruvius to draw the facades of buildings and gardens. He suggested that the houses should have a view of the gardens, and that the gardens should have “porticoes to give shade, cradles where vines would grow on marble columns, and that there must be vases and even amusing statues, provided they are not obscene “.

In his drawing of the Belvedere gardens in Rome, the architect Bramante (1444-1544) introduced the idea of perspective, using a longitudinal axis perpendicular to the palace, along which he had flowerbeds and fountains. It became a central feature of Renaissance gardens.

A popular novel by the monk Francesco Colonna, published in Venice in 1499, entitled The Dream of Poliphile, Poliphile’s allegorical journey to imaginary regions in search of his love, Polia, had an enormous influence on the gardens of the time. Ideas, such as that of a “garden island” in a lake, such as that of the Boboli garden in Florence, statues of giants coming out of the ground in the park of the villa of Pratolino, and the theme of the labyrinth, all made repetitions of Poliphile’s imaginary journeys. All these elements were to appear in the gardens of the French Renaissance.

During the Louis XII Style (from 1495 to 1525/1530) 7, achievements of Pacello da Mercogliano
In this rapidly changing art of the Louis XII Style, gardens become more important than architecture : the arrival in Amboise of Italian artists whose Neapolitan gardener Pacello da Mercogliano was originally under Charles VIII of the creation of the first gardens of the French Renaissance thanks to new landscaping creations, the installation of a menagerie and agronomic acclimatization work.

The Jardins du Roy at the Royal Domain of Château-Gaillard
The Jardins du Roy at the Royal Domain of Château-Gaillard represent the first works that Pacello da Mercogliano led in France in terms of landscapi.

It was from 1496 that the first landscape perspective and the first ” French ” parterres were created in Château-Gaillard, including a ” water mirror ” brought by the Amasse and the course of the exsurgence that feeds it. In terms of agronomic acclimatization, Pacello da Mercogliano led the first acclimatization of citrus (including orange and lemon) and peach trees in the north of France by developing greenhouses in greenhouses and creating the first French Royal Orangerie. (associating the horticultural technique of ” potting crates “), the obtaining of plum Reine-Claude as well as the development of the northern culture of melons and tomatoes within a ” chartreuse ” comprising horticultural parcels separated by windproof walls.

Louis-XII will give him the estate in 1505 against an annual lease of 30 sols and a bouquet of orange flowers per year.

The castle of Amboise
Following the work done at the Royal Domain of Château-Gaillard (Amboise), Pacello da Mercogliano and his team contributed to the development of gardens and the creation of a menagerie at Château d’Amboi. However, no work account or recognized archive explicitly mentions their interventions on these.

The castle of Blois and the castle of Gaillon
In 1499, Louis XII entrusted the realization of the gardens of the Château de Blois to the same team which was subsequently engaged by Georges d’Amboise to create flower beds on different levels at his Château de Gaillon : the garden was planted with flower beds. flowers and fruit trees. The entrance parterre represented the coat of arms of France in bloom. Bushes were cut into riders, boats and birds. Imposing marble fountains adorned the whole.

The castle of Bury
Forming a transition with the First Renaissance, the gardens of Bury Castle were built between 1511 and 1524 by Florimond Robertet, Secretary of State of Kings Louis XII and Francis I.

Robertet had visited the Villa Medici in Fiesole and wanted to reproduce the terraced gardens he had seen there. Bury Castle standing out from the traditional drawing of medieval fortresses, was closely integrated with its gardens. The visitors crossed a first quadrangular parterre inside the castle before ending up on two geometric gardens extending behind the building. Decorated with fountains and surmounted by a wooden gallery, their main axis connected the entrance of the Palace to the chapel located at the opposite end of the domai.

Like the gardens of the Italian Renaissance, the gardens of the castle of Bury developed partly on the edges of a hill, offering a remarkable view on the forest of Bloi. But the new element was in the middle of the castle courtyard where Florimond Robertet placed a bronze copy of Michelangelo’s David, donated by the Republic of Floren.

The whole will be destroyed in 1642.

Under the Renaissance (1515/1530 – beginning of the XVth century)

The castle of Blois
In 1499, Louis XII entrusted the realization of the gardens of the Château de Blois to the same team which was subsequently engaged by Georges d’Amboise to create flower beds on different levels at his Château de Gaillon : the garden was planted with flower beds. flowers and fruit tree.

When Louis XII died in 1515, Francis I had gardens in the new style on three terraces at different levels surrounded by the old walls of his castle in Blo.

After him his son Henry II launches works of beautification of the garde. The King’s Garden is adorned with cradles of greenery that echo those of the Queen’s Gard. Around 1554, there are also cross aisles with four cabinets at the intersection of four alleys. An artificial pond is also built in the place called Bornaz.

Following him, Francis II undertook to facilitate the connection between the gardens of Blois and the nearby forest, he creates paths, the marks of small pavilions, emphasize them by the plantation of elms and the creation of ditche.

The gardens of Blois mark in the history of the French garden an important step. Indeed, with Blois gardens grow and high terrace appears in the French garden. The French composition, however, remains very fragmented, in comparison with its Italian cousin in which unity reigns alread. For all that the effort made to Blois in the introduction of the transalpine decorative elements is clearly visible, by the importation of large flower beds, fountains adorned and Italianized and especially by the attempt to create a water game gushing in the garden.

Blois, however, do not mark a turning point in the art of gardens of the first Renaissance, it is a milestone, a research laboratory as there were many others in the Loire Valley, Bury, Azay-le-Rideau or Chenonce.

In addition to the flowerbeds, the gardens produced a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, including orange and lemon trees in bins, which had returned in winte. The building which sheltered them, which still exists, was the first orangery of Franc.

The gardens of the castle of Blois disappear gradually during the XVth century, for lack of maintenance and leave place in the nineteenth century at the Avenue de l’ Embarcadère, now Avenue Dr. Jean laigret, to facilitate the work from the railway station (1847). The last vestiges of the garden are destroyed in 1890 during the creation of Place Victor-Hug.

The castle of Chenonceau
The castle of Chenonceau had two separate gardens, the first created in 1551 for Diane de Poitiers, favorite of King Henry II, with a large parterre and a jet of water, and the second, smaller, created for Catherine de Medici in 1560 on a terrace built over the Cher, divided into compartments, with a basin in the cente.

As an introduction, a Grand Alley of Honor leads to the castle for nearly a km. On each side of this path: the 16th century farmhouse on the right, the Labyrinth and the Caryatids on the left.

There are two main gardens: that of Diane de Poitiers and that of Catherine de Medici, located on either side of the Marques Tower, a vestige of the fortifications preceding the construction of the present castle.

In 1565 the gardens on the left bank of the Cher are “newly built”, as described by Sonia Lesot in her book:

“The rock fountain of Chenonceau built by Bernard (Palissy) for Catherine (de Medici); it was already existing in the time of Diane de Poitiers, and had been used to feed the basins of its parterre […] (in) Francueil Park, on the left bank of the Cher […] was laid out a low garden along the river, composed of two large squares separated from an alley traced in the extension of the gallery, accentuating the North-South axis already so strong. The hillside was pierced with caves. ”

The garden of Diane de Poitiers, whose entrance is controlled by the House of the Regisseur: Chancery, built in the 16th century ; at the foot of which is a pier, embellished with a vine, essential access to any walk on the Ch.

In its center is a jet of water, described by Jacques Androuet du Cerceau in his book The Most Excellent Buildings of France ( 1576 ). Surprisingly designed for the time, the jet of water springs from a large pebble cut accordingly and falls “in sheaf” to a pentagonal receptacle of white ston. This garden is protected from the floods of Cher by raised terraces from which one has beautiful views of the flower beds and the castle.

The garden of Catherine de Medici is more intimate, with a central basin, and faces the west side of the castle.

The floral decoration of the gardens, renewed in the spring and summer, requires the installation of 130 000 plants of flowers cultivated on the fiel.

The castle of Fontainebleau
The gardens of the castle of Fontainebleau, located in a forest that was the hunting reserve of the Capetian kings, were created by Francis I from 1528. The gardens include fountains, flowerbeds, a pine forest brought from Provence and the first artificial cave of France in 15. Catherine de Medici ordered bronze copies of the statues that adorned the Belvedere in Rome. A statue of Hercules resting Michelangelo adorns the garden of the lake. In 1594, Henry IV added a small island in the lake, connected to the courtyard of the fountains by a bridg.

The Fontainebleau Park covers 115 hectares. That which rose under Francis I is known to us thanks to the drawings of Jacques I Androuet of the Cerceau, and to his plates engraved in his work “The most excellent bastiments of France “.

The Garden of Diana, north of the castle, was built by Catherine de Medici on an area already laid out by Francis I and at the time bore the name of Queen’s Garden. Placed in regular parterres, the garden was refitted under Henri IV and partitioned in the north by an orangery but it is again reworked under Louis XIV before being transformed into English garden in the 19th century, under Napoleon I and Louis-Philippe, where the orangery is destroyed. This garden owes its name to the Fountain of Diana elaborated by Francini in 1603 and topped by the Diana to the doe made by Bronzier Barthélemy Prie.

The Cave of the Garden of Pines located on the ground floor of the southwest pavilion of the Court of the White Horse and characteristic of the taste for the nymphs in the 16th century, presents arcades with rustic bosses supported by Atlanteans appearing under the form of monstrous satyrs opening on an interior decorated with frescoes (animals in reliefs, pebbles, shells, etc.). Its architecture due to Serlio or Primatice (the opinions are divergent) denotes a certain influence of the contemporary achievements of Jules Romain, was most likely achieved in 1545, while the interior was completed only under Henr. Thanks to two preparatory drawings kept at the Louvre Museum, we know that Primatice is the designer of the murals with fresco. The Cave of the Pines was the subject of important restorations, in 1984-1986 then in 2007, which made it possible to restore the initial composition of the decoration of the vault and to replace the ground to its former level.

Located in the middle of the garden, in the hollow of a grove, the Fontaine Bliaud or Blau t, called Belle-Eau from the sixteenth century and which gave its name to the castle, flows into a small square pond cut.

The ” Parterre ” or ” Grand Jardin ” or ” Jardin du Roi ” was created under François I, and retraced under Henri IV and redesigned by André Le Nôt. The Basins of the Tiber and Romulus draw their name from a sculptural group that adorned them successively in the 16th and 17th centuries. Melted during the Revolution, the Tiber, molded again from the original preserved in the Louvre Museum has now found its place. The central basin was decorated in 1817 with a basin following a rock-shaped fountain called the ” boiling pot ” that existed at this location in the seventeenth century. Clos de murs between 1528 and 1533, Serlio had imagined for this garden a pavilion of approval. Arranged between 1660 and 1664, it featured foliage forming the figures of King Louis XIV and Queen Anne of Austria, who disappeared in the eighteenth century. The terraces were planted with lime trees under Napoleon I.

The basin of waterfalls was built in 1661 – 1662 at the end of the Parterre, but since the eighteenth century, there is more than a pool with niches decorated with marble. The basin is decorated in its center since 1866 with an eagle defending its prey in bronze, by Cain (cast by Vittoz.

The park of nearly 80 hectares was created under Henry IV, who digs the Grand Canal 1.2 km long between 1606 and 1609, and planted several tree species, including fir, elm and fruit tre. Previously Francis I had around 1530 established the ” Treille du Roi “, also 1.2 km long, where was cultivated on the south face of the wall chasselas gilded Fontaineblea. The Canal, nearly 60 years before that of the Gardens of Versailles, quickly becomes a place of attraction. It was possible to walk there by boat and Louis XIII made sail a gall. It is fed by several aqueducts established in the 16th centu.

The castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye
The gardens of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye mark the beginning of the transition to a new style, which will later be called ” Jardin à la française “. These gardens were drawn in 1595 by the royal gardener, Claude Mollet, for King Henry I.

The drawings made by Alessandro Francini in 1614 show that at this date the stairs in semicirculars from the first terrace built in front of the castle in 1563 and surrounding the Fountain of Mercury are made, probably as early as 1594, as well as the stairs leading to the third terra.

In 1599, Henri IV decided to change the plan of the garden and decided to build on the third terrace a Doric gallery against the retaining wall opening onto the garden and containing caves built under the second terrace. Thomas Platter indicates in his travelogue that in November 1599, Tommaso Francini had completed the Dragon Fountain, in the center of the gallery, and the Grotto of Neptune or Marine Triumph, under the south ramp, he was building the Grotte des Orgues (or the Demoiselle) under the north ramp. Caves are located under the third terrace : the Cave of Perseus, the Cave of Orpheus and the Cave of the Flambea. The history of the realization of this part of the garden is better understood from the archives found in Florenc.

Work continues with the development of caves with their automata driven by water jets, due to brothers Thomas and Alexandre Franci. The gardens of the French garden, which extend to the Seine on five terraces, were designed by the landscape architect Étienne Dupérac and gardener Claude Moll. This one writes in his book Theater of plans and gardening which received the order of the king to plant the garden of the new castle.

Charles Normand indicates to have found in the national archives a contract of exchange with the lord of Bréhant dated 1 September 1605 allowing the king to acquire the lands and seigniories of ” Pec ” and ” Vézinay “. By letters patent of February 17, 1623, the king grants to Tommaso Francini, sieur of the Grands-Maisons (municipality of Villepreux ), ” the charge of steward of the waters and fountains of the houses, chasteaux and gardens of Paris, Saint-Germain-en “Laye, Fontainebleau, and others, whatever may be, in order to enjoy the honors and powers mentioned therein, and at the wages of twelve hundred livres a year, to do with eighteen hundred livres, of which he enjoyed the sum of three thousand livr.” In 1625, Tommaso Francini is quoted in an act as a waterworks engineer receives “for the maintenance of dud caves. Chapteau de Sainct-Germain, the sum of twelve hundred livr. In 1636, he received 900 livres for the caves of the castle of Saint-Germa.

André Du Chesne describes the garden with its caves in 1630 in Antiquites and research cities, chasteaux and more remarkable places in all Franc.

From 1649, the gardens are no longer maintained because of the wars of the Fron.

Around 1660, the upper terrace collapses deteriorating the semicircular staircase and the caves of the Doric Gallery. A new staircase with straight ramps is built in 1662 and the caves are restored but not the hydraulic mechanisms.

When the Revolution arrives, the Château Neuf of Saint-Germain-en-Laye is seized as national proper. He is then sold to the former steward of the Count d’Artois who demolishes it to subdivide the land and sell the materials. It remains today only Pavilion Henry IV, the Pavilion of the garden, a terrace and its two ramps at the end of the Rue Thiers which overlooks the Avenue du Marechal de Lattre de Tassigny and some vestiges in the cellars of the district (at 3 rue des Arcades, for example).

The castle of Villandry
he gardens of the castle Villandry, in the department of the Loire, are the reconstruction from ancient texts of a garden of the Renaissance typical of the sixteenth century.

These gardens are divided into four terraces : an upper terrace with the garden of the sun (creation 2008), one with the water garden surrounded by a cloister of lime trees, then a terrace hosting the garden of ornament or garden of embroidery of boxwood and yew trees in topiary and finally a lower terrace with the decorative kitchen garden, also forming an embroidery design.

The ornamental garden located above the kitchen garden extends the rooms of the castle. Go up to the belvedere allows to have a magnificent view on the whole. It consists of the gardens of love divided into four groups:

tender love symbolized by hearts separated from small flames;
love passion with hearts broken by passion, engraved in a movement reminiscent of dance;
fickle love with 4 fans in the corners to represent the lightness of feelings and women hiding behind fans to observe other men;
Tragic love with daggers and swords to represent love rivalry.

The water garden at the southern end of the complex is of classic design around a large piece of water representing a Louis XV mirror and surrounded by a vegetable cloister of linden trees.

The ensemble also includes a labyrinth planted with hornbeams, whose goal is to rise spiritually to the central platform, a garden of simple, that is to say aromatic and medicinal plants, traditional in the Middle Ages, the Forest with flowered terraces around a greenhouse and a beautiful pavilion of the eighteenth century, the Pavilion of Audience, finally the garden of the sun, the youngest, with 3 spaces of greenery, the cloud chamber in blue and white tones, the sun room dominated by yellow-orange and the children’s room with its apple trees.

The fountains and arbours of the garden were restored from.. The gardens form a set limited to the north by the road of Tours, to the south by the rural road of the Sheepfold, to the west by the wall of fence along the labyrinth vegetation.

They obtained the Outstanding Garden Label

Chronology of the garden of the French Renaissance
Castle Gaillard (Amboise) (1496)
Castle of Amboise (1498)
Château de Blois (1499) – (gardens destroyed in the 19th centu.)
Castle Gaillon (1502 to 1550)
Castle of Bury (1511-1520)
Château de Chenonceau, (1515-1589) Gardens of Diane de Poitiers (1551) and Catherine de Medici (1560)
Castle of Chantilly (1524)
Castle of Fontainebleau (1528-1447)
Castle of Saint-Maur (1536)
Castle of Anet (1536)
Castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1539-1547) – old castle and gardens
Castle of Villandry (1536)
Castle of Anet (1546-1559)
Castle of Montceaux (1549-1560)
Castle of Vallery (1550)
Castle of the Bastie d’Urfe (1551)
Castle of Dampierre-sur-Boutonne (1552-1600)
Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1539-1547) – new castle and terraces
Castle of Charleval (1560)
Gardens and Palace of the Tuileries (1564-1593)
Castle of Verneuil (1565)
Château d’Anet (1582) new gardens.
Château de Fontainebleau (1594-1609) new gardens of Claude Mollet
Jardin des Tuileries in Paris (1599) by Claude Mollet, Delorme, Duperac
Luxembourg Garden in Paris (1612-1630)
Garden of Ambleville Castle (Modern Reconstruction started around 1928)

Source From Wikipedia