In 1758 Louis XV decided to build a new château in the middle of his gardens, which he had been working on for more than a decade. He decided to build a new royal residence large enough to house the king and some of his entourage. With the Petit Trianon, Ange-Jacques Gabriel (the architect) produced a manifesto for the neo-classical movement – a perfect example of the ‘Greek style’ that was spreading across Europe.
Completed in 1768, the new residence on the Trianon estate was known as the Petit Trianon to distinguish it from the existing Marble Trianon, which now became known as the Grand Trianon. After Louis XV death, the young Louis XVI gave the Petit Trianon and its estate as a gift to his young bride Marie-Antoinette, who rapidly made it her own and set about redecorating the exteriors. Louis XV’s botanical gardens were soon replaced with Anglo-Oriental gardens, more in keeping with the fashion of the day.
Inside, the first two floors are laid out around the vast staircase. Since the palace is built on a slope, the first-floor reception rooms open out directly onto the gardens. Marie-Antoinette’s apartments, on the mezzanine floor, look out over the English Gardens and the Love Monument. They include a space known as the ‘moving mirror room’, where an ingenious system of mobile wood panels allowed the Queen to block out the full-length windows when necessary.
During the French Revolution the Petit Trianon became a hostel, while the gardens narrowly escaped being divided into separate allotments. Later Napoleon restored the palace and gardens to their former glory. In 1867 wife of Napoleon III, converted the Petit Trianon into a museum dedicated to the memory of Marie-Antoinette.
The Petit Trianon underwent a thorough restoration a few years ago.
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