Arts & Tradition

The Petit Trianon of Versailles: A Garden Palace Retreat Away From the Royal Court

Larger than life: Art that inspires us through the ages
TIMENovember 30, 2021

In 1761, King Louis XV (1710-1774) commissioned architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel to design a modest palace set far back in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles as a place of respite, away from the pressures of the main palace court. It became known as the Petit Trianon.

Gabriel had previously worked with his father, Jacques V. Gabriel, on various decorative designs in Versailles. They were designed in the Rococo style, which had become increasingly elaborate over time. However, in the Petit Trianon, Ange-Jacques’s work took inspiration from the more reserved Classical Greek architecture.

Classical Greek architecture was defined by an overall simplicity, with an emphasis on symmetry, proportion, and simple geometry. The Petit Trianon is arranged in a cuboid shape. Each façade is symmetrically made up of five vertically proportioned window bays that each included a rectangular lower window and a square upper window.

The main façade is defined by four Corinthian columns, emphasizing the tall proportions of the three central window bays, creating an upright quality.

The beauty of the Petit Trianon comes with its subtlety. The plain walls emphasize the minimal and carefully expressed ornaments. These refined ornaments give an overall elegance to the façade.

In the age of the elaborate Rococo, Ange-Jacques had created a refreshing and refined example of the classical tradition and an early step toward what would become known as the neoclassical style.

Epoch Times Photo
A long, formal French garden leads and gives emphasis to the main façade of the Petit Trianon. (T. Garnier/Château de Versailles)
Epoch Times Photo
The central projected bay, composed of four Corinthian columns, provides depth and focus to the façade. Sweeping window hoods and refined trims on the lower windows provide the structure with an elegant expression. (J.H.Smith/Cartio)
Epoch Times Photo
As one draws closer to the building, the window and cornice ornamentation and the Corinthian column capitals (crowns) become prominent and invite one to admire the refined design and craftsmanship. (J.H.Smith/Cartio)
Epoch Times Photo
The side façades continue the rhythm and arrangement of the main façade, in a simplified manner. (J.H.Smith/Cartio)
Epoch Times Photo
The dimensional Corinthian columns on the main façade appear on the side façades in a simplified way as pilasters (flattened columns bonded to the wall). (J.H.Smith/Cartio)
Epoch Times Photo
The antechamber, or entry room opens out onto the estate garden. (T. Garnier/Château de Versailles)
petit trianon staircase
The main two floors of the Petit Trianon are arranged around a grand staircase. The reserved colors and sculpted motifs help emphasize the ornamental wrought iron balustrade. (T. Garnier/Château de Versailles)
Epoch Times Photo
The music room’s pastel green walls and white panelling provide a subtle backdrop for the gold framed mirrors, chandelier, and the red fabrics. (T. Garnier/Château de Versailles)
Epoch Times Photo
Reflective of a more restrained neoclassical interior, the monotone walls and ornamentation create a pure, serene setting for a spiritual space: the chapel. (T. Garnier/Château de Versailles)
Epoch Times Photo
Marie Antoinette’s apartment on the mezzanine floor that looks out over the English garden. (T. Garnier/Château de Versailles)
James Howard Smith, an architectural photographer, designer, and founder of Cartio, aims to inspire an appreciation of classic architecture.