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Predecessors to the Classic French Landscape







Indre-et-Loire, France

1483 (residence of Charles VIII)

The complex is situated on a high terrace ovelooking the Loire valley. A series of walks divided the garden into rectangular areas. Main rooms of the chateau were connected to the garden in a visual way.




Loir-et-Cher, France


Blois was the royal residence of Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne, who were responsible for the landscape organization. The chateau was connected by a bridge crossing the moat to a large garden layout on two levels. The lower garden was laid out in a geometric organization of 10 square patterns. The upper garden was probably a kitchen garden (potager). Blois may have had the first orangery in France. An orangery was a structure that housed lemon and orange trees during the winter months. The interest in exotic fruits probably originated during trips to Italy by Frenchmen in the 15th century who traveled to see Italian gardens. They also came back to France with a taste for Italian renaissance ornament – fountains – sculpture.



Eure, France

1502 (upper garden) (1691 – redesign by Le Notre for Colbert)

The garden on the upper terrace was geometrically designed around a pavilion that housed an Italian fountain. The square spaces that made up the terrace contained flowers, fruit trees, boxwood, and sometimes rosemary clipped into figures, at least one square was in the form of a labyrinth. A large gallery that lined one side of the terrace overlooked the Seine valley and a garden that was laid out later.




Near Blois, France

1524 (completion of chateau)

The Chateau was built on a site overlooking the valley of La Cisse near Blois. The entry to the defensive style chateau was from the west on an approach road that formed the main axis. The sequence along the axis began with the chateau enclosing a courtyard. On the east side of the chateau a garden platform allows a view of the valley with the main garden terrace in the foreground. The garden terrace was geometrically organized, and the axis was terminated at its edge, marked by a chapel. The main rooms of the chateau overlooked the garden and the valley beyond. A later addition was another terrace of about the same size as the first. The second garden was probably the kitchen garden (potager) and may have been surrounded by a pergola overgrown with vines.




Seine-et-Marne, France

1528 1645 (redesigned by Le Notre)

Named after a fresh water spring that gave rise to the town.

The royal castle existed as early as the twelfth century as a hunting lodge.

At the center of the new organization was a nearly square courtyard surrounded on three sides by a gallery. On the fourth side of the courtyard there was a fountain which included Michelangelos white marble sculpture of Hercules (purchased in 1529). The lake was the central piece to the overall organization and the focus of the courtyard. The approach was an elm lined causeway on the east side of the lake leading to the southwest corner of the chateau. The Grand Jardin east of the causeway was probably meant for outdoor games and exercise, and created a transitional space to the forest. A canal bisects the Grand Jardin making two large areas – one with 12 separate island compartments and the second with two primary spaces.

To the north of the original structure was a private garden accessed from the royal living quarters. The western portion of Fontainebleau acted as a separation between the garden and the town. It was irregularly shaped, lined with walkways and canals, and in 1538 about 2000 willows were planted to augment the ones already growing near the water.

The large court to the west was another gallery built with a first floor grotto around 1540.




Eure-et-Loir, France

1546 (chateaux) (1681-Le Notre redesigned)

The original gardens at Anet were enclosed within an architectural framework. The conceptual organization of Anet was arranged symmetrically around a central axis with a formal approach road and terminus. A large gatehouse marked the entrance to the forecourt and chateau, which surrounded the court on three sides. Pavilions and architectural gardens containing groves planted as quincunx support the symmetrical layout. The axis continued through the house onto a terrace that overlooked a garden enclosed by galleries. The axis was terminated by a building used for entertainment and bathing as an island set in a crescent shaped enlargement of the moat.





Indre-et-Loire, France

1551 (east terrace)

Chenonceaux is a renaissance chateau that now spans the River Cher with garden compartments flanking the forecourt on the north side of the river. The terrace to the east of the forecourt was made up of rectangular beds containing fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers. In 1560, Catherine de Medici became the owner and had a circular fountain built to the west of the forecourt. She also had a large garden on the south side of the river built. The large garden organization on the south side of the river was bisected by the axis as an extension of the approach road, the gallery, and the bridge connecting both sides of the river.

Gardens were the settings for extravagant occasions.

Chenonceau is unique in its relationship to the river. The building served as a gallery and as a bridge crossing the river, connecting the two river banks and at the same time creating a perceptual and visual link between the building and the river.

The entire composition is ordered along the axis of the approach road – the avenue, the bridge (building), and the garden compartments.




Yvelines, France

1599 (1663 redesigned by Le Notre)

Saint-Germain-en-Laye was the royal estate of Henry IV, and overlooked the river Seine. Eight terraces, with galleries and grottoes beneath some, descended to the river. The grottoes contained automata run by water, similar to those at Pratolino.

The architect (Etienne du Perac) supervised the construction of the terraces. He new of the Villa D’Este at Tivoli for some time. The lowest terrace in the engraving (of 1614) is an extensive water garden with a gate to the river. At the center of the water garden is a rustic fountain surrounded by four pools. The image appears much like engravings of the Villa Lante.

On one terrace eight geometric compartments were planted with box in the pattern of Henri IV’s monogram. Another terrace was planted with fruit trees, again organized in geometric patterns.

It is unclear how much of the terrace organization was actually constructed.

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