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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 27 DECEMBER 2008 - Of far greater interest than Jeff Koons Versailles [reviewed today] , and therefore attracting a much larger public, was the re-opening of the Petit Trianon in the gardens of the park of the Château of Versailles. The restoration of the exquisite small palace is part of the Versailles project that aims to show Versailles' contrasts, Classical and Baroque, male inspiration from Louis XIV and female inspiration from Marie Antoinette, and the coldly magnificent Chateau and the small palace full of charm, inseparably linked to the queen herself.

Here there was nothing to mar the quiet refinement of the palace nor the delightful landscaped gardens which included an outdoor music salon perched on an artificial island overhanging a small lake. Visitors clustered around the delightful hamlet and farm, inhabited by the tame donkeys, goats, pigs, lambs, rabbits and ducks, descendants of those nursed by Marie Antoinette just over 200 years ago. She had wanted the village to provide country pastimes for herself and her children.

Le Petit Trianon
Photo: Christian Milet
© Château de Versailles

Although the Petit Trianon, built between 1762 and 1789, was originally destined for Madame de Pompadour who died before it was completed, it was Marie Antoinette, scoffing at stuffy court traditions, who imposed her personal taste on it. From 1774, when her husband Louis XVI gave it to her, she found a haven of peace that allowed her to escape from the rigours of court, a mere stone's throw away.

The moment one enters the Trianon palace, the atmosphere is pervaded with the shadow and personality of the young Austrian queen, as each of the tastefully decorated rooms reflects her way of living and freedom of thought. It is easy to see how pleasant and relaxing it must have been to live there, with her pretty bedroom looking out over the English-style gardens, more picturesque and full of flowers than the more formal French, notwithstanding the fact that not once did her husband stay overnight there.

Le Petit Trianon
Photo: Christian Milet
© Château de Versailles

After a year of renovation costing 5.3 million Euros, paid for by Breguet, watchmakers since 1775 and suppliers of Queen Marie Antoinette, the visitor can now wander through all the rooms from the kitchens, warming room, guardroom and billiard room on the ground floor and up the staircase of honour with its delicate wrought iron banister, to the queen's more intimate quarters. Two dining rooms, both relatively small and her salon, furnished with discerning taste, are situated on the first floor as well as the queen's bedroom, bathroom and lavatory. There is also a charming boudoir, upholstered in ice-blue, white and beige, which Marie Antoinette walked out of on October 5th, 1789, never to return. This beautiful restoration shows us the house as she left it.

Title Photo: Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) Marie-Antoinette en gaulle (Marie-Antoinette in a Muslin Dress), 1783. Oil on canvas. Collection of the Hessische Hausstiftung, Germany.

Patricia Boccadoro is a senior editor at

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