The Parc de Bagatelle spans 59 acres (24 hectares) in the north-western part of Bois de Boulogne. Hidden away, it is an idyllic and quiet place to discover, away from the noise and the crowd. It is even contrasting with other parts of Bois de Boulogne that can be sometimes a little bit creepy.

In the spring, millions of bulbs cover its largel awns; in May-June, the rose gardens display thousands of scented rose bushes and the water lilies pond provides a peaceful scene.
Nice in all seasons, its gentle landscapes with majestic trees, peaceful ponds and gardens provide many quiet places to rest with some visits of placid cats, elegant peacocks and families of geese.

It has been recently restored to its former glory.

Bois de Boulogne Bagatelle
Bois de Boulogne Bagatelle Atget

Bois de Boulogne

The château de Bagatelle, in reality, a pleasure pavilion once called a folly (or folie in French), turned into an extremely costly palace built in two months, as a bet between the Comte d'Artois and his sister-in-law, Queen Marie-Antoinette.This gave rise to the French expression: coûter une bagatelle – (cost an arm and a leg)...
It was indeed a youthful madness too since the youngest brother of Louis XVI was only twenty years old when he built Bagatelle on one of his properties. Things did not take long ... Bellanger, the architect, drew the plans in one night. More than 800 people worked day and night, from September 21st to November 26th, 1777. The best decorators and painters were commissioned: Hubert Robert, Fragonard, Greuze, ...
This folly, mainly for pleasure, was a small and luxurious house, quite a foolishness indeed. But, it was also in the middle of gardens, which is quite the initial meaning of a folly, a country retreat shaded by leaves (foleia in Latin).

At the top of the facade giving on the court of honor, one can read the Latin motto: parva sed apta, the house is small, but suitable. Indeed, before its transformation by Lord Seymour in 1835, it was smaller. It had a round drawing room in its centre, a dining room anda games room. Indeed, suitable too, especially for other more intimate games: in two boudoirs, one of which had walls and floors covered with mirrors, and in the rooms upstairs, accessible by a staircase hidden behind woodpanelling.

Chateau de Bagatelle court of honor

The other side of the pavilion, with rounded shapes like an exquisite sweet box, could only charm Marie-Antoinette.

Bagatelle Atget

Atget – 1919/1921


The two sphinxes statues flanking the steps were made by taking Rosalie Duthé, a beautiful courtesan as model.

Chateau de Bagatelle
Chateau de Bagatelle sphinge chevauchée par un putti Atget

Château de Bagatelle
sphinge chevauchée par un putti
Atget (Musée Carnavalet)

A little bit later after the construction of the château, the park was designed by Thomas Blaikie, a renowned Scottish landscape gardener. More to suit the taste of that time, he added small decorative features and curiosities, like a Chinese pagoda, a gazebo, a kiosk and Chinese bridges.

Bagatelle park

Miraculously saved from the Revolution, Bagatelle was sold to Napoleon for his son the Roi de Rome.
Finally owned back by the d'Artois family, it was later acquired in 1835 by Lord Seymour, who bequeathed it to Richard Wallace, a collector and philanthropist who donated the famous green water fountains scattered throughout Paris. Richard Wallace added the Trianon, this long construction along the courtyard of honor and guarded by sphinxes statues.

Bois de Boulogne Bagatelle Le Trianon Atget

Bois de Boulogne
Bagatelle - (Le Trianon)
Atget – 1909

Bagatelle the Trianon

In 1905, the Château de Bagatelle and the park were purchased by the city of Paris. Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, a world-renowned landscape architect, created the floral gardens and the famous rose gardens. After several visits to Giverny, Forestier very much inspired by Monet's water garden, designed for Bagatelle the very romantic waterlily pond.

Bagatelle Nymphea Atget

Bagatelle – Nymphéa
Atget – 1925

Bagatelle waterlily pond
Bagatelle Nypheas Waterlily

Bagatelle is widely known for its roses. In 1907, Forestier created an international competition for new roses, held since in June of each year. Before Forestier created the rose garden, it was a meadow where the young imperial prince was riding. It is said that the Impress Eugenie liked to seat in the kiosk from where she could attend the lessons of horsemanship of her son.

There is an other rose garden composed of landscape roses on the western side behind the castle.

Bagatelle roseraie Atget

Bagatelle – Roseraie
Atget - 1921

Bagatelle rose garden
Bagatelle rose

The Chopin festival held every summer in the Orangerie with candle light concerts is another great opportunity to go to Bagatelle.

Bagatelle park garden
Bagatelle Atget

Atget – 1921

Bagatelle Park peacock

Texte / Photos : Martine Combes

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