Alright, most of my friends know that this past year I have geeked about three ladies of another era. Marie Antoinette, Georgiana Cavendish, and Catherine the Great.
The past couple months I have been really researching the life of Marie Antoinette. She was a public figure, ridiculed, revered, scorned. I have been looking at her life, the way she lived and the objects she lived with. Marie was a girl who decided to ‘buck the system’ and she had style. Unfortunately she lived during a very difficult time during the history of France and she ended up loosing her head.
Marie had been given her own little hideaway, Petit Trianon, and used it as a place to escape the French Court at Versailles. This was a gift from her husband Lois XVI and is was all hers. Louis XVI did not build it for Marie, Louis XV did for Madame de Pompadour, and then was used by Louis XV and Madame du Berry. Now this was given to Marie and she used it to escape and created her own pastoral world. Country was on people’s lips and Marie had made country life very fashionable. Well, her version of it any how.
Marie and Louis also had a few other hideaways, one was Rambouillet. Rambouillet was a château Louis purchased in 1783 because he liked the hunting in this area. He was a big sportsman and was up before dawn to hunt the stag. Marie thought the place was ‘a toad hole’ and loathed to be there. Louis in his ever appeasing way created something to make the ever needing to be distracted Marie happy.
Louis had a dairy, Laiterie, built at Rambouillet for Marie Antoinette as a little surprise. She was making country life fashionable, a statement, and being the queen of fashion herself, needed a place for her and her friends to hang. Now don’t go getting pictures in your head of her in a milkmaid outfit milking the cows. The outfit yes, her hands to an utter no.
This was not a dairy like we know it. It was a small but grande working milk house, or milk temple, a place for her and her friends to gather and sit. It had a cooling room with fountains in the floor, a grotto, and was lit by skylight. Furniture was especially made for this “temple” as well as a large assortment of Sevres porcelain-a few pieces of the porcelain survive. I think I just found another. It had a very ancient look, more Etruscan in detail and coloration.
Let me a back up a moment. I have gotten ahead of myself in a way.
This past May I was invited to attend Garden2Blog12. This is the second time this event has been held and hosted by P. Allen Smith and his wonderful staff and sponsors. It is held in Little Rock, Arkansas at Smith’s Garden Home Retreat. Twenty to twenty-five garden bloggers, writers, personalities, or social media types are gathered from around the nation and flown to Little Rock. Sponsors are given slots to communicate their products, create events, or sponsor the meals. It is no small affair and not done on the cheap.
One of the highlights of the event was a trip out to a Marlsgate Plantation. We were bussed out on a warm sunny day across the Arkansas delta to view the gardens that Smith had designed and to meet his art instructor.
This is no little museum, but a home that someone lives in. It is a grand affair, and that is an understatement. The house, this is the 1904/1905 incarnation, is full of wonderful treasures amassed, accumulated, and unearthed by the family of David P. Garner, Jr.
David is an avid collector and very much a walking encyclopedia of the times, artwork, furniture, and bric-a-brac that fill Marlsgate to the gills. One thing David talked to me was about the several sets and pieces of Sevres. He knows the hallmarks, and who worked on the pieces by the way they were initialed. He is a definite authority and definitely entertaining.
Lately I find myself on Ebay looking at what pieces of Sevres people are attempting to sell. I just about geeked the other day. I am cruising around Ebay and here is this very unusual piece listed as “Gilded Porcelain Cachepot Jardiniere”. (see picture at top of posting)
OMG! This is something I have seen recently. No, not as a photograph, but a watercolor sketch in a book. I found the book I had seen it in recently and though this a sketch it is also spot on.
This odd piece that someone is selling as a pot to put a houseplant in is actually a glorified milk pail. Now in my reading I also discovered that the Empress Marie Louise, Empress Josephine’s successor, had these reproduced in white and gold. It is not Marie Antoinette’s milk pail. So much was looted, broken, or just vanished when Louis and Marie were taken into the custody of the French people. One would find some of the objects remarkable if not mind-boggling.Even though several of the ‘wooden’ buckets were made only a few survive.
Questions in my mind: Could this be a one of those that were made? How many are still out there in existence? Does this item need to be returned to the French Government?
I look forward to returning to Marlsgate in the future and talking more with David about some of his extraordinary family pieces and those he has hunted down himself. When I talked to David he extended the invitation to come spend the day and talk about the furniture, art, and beauty that is Marlsgate. I may do just that very soon.