The Fagel French Garden Connection

Dr Maria Elisa Navarro Morales is a professor in the Department of History of Art and Architecture. She and her students have this year been looking at the architecture titles in the Fagel Collection, although for obvious reasons they have not been able to see them in person. The students submitted blogposts, three of which will be published here. Although they included bibliographies and footnotes in their essays, for brevity we have omitted them. This post, by Niamh Flood, refers to the Fagel House, which is discussed on the first Fagel video (see foot of post).

There is an inconspicuous volume in the Fagel Library, unremarkable in appearance and at less than twenty pages, so slight as to be almost overlooked in this vast collection: Hardouin-Mansart, Jules, and Michel Hardouin (engraver), Book of all the Profiles and Elevations Plans both in Perspective and Geometric of Chateau de Clagny. Paris: Cossin, 1680. Shelfmark Fag. I.1.72.

Plate 1: Fagel I.1.72 Hardouin-Mansart, Jules, and Michel Hardouin (engraver), Book Of All The Profiles And Elevations Plans Both In Perspective And Geometric Of Chasteau De Clagny. Paris: Cossin, 1680

Published in 1680 it contains the plans for Château de Clagny, a house and gardens to be built nearby the Palace of Versailles with similar orientation and emphasis on the garden façade although on a significantly less ostentatious scale. The idea of the garden in Versailles was to reflect the divinity of the King therefore the same level of importance was given to the garden as to the architecture, with landscape and site afforded equal representation as symbols of power which were to be mirrored, albeit diminutively, in Clagny.

It was to be the home of Louis XIV’s mistress Madame de Montespan (1640-1707) and their seven legitimised children, and with Versailles as an overtly public sphere, Clagny was to be a place of private retreat for the King.

Plate 2: Portrait of Madame de Montespan, Mignard, Pierre. late 17C, Palace of Versailles.

Designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart (1646-1708) who looked to forge a new French style in architecture and was to become First Architect to King Louis XIV; Hardouin-Mansart collaborated at Clagny with the landscape designer of Versailles (Plate 3), André Le Nôtre (1613-1700), a relationship that was to evolve into a long working association. Madame de Montespan appeared more attentive to the garden design and expressed an interest that the gardens be advanced before the building began, which Le Nôtre achieved in an unusually modest but nonetheless comprehensive manner (Plate 4). In keeping with the capricious nature of Louis XIV’s courtly realm, Madame de Montespan eventually fell from favour and by 1687 she was no longer a member of the Versailles court, and the house and gardens, after falling into dereliction, were demolished by 1769.

So the book remains as a tangible reminder of a building regarded at the time as the “most regularly beautiful house in France” surrounded by exemplars of the French formal style of gardens, designed by both the preeminent French architect and landscape designer of the seventeenth century.

Plate 5: Chateau de Clagny, Perelles, Adam. 1678-1695, Palace of Versailles

Limited archival research would suggest that nestling unobtrusively within the Fagel Collection sits this valuable research record, its existence so exceptional that even the archives at Versailles appear to only have engravings from the book rather than a complete edition. Notwithstanding its apparent rarity, the question remains, what was its purpose within the Fagel Collection? Perhaps by comparing the geographical location of Clagny, abutting the vastness that was Versailles Palace and gardens, and its attempt to mirror that in miniature with the topographical situation of the Fagel family home, itself in a remarkably similar position to Clagny, one can speculate on whether in c.1706 the Fagels used this book as a model for their own house and gardens.

Plate 6: Detail from Map of Versailles showing the locations of the ci-devant canal, ice houses and the pond, park and château de Clagny…. There are also all the places granted by the king: dates, patents and the names of the donees until 1786, 1989, Portier, Jacques. Palace of Versailles

The dynastic family who amassed this library, hereditary Greffiers and devoted to the house of Orange and its stadholders, were positioned both societally and geographically at the centre of political power in The Hague. One such stadtholder, Frederik Hendrik (1584-1647) an avowed Francophile who spent many years in France, endowed a legacy of the ancien régime, most particularly in architecture and garden design that was to endure in the Netherlands many years after his reign. Situated in Noordeinde, the most prestigious locale in The Hague, Hendrik transformed the Oude Hof (formerly a guesthouse, now the main residence of the stadtholder) into a French style palatial residence along with gardens arranged in the French formal style.

Plate 7: Oude Hof (now Noordeinde Palace), artist unknown, c.1780

In the seventeenth century, “geometric layouts—defined as formal or Baroque gardens—were designed according to exact mathematical rules and strict symmetry and planted with artificially trimmed plants and trees” with concentration on dynamic spatial features and splendour creating “theatres of the world” for the glorification of the owner and functioning as centres for hosting social activities1. A detail from a map found in the Fagel Collection indicates the ubiquitous impact of Hendrik’s enthusiasm for the French garden style, with myriad smaller obsequious homages dispersed amongst the residential vicinity of the Oude Hof (the map itself might be an exaggerated sycophantic exaltation of Hendrik’s influence).

Plate 8: Fagel Portfolio 14 no.15; Detail from Street Plan of The Hague, 1745

As a matter of course the Fagels would have had a vested interest in mirroring the taste of their stadtholder, indeed they took up residence mere steps from the Oude Hof by purchasing parcels of real estate in the Noordeinde and then acquiring neighbouring houses and gardens which evolved into a substantial house that incorporated two garden wings connecting to a garden pavilion much in the manner of its larger palatial neighbour. One of these garden wings connected to a long single-storey gallery that led to the pavilion and ran the entire length of the garden within which would appear to be a prime location to house the family library (Plate 9). Directly adjacent to the Fagel gardens and pavilion is the similarly arranged but much more ornate and larger garden of the Oude Hof laid out in the French style of fashionable geometric formations. Notably, the Fagel family were given exclusive private access from their garden to the stadtholders garden by means of a specially constructed bridge over the boundary canal that when considered spatially through the “archaeology of the gaze” speaks to the power and privilege attendant in the idea of garden and house combined (Plate 10).

“This architectural notion of place is immediately linked, in the seventeenth century, to the sociocultural understanding of the term: a place is distinguished by the privileges attributed to the various uses it is intended for”2. So, here the garden is pivotal in being both a social and political space that literally and emphatically connects the Fagels to the stadtholder.

Plate 11: Fagel Portfolio 14 no.15 Detail from Street Plan of The Hague, 1745 indicating approximate location of Fagel House, Marot House and Oude Hof.

The Fagel house has been associated with the French designer and architect Daniel Marot (1659-1746) who lived just steps away from the Fagels at 164 Noordeinde. There has been much discourse amongst architectural historians as to what sections of the house were designed by him and whilst it has been universally accepted that he designed the pavilion it might be suggested that in part due to his close association with garden design, he also created the Fagel gardens. As seen from the plans, whoever drew them spent a lot of attention on the garden; it is considerably longer than the house and much more symmetrical with four parterres separated by an avenue indicating a similar hierarchy of space was given to the garden and the pavilion within which the Fagels both stored and exhibited their library. It is known that Marot designed interiors as seen at Het Loo (another stadtholder’s residence and given the sobriquet Versailles of the North) (Plate 12) but he designed gardens there also, (Plate 13) collaborating with Claude Desgots (1658-1732) the heir to le Nôtre; Desgots intriguingly had in the past made some minor adjustments to the gardens at Clagny. By its topographical association to Versailles, the totality of the house and gardens of Clagny was a diminutive but specific geographic space transubstantiated into the body of the monarch. The Fagels, by closely associating their home and gardens to the source of political power, might speak to a similar objective. It might be suggested that this small book influenced the very building wherein it was deposited and this symbiotic connection between book and building supports the conjectural interpretation in relation to how the Fagels both employed and exhibited their library, as a repository of knowledge and as a physical structure through which to display their own political power and influence.

The Fagel family home: this video, and the rest of the series, can be found on the Fagel website
  1. Bezemer Sellers, Vanessa. Gardens of Western Europe, 1600–1800. Metmuseum.Org, 2021.
  2. Marin, Louis, and Anna Lehman. “Classical, Baroque: Versailles, or the Architecture of the Prince”. Yale French Studies 80, no. 1 (1991): p.170.