TWENTY YEARS OF PASSION
Château du Champ de Bataille
Photography by Eric Sander
400 pages • 450 colour illustrations
This book is certainly one that tells the story of Jacques Garcia‘s passion and dedication to bring this beautiful château back to life. He was first taken to see it at the age of twelve by his father and in 1992 when he learnt that it was for sale he seized the opportunity to acquire it.
One of the château‘s highly innovative central pavilions. The pediment is carved with a military trophy. On the upper floor, superimposed windows reveal the former salon à l’italienne within, as later found at Vaux-le-Vicomte. The balcony and its four columns were added by the Duke of Beuvron in the eighteenth century.
He discovered the building in a dilapidated state but over the last two decades has bought the 17th and late 18th century elements of the building back to life.
In the drawing room, Garcia sought to evoke the sentiment conveyed in Talleyrand’s famous words: “No one who did not live through the last years of the Ancien Régime can ever know how sweet life can be.” Contrary to popular belief, aristocratic salons of that era were crowded with objects and furniture. The wealthier the owner the more valuable these would be. Here the seating, ornaments, Sèvres vases, carpet, guéridons, small tables, paintings, and musical instruments form a lavish setting characteristic of the closing years of the Ancien Régime.
His skill and fame as an interior decorator is justly deserved and is very well displayed in the ravishing rooms of Château du Champ de Bataille. Furnishing the interiors with French royal furniture, Sèvres porcelain, including an armorial service made for an English family, silver, diverse works of art, sculpture and paintings.
In the great vestibule, now the formal dining room, the table is laid with eighteenth-century silver. A centerpiece by Henry Auguste, dated 1789, was dispatched to Russia in 1790.
Each piece of the Sèvres service has a midnight-blue background and is decorated with birds from François Nicolas Martinet’s illustrations for Buffon’s Natural History of Birds. Each dish is framed with a thick band of gilding and floral motifs, in addition to the owner’s arms. The birds pictured are identified on the back of each piece. The service features 435 species, including the Louisiana starling, Italian solitary blackbird, Cayenne oriole, and long-tailed Senegal turtledove. Other marks indicate the year of production: 1792 or 1793.
There is even a quirky cabinet of curiosities that evokes 19th century excess and there is a chapel that pays homage to the one at Versailles.
Garcia’s cabinet of curiosities is likely influenced—at least in part—by a childhood spent roaming the Bourbon countryside with his grandfather Joseph, chasing butterflies and other insects, and collecting flowers and leaves. Garcia’s profound love of nature stems from his country upbringing; this spirit runs through the rooms, galleries, and staircases at Champ de Bataille.
But he did not just bring the house to life, he was also active in the creation of the gardens which are a beguiling mix of formality and fantasy, “peopled” with pavilions.
Garcia traveled to India every year for two decades, combing bazaars, meeting antique dealers, and bringing back wonderful creations. At once intimate and majestic, the Mogul Pavilion is the happy result. Every detail is authentic.
The chateau has become a popular attraction and one of the joys of this superbly illustrated book is that one is taken into areas not normally seen, such as the bedrooms.
The Apollo Salon. In this room, Garcia’s deep attachment to the seventeenth century is expressed through the spirit of two figures whose contribution to the decorative arts he holds in particular esteem: Cardinal Mazarin and Madame de Montespan. These two individuals cultivated their extravagant tastes in their respective residences: the Palais Royal and the Château de Clagny. Sharing her drawing room with a polar bear seemed the most natural thing in the world to Madame de Montespan. Mazarin, meanwhile, is said to have uttered his last words (“To think that I must leave all this…”) while being carried through his richly decorated home in a sedan chair. Ten years of work and the tireless quest for exceptional pieces enabled Garcia to recreate an authentic, classical-inspired decorative folly characteristic of the Grand Siècle.
This is a book with a very wide appeal to lovers of historic buildings, gardens and most of all the fine and decorative arts of France. It is one book that all should have as it will bring great pleasure every time one looks through it. We owe Jacques Garcia a debt of gratitude for his passion and energy in achieving this miracle.
The great vista of the grand axis encompasses the full scope of the gardens, with the measured classicism of the central perspective flanked by secret follies on either side.
The first of the great water features at Champ de Bataille, this fountain is embellished with a sphere that is a masterpiece of wrought ironwork. The gilded dolphins surrounding it correspond to the third stage in the garden’s symbolic program: the animal realm