Désert de Retz, Chambourcy. July 2012
The Désert de Retz is the best surviving example of the eighteenth-century Jardin pittoresque, or folly garden, and was designed and constructed between 1774 and 1789 by a wealthy aristocrat, François Racine de Monville.

Located on the edge of the Forêt de Marly in the community of Chambourcy, approximately 20 kilometers west of Paris [geographical coordinates Lat: 48°53'22"N Lon: 2°1'4"E], the Désert de Retz originally extended over forty hectares and contained a botanical garden including rare and exotic varieties of trees, ornamental plants and flowers that Monville imported from around the world; a kitchen garden, and a dairy farm. In addition, Monville constructed seventeen structures known as follies or fabriques.

Reflecting the 18th century interest in antiquity, these included an ice-house in the form of a pyramid, an Egyptian obelisk, and a temple dedicated to the Greek god Pan. The hightened interest in the contemporary civilizations of the Orient led Monville to construct a Chinese house (the first in Europe). A Tartar tent on an Island of Happiness invited visitors to investigate then-unknown civilizations and cultures.

The most remarkable of the fabriques, however, was Monsieur de Monville's Column House, also known as the Broken Column.

It was a false ruin 50 feet high in the shape of a truncated section of a gigantic Tuscan column, evoking the glories of ancient Rome.

For more information about the Désert de Retz, visit the Racine de Monville Home Page www.desertderetz.info

Paris, July 6, 2012
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