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28 May 2009

The Empire Strikes Back - chateau de Compiègne

Part of my delving into le style Castaing is to better understand what inspired and influenced her. MC greatly admired the taste of Napoleon's consort Josephine, and so a closer look at the various residences of the Imperatrice is on my to-do list. This trip I visited the imperial palace of Compiègne, an easy 40 minute train ride outside of Paris, which conserves historic interiors from Louis XVI through Napoleon III.

Few traces remain of the ancien régime. Louis XV engaged the architect Gabriel (of the Petit Trianon) to enlarge the modest hunting lodge into a grand chateau. He died before his plans were realized, and it was under Louis XVI that it was completed.

A detail of the silk hangings and folding screen by the firm of Pernon in Marie-Antoinette's Game Room

When Marie Antoinette arrived in France for her marriage to Louis XVI, it was to Compiègne that she was delivered.

After Napoleon was crowned emperor in 1804 and all the royal palaces became his property, he decided to revamp Compiègne with the help of Berthaut, who had collaborated on Josephine's Malmaison and who had trained with Percier and Fontaine. Ultimately, Fontaine was called in to supervise.

When starting the tour, one ascends a grand staircase (top photo) which originally led to the Queen's (i.e. Marie Antoinette) apartment, which was transformed during the first Empire into one for visiting sovereigns. It was the most opulent of all the suites in the palace. At the top, a classical sculpture stands atop the most marvelous stove.

Napoleon and Josephine each had their own apartment which were renovated and furnished between 1807-1809. The Emperor's included this opulent bedroom

detail of star embroidered bed hangings

which became a trademark of the 1930s Vogue Regency as seen in the London sitting room of architect H.S. Goodhart-Rendel

and the library, perhaps the most important room to Napoleon, seen here in the early 20th century before it was restored


and today

But it's really Josephine's apartment where all the action is. Ironically, she never inhabitated it as she was already repudiated by Napoleon (for being barren) by the time of completion. However, she was an active participant in their design....

Her dining room with faux antique marble walls
to my mind proves that leopard was, is and always will be timeless. I wonder if Madeleine saw a period use of leopard-print carpet before using it herself:

The Flower Room, used as a salon for playing games, with the most delectable painted botanical panels of Liliaceae delivered by Etienne Dubois.

The boudoir-bathroom
whose blanc-de-blanc decor was a refreshing antidote to the sumptuous crimson hangings of her bedroom. Josephine had various shawls affixed to the cornice, which were removed before her successor arrived.

In 1809, Napoleon married the Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria who arrived at Compiègne in late July. The Petit Salon was fitted especially for her with blue moire upholstery as a reception room in 1812.

From 1812 to 1814, refurbishment slowed as the treasury was being drained for all the wars France was fighting. In 1815, Napoleon was defeated at the battle of Waterloo and spent the remainder of his life on the island of St Helena. Compiègne was used by the Bourbon kings of France and was eventually turned into a museum in the early 20th century. Click here to read more.

16 comments:

Blue said...

This is totally fascinating and makes me look forward to your book even more. Did you see the article WOI September 2004 about Castaing?

Lynne Rutter said...

can you hear me squealing?
are photos allowed there? i may be making a trip next spring.

Toby Worthington said...

Wonderful.
Compiegne's just plain delicious,isn't it? Those painted panels in The Flower Room just knock me out.
So unexpected in a room where the prevailing scheme is grisaille and gold. But wait a moment, is that a leopard pattern on the floor of the Dining Room? Oh dear. No longer chic, I'm afraid. At least, that is what
we've been told...

Anonymous said...

TO COOL FOR SCHOOL!
The Dining Room and the White Room are over 100 yrs ahead of their time......

Thank you!!!

Karena said...

Gorgeous! Emily, have you read the trilogy of Josephine B ? It is absolutely fascinating.

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Blue, yes, that WoI article is wonderful with some of the best photos of Leves ever.... Lynne, you are able to take photos to your heart's content - in fact my friend was taking so many, the guards took her into Josephine's boudoir which was closed to the public at the time!... EEE

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Mr. Worthington, I hope leopard isn't passe, as I just upholstered a slipper chair in it! My position is that even something timeless can become trendy and oversaturated, but if you don't care about being in or out (or even ahead) of fashion, then the classics - such as any animal print - will always be in good taste. EEE

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Karena - no, I must look up the trilogy post-haste! Thank you! EEE

Anonymous said...

Love this - and adore the title of the post as well - last time I was in Paris I made the journey to Malmaison - (my friend and I had the entire place to ourselves that day) you have inspired me to visit Compiegne next. KDM

Ivory Pearl Interiors said...

I've never visited Compiegne but next time I go to paris, I'll make time.

home before dark said...

Count me in for leopard. I've carpeted my study, and a small library, and plant to carpet my entire house in it. It is a classic. It makes me smile. My friends are a bit in shock, talking about resale etc. I say go with your heart. At almost 60, I'm too old for beige.

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Home Before Dark, I like how you roll! More is more, in my book! EEE

Rose C'est La Vie said...

Sumptuous, thank you. In your research have you
visited the British Embassy in the rue Faubourg St Honoré? The Hôtel de Charost originally belonged to Napoleon's sister Pauline, bought by Wellington as an embassy in 1814. It is still fabulous, beautifully restored.

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Rose, NO! I have only seen it in photos and have longed to visit. Pauline was really a pistol, wasn't she - Canova's famous portrait of her at the Villa Borghese is one of my very favorite sculptures...

Rose C'est La Vie said...

If you are returning to Paris, I could possibly effect an introduction to the Embassy.. not promising, but I imagine they'd be delighted to see you!

Anonymous said...

love that animal carpet.. a classic ...and always chic no matter what!!!