A Pair of Topographical Portraits of the Pavillion and Village of Vaux-Sur-Seine, Painted for Jacques Fayolle, Ingenieur du Roi, by Pierre-Denis Martin. The House Almost Certainly Designed by Robert de Cotte (1717-1734).
Also Known Latterly as the Pavillion D’Artois Brother of Louis XVI XVI, Charles-Phillipe, Comte D’Artois, Later Charles X.
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These paintings present a unique portrait of a gentleman’s house of a middle size, described in the 1746 Acte de Venteas a maison bougoise. This prosaic description belies its importance. The 1726 Acte de Vente[i]describes a much older house with a courtyard in front on the road side, La Route Basse de Paris à Paris, otherwise known locally at the time as the Rue Royale. The original house is described as having a tower and a lower courtyard enclosing a garden. It would appear to have been set further back from the new house and with a fountain in front. The whole garden was enclosed by a hedge.
The two wings either side of the gate date from the second half of the 17th. Century; the descriptions in 1726 corresponding almost exactly with those in the 1746 Act of Sale. (See list of Owners and Leaseholders below.) The monogram above the gate also predates the first, so far, discovered Acte de Vente between the painter Hyacinthe Rigaud and Louis Hébert de Saint Gervais in 1704.
The attribution of the building to Robert de Cotte is obviously based on the working relationship between Jacques Fayolle and Daniel Charles Trudaine.
[i]Archives Nationales, Paris MC/ET/CXVIII/347
A Statement of Rank
Little is known of Jacques Fayolle except that he was an écuyer ingénieur du roi, inspecteur honoraire des ponts et chaussées de France et chevalier de l’ordre de saint Michel. This immediately places him within the ranks of the nobility and, as such, he would have been entitled to hunt, a privilege enshrined in the Grands Ordonance des Eaux et Fôrets 1516, François I, and 1669, Louis XIV, which were, if anything even stricter. By painting a hunting carriage about to enter the front courtyard, Fayolle is making a statement of rank.
This was not something open to the previous owner, Antoine de Rey de Soupa though he claimed to be un écuyeras secrétaire de commandement du feu Madame la duchesse de Berry, the secretary of the late Duchesse de Berry. This lady was the daughter of the Duc d’Orléans and wife of the third son of the Grand Dauphin. In 1711, the succession seem to be assured; he had a son and heir, the Duke de Bourgogne, who had two small sons. In 1711, the Dauphin fell ill with smallpox and died; then in February 1712 an epidemic of measles carried off the Duke and the Duchesse de Bourgogne and their eldest son. The younger son (later Louis XV) was delicate and not expected to live. This left the Duke de Berry, not particularly intelligent, but he was fit and an exceptional horseman. His wife though was thoroughly dissolute and lost all the children she carried at birth or shortly afterwards. Nevertheless the households of the Duke and Duchesse de Berri were the most important after that of the King. In 1714, however, the Duke had a serious accident while out hunting and died, followed a few weeks later by another dead baby for the Duchess. In 1715 the King died The Duchess was now unimportant even as daughter of her father the Regent of France. She was a disgrace because of her debauchery and died in July 1719. Antoine De Rey de Soupa was out of a job and settled into life at his small estate at Vaux.
He immediately got a reputation for himself as a violent and arrogant man. He encroached on the land of his neighbours and in the case of the meadow at the bottom of his garden along the shores of the River Seine, he dug a ditch and filled it with stones. When the owner, Sebastien Damville objected, he laid into him with such force that he feared for his life.[i]When the case came to court, he tried to stop the case by invoking noble privilege as a noble . In fact his post within the Duchesse de Berri’s household did not give him the right to style himself as an écuyer. His position was further compromised when it emerged that he had styled himself as a bourgeoisin order to avoid paying tax on the property he bought from Hyacinthe Rigaud[ii]. He and his wife, equally repulsive, though genuinely of very high Italian noble birth, were imprisoned in the Château de Vaux whose two round towers can be seen to the top left-hand side of the Pavillon de Vaux from the garden side. One tower was known as theTour des Hommesand the other as the Tour des Femmes.[iii]Damville’s rightful boundary was restored. De Rey de Soupa’s wealth was severely compromised and he sold up, though he retained some land at Vaux until he died at his house in Paris, Saint Germain de l’Auxerois after he sold the Pavillon to Jacques Fayolle in 1726, probably ten years later.
Fayolle’s intentions to rebuild are expressed in the 1726 Acte de Vente. He builds a very elegant house with a beautiful garden. The incomplete wall close to the river is, perhaps a reference to Damville’s boundary and the preservation of his rights of property.
Fayolle himself carried on a protracted case against his neighbour, a Monsieur Rondelle. He too tried to stop Rondelle pursuing the case of encroachment on his property by invoking rights of nobility. The judge threw it out and Fayolle gave in but not after appealing it to a another court.[iv]
[i]De Rey de Soupa even tricked his soldier son into returning by promising him a 40,000 livres settlement for his marriage. The son who detested his parents was nearly implicated in an assassination attempt on Dampier. He made good his escape but was re-instated and exonerated.
[ii]All the sales of the Pavillon de Vaux are described as of property en révole. This meant that the freehold of the land was a fief of the Seigneur de Vaux, Ballard de Losière and conferred no rights of nobility. A nominal ground rent was also payable to the Seigneur each year.
[iii]A full account of this case and of his character is given by Louis Mannory (1703-1769) in Vexations Odieuses, Vol. 12, pp. 65-75.
[iv]He invoked his rights as a commitimus. This allowed the commensaux to have any civil suit in which they were plaintiffs or defendants tried before the Prévôté de l'Hôtel, a special court attached to the king's household with jurisdiction within a circle of 10 leagues around the king's court (wherever that might be located), instead of the normal courts. These privileges lasted only as long as the position was held and were neither lifelong nor inheritablebut were attached to certain offices of the Crown.
ROBERT DE COTTE (1717-1734)
The architectural style of this building is very much in the manner of Robert de Cotte, the pupil and, later brother-in-law of Jules Hardouin-Mansart. It is very much a house of a middle size and could easily be transported to Paris as a townhouse, as the drawings below show. De Cotte had also studied garden design under the great André Le Notre and his drawings often combine floor plans with gardens. The Pavillon de Vaux was built between 1726 and 1730.
The Pavillon was almost certainly built as a small hunting lodge or ‘maison de plaissance’ which was not unusual at that date. Louis XIII himself had the architect Philibert Leroy build him a small château de chasse at nearby Versailles[i]. A good deal of the area to the west and south of Paris was wooded and a favourite hunting ground for stags as well as shooting for pheasants. Hunting was exclusively the privilege of the nobility. The Grand Ordonance des Eaux et Foretsdecreed by Francois I in 1516 was restated even more strictly by Louis XIV in 1669.
This building of a myriad number of small châteaux and hunting lodges with small domains was to increase exponentially during the reign of Louis XIV. By keeping the whole of the nobility under his watchful eye at Versailles, he deprived them of meaningful power to such an extent that banishment to their estates in the country, often many miles from the pleasures of Paris and political influence at Court, was considered a disgrâce. Being close to the person of the King was essential and an invitation to hunt with him a signal mark of favour.
Nancy Mitford describes the Île de France as
‘like an enormous park or garden, containing thousands of glorious houses; rural France was a desert. …Most of the great nobles were total absentees from their estates; they revolved around the Court, with a town house in Paris, a country villa within easy reach of Versailles and, if they were lucky a flat in the Palace itself.’[ii]
Louis XV continued his Great Grandfather’s policy when the duc d’Orléans brought him back to Versailles. The court, of course, went with him. Like Louis XIV he moved around his various châteaux in the Île de France and, from 1722 commissioned a series of paintings of them, many from Pierre-Denis Martin.[iii]He was exceedingly fond of hunting and would often visit the houses of the nobility.
The Pavillon de Vaux, as it is presented to us in the paintings by P-D Martin, shows us just such a house.
On the garden side a considerable amount of attention has been paid to the layout of the formal garden which follows the tradition of Le Notre[iv] It continued to be very fashionable and are described in great detail by Antoine-Josephe Dézallier d’Argenville (1680-1765) in his book, La Théorie et la Pratique du Jardinage, Paris 1709. The elaborate ‘broderies’ of flowers, box hedging and gravel are laid out close to the house with ponds and fountains adding sound to the ambience. Geometric parterres, potagers and orchards form part of the whole design which could be quite small as in his design for a 12 acre garden; ‘Un Jardin â douze Arpents.’
[i]On a much grander scale Louis XIV at Versailles did not have the heart to destroy his father’s much beloved hunting lodge and retained the brick and stone façade with the dormer windows above, though much embellished with gilded lead adornments still in place today.
[ii]Nancy Mitford: Madame de Pompadour, (Pub. Hamish Hamilton, London Revised ed. 1968), pp.11-12.
[iii]List of Royal Châteaux: Versailles, Marly, Fontainbleau, Chambourg, Meudon, Grand Trianon, Saint Germain, Vincennes, Chatelain, Madrid, Compiègne, Bercy, Rambouillet, Saint Hubert, Choisy, La Muette.
[iv]Whom Louis XIV acquired after the fall of Nicholas Fouquet, his finance minister, the builder of the Château de Vaux le Vicomte.