An English garden: the Malmaison estate

An English garden: the Malmaison estate

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Title: The Temple of Love

Author : GARNERAY Louis (1783 - 1857)

Dimensions: Height 16.3 cm - Width 24.3 cm

Technique and other indications: Watercolor

Storage place: National Museum of Malmaison Castle website

Contact copyright: RMN-Grand Palais (museum of the castles of Malmaison and Bois-Préau) / Daniel Arnaudet / Jean Schormans

Picture reference: 82-000512 / M.M.40.47.7155

© RMN-Grand Palais (museum of the castles of Malmaison and Bois-Préau) / Daniel Arnaudet / Jean Schormans

Publication date: April 2017

University of Evry-Val d'Essonne

Historical context

The Empress's Estate

This watercolor entitled "The Temple of Love" is part of a series of twelve representations of the Malmaison estate. The author's signature is present on the lower left, on the reverse of a stone: "Aug [us] te Garnerey". Professor of painting, he was also the master of Hortense de Beauharnais (1783-1837), daughter of Joséphine de Beauharnais (1763-1814), future wife of Napoleon Bonaparte (1796) and Empress of the French (1804-1809).

> Garneray is the representative of the troubadour style which consists of mixing several arts in order to recreate the historical atmosphere of the medieval and modern periods. The order was probably placed directly by Joséphine, shortly before her repudiation by Napoleon Ier who remarried in 1810 to Marie-Louise of Austria (1791-1847). They returned to the castle in the 1930s, following a donation from the David-Weill family.

Image Analysis

English nature

Undated, this watercolor is necessarily after the year 1807 which corresponds to the date of construction of the Temple of Love. This representation provides an inventory of the estate after numerous adjustments made under the authority of Joséphine. Passionate about roses, she gave in to the fashion of the English style which developed at the turn of the 18th century.e and XIXe centuries. This style is in contrast to French gardens marked by a strict geometry of their forms and the desire to rule nature. This watercolor displays a multitude of species of trees and flowers, such as the gigantic rhododendron that the artist voluntarily places at the center of his composition. The scene is dehumanized, but not for all that inanimate. Small waterfalls, swans and ducks contribute to the liveliness and tranquility of the place.

Garneray's painting suggests that nature is the mistress of the place. Watercolors and touches of pastel-hued color help demonstrate an untamed and exuberant nature. The garden does not guide the visitor's gaze from a predefined perspective, but on the contrary the gaze is seduced by the variety of forms exhibited, even if the English garden is also the subject of long preparatory work and an abstract construction. .


An overflowing nature

The framing that deliberately shifts the temple to the left of the stage is an additional step by the artist to focus his message on nature, the river, the trees and the animals. This approach therefore contributes to the symbolism of English gardens, which combine beautiful shapes and overflowing nature. The general mood also echoes the early period of Romanticism which is precisely opposed to Classicism and the principles of overly assertive rationality.

The Temple of Love was built on the plans of the architect Louis-Marin Berthault (1770-1823), official architect of the Malmaison from September 1805. He participated in several redevelopments in the park, including the layout of this river that opens onto an idyllic landscape. The six marble columns with Ionic capitals also appear in the background behind the branches of a tree. The statue of Love by sculptor Jean-Pierre-Antoine Tassaert (1727-1788) is only suggested between the columns, as if to reject any representation relating to Man. Finally, two vases filled with flowers frame the steps of the temple, which is reminiscent of the model of the Temple of Love in the gardens of the Petit-Trianon in Versailles.

  • garden
  • Beauharnais (Joséphine de)
  • nature


English gardens, London, Phaidon, 2009.

Josephine empress of fashion, Paris, Meeting of National Museums, 2007.

Philippe PREVÔT, History of the gardens, Paris, Ulmer, 2016.

To cite this article

Stéphane BLOND, "An English garden: the Malmaison estate"