Pleasures and Pastimes of the Bourgeoisie


17th Century French Gardens
~ Pre -revolution

~Fashion in Les Mis

~Rise in Popularity
~Economic and Social Symbolism
~Representation in Les Mis

Gardens ~17th Century ~18th Century ~19th Century ~Versailles

Gambling ~Pre-Revolutionary ~Cafés & Cercles

Opéra & Theatre
~The Revolution
~Social Status
~Les Misérables

Etiquette ~Promenade ~Dances ~Dinner ~Casinos and Salons

Bibliography ~Fashion ~Etiquette ~Restaurants ~Opéra ~Picture Bibliography



In the 17th century French gardens were constructed in a style that emphasized the control and manipulation of nature. Garden architects attempted to create large gardens with many sections, that overall possessed a geometrical design.


Vue perspective du chateau et des jardins de Versailles, Pierre Patel, 17th century

This painting demonstrates the geometry and subordination of nature that garden architects used to construct gardens in the 17th century. This is an artist's view of Versailles, as constructed by Le Notre, a famous garden architect.


The control of nature was apparent in three very popular aspects of French gardens: aviaries, menageries and fountains. The inclusion of these aspects in private gardens was a statement of wealth, as well as an easy was to entertain guests. In the garden of Tuileries, Marie de Medici kept an aviary near the amphitheater. Here the bird's cages were covered with branches so that visitors could be entertained by the bird concert while enjoying the illusion of being in a wild forest. Since zoos were not yet a formal institution in 17th century France, many menageries contained wild and exotic animals. In the 17th century Versailles contained a menagerie so large that it included apartments and a salon in the middle where nobles could enjoy the solitude of the countryside.


Les Jardins du chateau de Peterhof, I.V. Ceskij, 1805

This painting shows an example of the extorbitant fountains that were constructed in the gardens of nobles during the 17th century. To learn more about Versailles, a famous royal garden, please go to the following link: Versailles


Another very important aspect of French gardens was water. The theory of the French garden was the formal subordination of nature to reason and order with a simultaneous romantic awareness of nature's freedom. Water was the perfect metaphor for this practice. Architects could alter the flow of water and could manipulate it in the form of fountains and pools, however, water always maintained a certain level of freedom with the light and images it reflected. These reflections also played into the idea of French gardens as a step out of reality and into an almost dream-like atmosphere. Water was also important because it was another display of wealth, as pumping devices and construction of fountains were costly endeavors. In August of 1668 the Grand Fete was presented over a number of days in the garden of Versailles. Daily water displays consumed more water per day than the pumps of Samaritaine delivered to the entire population of Paris, approximately 600,000 people.

However, in the next century, the style of French gardens began to change towards a freer, more natural view. To learn more about 18th century gardens please go to the following link: 18th century gardens


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