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Pavillon de musique du Barry

The Pavillon de Musique de la comtesse du Barry at Louveciennes.

Madame du Barry, the great love of Louis XV.

Comtesse du Barry

At the death of his wife, Queen Marie Leczynska, in 1768, Louis XV, imposed on his Court the following year his latest conquest Jeanne, who had already become the countess of Barry. She was a love-child born to a pretty seamstress Anne Bécu and, so-say, a young monk from Picpus, Jean-Jacques Gomard, "Angel". Jeanne received a refined education from the nuns that awakened her to the Fine Arts and music. Tall and elegant, this lovely blond with a clear complexion and sparkling blue eyes full of intelligence and fineness, charmed the very frivolous Jean du Barry who became her protecter and married her to his brother Guillaume to make her a Countess.

Presented to the Court, the countess of Barry is noticed by the King who fell in love with her and installed her at Versailles, assigning her a hundred servants. In 1769, Louis XV offered Jeanne the Pavillon des Eaux in Louveciennes (Luciennes at that time), built in 1702 by Arnold de Ville, engineer of the Marly Machine. Finding it a little too small for her receptions, the countess of Barry easily obtained from her madly-in-love King, the autorisation to construct a little pavillion so she could decently receive her numerous guests. The plans were entrusted to a young architect, Claude-Nicolas Ledoux.

The King followed with interest the construction, then fell ill and died the 10th May 1774. Despised by the new Queen, Marie-Antoinette, Jeanne was distanced from the Court, first at Reuil, then at the Abbey in Pont-aux-Dames near Meaux. She finally bought the Château of Saint Vrain near Montlhéry. She was authorised to return to Louveciennes in 1776 to live there in peace. Renowned for her goodness, she remains in memoirs as "the good lady of Louveciennes".

During the Revolution, she refused to leave the country. Arrested the 22nd September 1793, suspected of links with emigrants (having been to London to recuperate some stolen jewelry) she was condemned to death and beheaded, at Revolution Place on the 8th December 1793. She had been the scandal and a delight of the Court due to her beauty and generosity.

Comtesse du Barry

The Pavillon de Musique.

Comtesse du Barry

Overlooking the Seine, this jewel is the work of a 34 year old architect, Claude-Nicolas Ledoux. The foundation stone was laid in 1770, starting the fashion of music pavillions under Louis XVI. The major construction was completed in nine months by Lefaivre and Couesnon, and the sculptures were completed by Feuillet and Métivier.

The entrance front is widened by a half-moon porch, supported by four Ionic columns. On the Seine side, a large terrasse dominates the valley at 100 metres high, supported by four Doric columns.

The Pavillion is remarkable due to its ancient sobriety that came to characterise the style of Louis XVI, the beauty of the iron and bronze works of Gouthière and Devrier, and the originality of the shapes of the rooms. The Music Salon was formerly used as a dining room, and musicians played during dinner. Just as remarkable are the grey marbles, the Louis XV busts by Lemoine and those of the countess of Barry by Caffieri, and the "Crowning of Flora" painted on the ceiling by Boucher.

Comtesse du Barry

Behind the Music Salon is the richly decorated Kings Room by Guibert, which opens up onto a panorama of seventeen kilometres, dominating the Seine Saint Germain to the Eiffel Tower; in the oval Fragonard Room, the paintings that were commissioned from the famous artist were refused by Madame du Barry, as she found they highlighted her embarrassing personal situation. Today, the Room shows copies, the originals are conserved by the Frick Collection in New York. The Ledoux Room, with its particular shape, "cul-de-four", is where the famous Pavillion architect is honoured.

Splendid trees planted in an English garden, this "Temple of love" is a testimony to French good taste. The Pavillon de Musique has been compared to "a little Greek temple, transported from Ionia to Louveciennes, a summer's night on a moonbeam, it has a milky color and has been gently left on the grass at the edge of a precipice" due to its simple lines.

Voltaire, to whom the countess of Barry had sent two kisses by post, wrote her this poem in the return mail :

" What, two kisses at the end of life!
What passport you deign to send me!
Two, it's one too many, adorable muse,
I will die of pleasure with the first one! "