VILLANDRY, ALL THE ART OF THE GARDEN IN THE SPIRIT OF THE RENAISSANCE
The existence of a garden at the foot of the Château de Villandry has been attested since Jean Breton, Minister of François I, had an estate built during the Renaissance, inspired by Italian villas. Over the centuries and with the changes of owners, the garden experienced a succession of genres until the beginning of the 20th century, when Joachim Carvallo, undertook to restore stylistic harmony between the Renaissance castle and the garden. A large-scale project is underway.
The return of architecture to the garden
When Joachim Carvallo acquired the Domaine de Villandry, the surroundings of the chateau became an English park, full of hollows, curves and tall trees. The new owner hardly appreciates this type of garden, so a redevelopment in the spirit of the Renaissance which will have the virtue of restoring harmony of style with the castle is decided. Observation of the terrain reveals that despite the successive rearrangements, the imprint of the arrangements made during the Renaissance is still noticeable. The most significant element is the leveling in different terraces. This treatment of the land is borrowed from Italian villas built from 1450 onwards, which breaks with the medieval hortus conclusus horizontal of often modest proportions. During the Renaissance, the garden experienced an outward movement; it acquires verticality thanks to an organization of the plans according to the principles of perspective which is accompanied by an increase in its surface. Architecture invites itself into the garden and imposes the need for a sensitive materialization of the structure; the trellis takes on a new dimension to build galleries that highlight the contours and paths of the garden; stone ramps guide the eye and stairs link the different terraces. The garden of Villandry, picturesque in the 19th century, is once again a garden which obeys the laws of architecture nearly five centuries after its creation.
The decor of the locus amoenus
The Renaissance garden is inspired by ancient culture which considered the garden to be a delectable place (locus amoenus). The notion of locus amoenus is codified by classical poets and must meet seven criteria: flowers, plants, trees, fruits, streams, shade and gentle breeze.
In Villandry, flowers, plants and fruit trees are displayed in the various gardens – Ornamental Gardens, Vegetable Garden, Jardin des Simples – which are organized in flowerbeds with geometric patterns also known as « parquet floors » as recorded in the works. of the Renaissance such as The Most Beautiful Buildings of France by Jacques I Androuet du Cerceau, the Monasticon Gallicanum, Agriculture and Rustic House (Paris, 1567), the second edition of Charles Estienne’s treatise, translated and augmented by a few plates by parterres à interlacs by Jean Liébault, and the Theater of agriculture and mesnage des champs by Olivier de Serres (Paris, 1600). Villandry’s motifs are not simple reproductions; it is an interpretation based on scientific documentation that results in a renewal of motifs through the intervention of Andalusian inspiration, echoing the Spanish origins of the Carvallo family.
The trees are either aligned along the paths, or constitute the wood which overhangs the field.
To liven up the garden, ponds are placed at the intersections of the paths to mark the crossing. Here no fountains with monumental decor, but sober rectangular or quadrilobed basins. Niches, resembling caves, hosting fountains, are added to the decor elements. The waterfall, with « natural » accents in the old English garden, is structured and structured like a water staircase; it is followed by a canal which flows into the moat.
Arbors and pergolas, inherited from the medieval garden and taken over by the Renaissance garden, on which climbing roses and vines are popular, complete the ornamentation; trees and trellis architecture shade the course of the promenade; water in its various forms brings freshness.
As for the breeze, it must blow in Villandry, because during the Renaissance, three criteria govern the choice of land to build a castle and its garden: a slope, a stream and a gentle wind to chase away the stale air.
Thus, by returning to Villandry a garden in the style of Renaissance gardens, Joachim Carvallo revived the project of Jean Le Breton and the humanist spirit that animated the builders of the Loire châteaux in the 16th century.