Thursday, 13 November 2014

Queen's Dairy, Rambouillet

Louis XVI had a dairy built for the Queen in 1786-1787 at Rambouillet the estate he had bought in 1783 to indulge his love of hunting. It seems Marie Antoinette was no so enamored with the estate so the king asked architect Jean Theniven to build the dairy as a surprise for her.

The entrance is flanked by two round pavilions that resemble dovecotes with brickwork window surrounds and piers. The left hand pavilion was used for resting and entertaining, whilst the one on the right with its adjoining buildings was used as the working dairy, where milk was prepared for turning into butter, cream and cheese.

The central pavilion of the ornamental dairy, reminiscent of a Greek temple, was where visitors sampled the produce. The pediment contains a medallion representing a cow suckling its calf, the emblem for the dairy sculpted by Pierre Julien.

The first room, lit from above is the rotunda covered with a ceiling with rosettes carved in oak leaves and acorns, a reference to the surrounding forest. Against the sandstone walls marble tables mounted on consoles were used to lay out the Sevres tableware used for serving milk and the other dairy products. 

The second room, the 'cooling chamber' is an extraordinary surprise, at the far end of the rectangular room is  a grotto with a chaotic tumble of artificial rocks, in the midst of which is the sculpture, The Nymph Amaltheus and her Goat,by Julien. The Nymph's feet used to be washed by water flowing from the springs while fine jets of water sprayed from either side of the grotto used to cool the bowls of water.