Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson's cabinet de curiosités, assembled in the 1730s and arranged within several rooms of the collector's Parisian town house, is perhaps the single best-documented eighteenth-century example of its type.1 Its contents and decor were recorded in a series of architectural drawings and sale catalogues, and the hôtel particulier and garden were depicted on the so-called Plan de Turgot of 1739.2 Accordingly, much has been written on the collection by historians of art, architecture, urbanism, science, and technology.3 Yet previous analyses of Bonnier's collections and patronage have not fully considered the visual and conceptual role of the garden planted outside his house. This essay examines this seemingly familiar cabinet in relation to the parterre de broderie, or embroidery parterre, planted just outside its windows. While the garden was conventionally treated as built space in European architectural theory and practice, the parterre was by the early eighteenth century understood to be simultaneously three-dimensional and two-dimensional—it occupied space, but its patterned design was best seen on a flat plane, like an image.4 Beyond comparisons to painting and drawing, the garden parterre was further analogized in early eighteenth-century naturalist discourse as a pictorial model for arranging natural specimens. As both physical site and mechanism for ordering abstract thought, the garden parterre manifested early eighteenth-century patterns for thinking visually about the natural world.

Bonnier's multiroom curiosity cabinet was located behind the second-floor garden façade of the Hôtel de Lude on the rue Saint-Dominique in the rapidly developing faubourg Saint-Germain. Originally designed by Robert de Cotte in 1710, the garden elevation and plan of the rez-de-chaussée were published in Jacques-François Blondel's Architecture françoise (1752–56), which described in detail significant residences in and around Paris (Figures 1 and 2).5 Much is known about the Hôtel de Lude despite its destruction in 1861, when the boulevard Saint-Germain was cut through the faubourg. Bonnier's curiosity collection, dispersed through public auction after his death in 1744, was similarly well documented in a series of eight pen-and-ink elevation drawings made in 1739–40 by the architect Jean-Baptiste Courtonne after the collection's installation in Bonnier's house (Figure 3). Courtonne specialized in architectural records of this type, rendered after the construction of a building or the decoration of an interior.6 In each of his eight elevations—one for every room in the cabinet except the anatomy room—Courtonne illustrated in scrupulous detail the collection's contents and arrangement. This visual information is extraordinarily precise for an early eighteenth-century ensemble; however, there is a dearth of information about the architect, designers, and cabinetmakers who participated in the renovation of the Hôtel de Lude after Bonnier inherited it in 1726.7

Figure 1

Robert de Cotte, garden façade of the Hôtel de Lude on the rue Saint-Dominique, Paris, 1710 (Jacques-François Blondel, Architecture françoise, ou recueil des plans, élévations, coupes, et profils … [Paris, 1752–56], 1:no. XVIII, plate 3 (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

Figure 1

Robert de Cotte, garden façade of the Hôtel de Lude on the rue Saint-Dominique, Paris, 1710 (Jacques-François Blondel, Architecture françoise, ou recueil des plans, élévations, coupes, et profils … [Paris, 1752–56], 1:no. XVIII, plate 3 (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

Figure 2

Robert de Cotte, plan of the rez-de-chaussée of the Hôtel de Lude on the rue Saint-Dominique, Paris, 1710 (Jacques-François Blondel, Architecture françoise, ou recueil des plans, élévations, coupes, et profils … [Paris, 1752–56], 1:no. XVIII, plate 1 (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

Figure 2

Robert de Cotte, plan of the rez-de-chaussée of the Hôtel de Lude on the rue Saint-Dominique, Paris, 1710 (Jacques-François Blondel, Architecture françoise, ou recueil des plans, élévations, coupes, et profils … [Paris, 1752–56], 1:no. XVIII, plate 1 (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

Figure 3

Jean-Baptiste Courtonne, Cabinet de Bonnier de la Mosson, 1739–40, plate VII (OA 720, Collections Jacques Doucet, Bibliothèque de l'Institut National de l'Histoire de l'Art, Paris).

Figure 3

Jean-Baptiste Courtonne, Cabinet de Bonnier de la Mosson, 1739–40, plate VII (OA 720, Collections Jacques Doucet, Bibliothèque de l'Institut National de l'Histoire de l'Art, Paris).

The Hôtel de Lude and its garden were also pictured on the Plan de Turgot, a bird's-eye view of Paris begun by the draftsman Louis Bretez in the mid-1730s and published in 1739 (Figure 4).8 Bretez was granted privileged access to visit and record the plans of royal and ecclesiastical buildings in the capital, as well as private residences and gardens there. The Plan de Turgot thus reveals numerous small formal gardens around the city and indicates with relative accuracy the scale and design of Bonnier's parterre. By the eighteenth century, parterres, ornamental gardens composed of low hedges and flowers, were associated with the designs of Louis XIV's gardener André Le Nôtre.9 Although realized on the grandest scale at Versailles, parterres had long been planted and were introduced into French garden theory by the generation preceding Le Nôtre, notably by Jacques Boyceau de la Barauderie.10

Figure 4

Louis Bretez, Plan de Paris (also known as the Plan de Turgot), 1734–39, detail of the faubourg Saint-Germain in Paris (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

Figure 4

Louis Bretez, Plan de Paris (also known as the Plan de Turgot), 1734–39, detail of the faubourg Saint-Germain in Paris (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

Curious Painting

Thinking spatially about Bonnier's long-dismantled and demolished cabinet reveals how decorative elements linked the collection's contents to the tools and practices of France's most prominent naturalists. Period graphic materials—interior elevations of the rooms, Blondel's plan of the hôtel, the Plan de Turgot—and modern isometric renderings show that the cabinet was divided into distinct, contiguous rooms arranged according to then-conventional scientific categories: a chemical laboratory, a pharmacy, a drug cabinet, a cabinet of tools for ornamental wood turning, two natural history cabinets, a cabinet of mechanical and physical sciences, and a library (Figure 5).11 Among other things, the rooms housed shells; botanical and animal specimens; mechanical devices; books on natural history, herbs, and flowers; and four paintings executed in 1734 by Jacques de Lajoue (Figures 69). Lajoue's paintings depict a cabinet of natural sciences, a cabinet of mechanical and physical sciences, a garden (this painting is now lost, but it is known from Courtonne's drawing), and a library. According to Courtonne's renderings, the four paintings hung as two sets of overdoor pendants in separate rooms—the first pair in the cabinet of dried specimens and insects, and the second in the library.

Figure 5

Detail of the Hôtel de Lude, Paris, from the Plan de Turgot alongside an isometric rendering of Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson's curiosity cabinet on the premier étage of the Hôtel de Lude, using Jean-Baptiste Courtonne's eight elevations (rendering by Julie Sears).

Figure 5

Detail of the Hôtel de Lude, Paris, from the Plan de Turgot alongside an isometric rendering of Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson's curiosity cabinet on the premier étage of the Hôtel de Lude, using Jean-Baptiste Courtonne's eight elevations (rendering by Julie Sears).

Figure 6

Jacques de Lajoue, Cabinet of Natural Sciences, 1734 (private collection).

Figure 6

Jacques de Lajoue, Cabinet of Natural Sciences, 1734 (private collection).

Figure 7

Jacques de Lajoue, Cabinet of Mechanical and Physical Sciences, 1734 (private collection, courtesy of the Alfred Beit Foundation).

Figure 7

Jacques de Lajoue, Cabinet of Mechanical and Physical Sciences, 1734 (private collection, courtesy of the Alfred Beit Foundation).

Figure 8

Jean-Baptiste Courtonne, Cabinet de Bonnier de la Mosson, 1739–40, plate IV, detail (OA 720, Collections Jacques Doucet, Bibliothèque de l'Institut National de l'Histoire de l'Art, Paris).

Figure 8

Jean-Baptiste Courtonne, Cabinet de Bonnier de la Mosson, 1739–40, plate IV, detail (OA 720, Collections Jacques Doucet, Bibliothèque de l'Institut National de l'Histoire de l'Art, Paris).

Figure 9

Jacques de Lajoue, The Library, 1734 (Alfred Beit Foundation, Russborough, county Wicklow).

Figure 9

Jacques de Lajoue, The Library, 1734 (Alfred Beit Foundation, Russborough, county Wicklow).

Beyond their captivating facture, Lajoue's paintings forced upon viewers a heightened awareness of the rooms they decorated. In a way, they inventoried the collections at the Hôtel de Lude, as Bonnier owned many of the things they represented.12 The painting titled Cabinet of Natural Sciences, for instance, shows a chemistry laboratory, preserved amphibious and reptilian specimens, a vast assortment of pharmaceutical ingredients, and shelves crowded with microscopes, telescopes, and other optical instruments. Despite being highly fictionalized, the paintings are complicated by their seemingly concrete references to reality. For example, the building under construction beyond the portes-fenêtres in Cabinet of Mechanical and Physical Sciences is the Paris Observatory, a project advanced by Louis XIV's finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, in 1667 and completed according to the designs of Claude Perrault in 1671. Lajoue seems to have drawn on Sébastien Leclerc's virtually identical view of the observatory under construction, used as the frontispiece for both Perrault's Mémoire pour servir à l'histoire naturelle des animaux (1671), and Denis Dodart's Mémoire pour servir à l'histoire naturelle des plantes (1676) (Figure 10).13 Leclerc's work shows not only the building that housed the observatory but also a specific—albeit fictional—moment in the history of the Académie Royale des Sciences: a visit paid by Louis XIV and Colbert to Paris's Jardin du Roi. Louis XIV, his ministers, and advisers are shown surrounded by skeletons, optical devices, cartographic objects, and potted plants.

Figure 10

Sébastien Leclerc, Louis XIV Visiting the Royal Academy of Sciences, 1671 (Elisha Whittelsey Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1962).

Figure 10

Sébastien Leclerc, Louis XIV Visiting the Royal Academy of Sciences, 1671 (Elisha Whittelsey Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1962).

The most important work of French academic naturalists took place in the Jardin du Roi, first chartered in the early years of the seventeenth century and realized by the mid-1630s in the Saint-Victor neighborhood where the Jardin des Plantes now stands. Close to the Latin Quarter and the Sorbonne, the royal botanical garden provided space for the cultivation of medicinal and exotic plants to serve the crown and the faculty of medicine; it was a living laboratory for the Académie Royale des Sciences, France's most prestigious scientific body. Botanical teaching gardens were sites of advanced research and knowledge production at many medieval European universities, including those in Padua, Bologna, and Montpellier. In addition to botany, chemistry, pharmacology, and anatomy, a new academic interest in natural history developed from the cultivation of medicinal herbs that these gardens facilitated.14

Historian Rémi Mathis has suggested that the obvious artifice of Leclerc's engraving should be read as an allegory, since the observatory was not actually visible from the Jardin du Roi and, further, Louis XIV's first official visit to the garden did not happen until 1681.15 Lajoue's painting for Bonnier's cabinet can likewise be understood as allegorical: standing amid his own curiosity cabinet, with the painted view onto the observatory, Bonnier's position mirrored that of the king, his minister, and the academicians of the previous generation shown in Leclerc's engraving. In representing the observatory as it would have looked five decades earlier, while still under construction, Lajoue turned back the clock to forge a connection between the foundation of France's royally sponsored academy of experimental and observational sciences and Bonnier's own experimental and collecting practices.16

New Ways of Looking

Together, the plant and animal specimens, mechanical and optical devices, and decoration of Bonnier's collection presented natural history as a pursuit that privileged an empirical mode of inquiry. Bonnier commissioned for his cabinet a five-bay carved-wood armoire to house avian, mineral, and other natural specimens in the room where Lajoue's paintings of a cabinet of natural sciences and a cabinet of mechanical and physical sciences hung (Figure 11). The gently arched bays of the rococo armoire interrupted the otherwise quadratic space of the room, a remnant from the hôtel's original 1710 enfilade plan.

Figure 11

Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson's armoire from the Hôtel de Lude, Paris, early 1730s (photo by Matthew Gin; Bibliothèque Centrale, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle).

Figure 11

Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson's armoire from the Hôtel de Lude, Paris, early 1730s (photo by Matthew Gin; Bibliothèque Centrale, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle).

Beyond the organic specimens displayed in curiosity cabinets, natural forms abounded in early eighteenth-century French interiors. Like the floral boiserie panels that covered walls, the chair frames into which botanical designs were carved, and the porcelain flower arrangements that ornamented interiors, natural history specimens readily lent themselves to rococo decorative programs. Encircling the vitrines and bursting forth from between the bays of Bonnier's armoire are ornamental serpents, delicately carved botanicals, and shells that once framed the specimens it housed. The high-relief carving commands the viewer's attention much as the animal and plant specimens formerly inside once did. The juxtaposition of sculpted elements alongside their organic counterparts, presented on plinths as though art objects, urged a dialogue between the real and the imitative, between natural materials and human-made artistic creations. The armoire was fitted with twenty-nine panes of glass that—according to Edme-François Gersaint, the dealer in art and luxury goods who organized the sale of Bonnier's collection—allowed its contents to be easily seen at a glance.17

The experience of moving from the natural history cabinet to the physics cabinet required walking under Lajoue's Cabinet of Mechanical and Physical Sciences.18 Beyond the physics cabinet was the terminus of the suite of rooms: Bonnier's library decorated with Lajoue's final two overdoor paintings, The Garden and The Library. As noted above, The Garden is now lost, but Courtonne's rendering of Bonnier's library reveals it to have shown an expansive walled garden with elegant figures in repose. Prominent in the foreground of the drawing is an armillary sphere, a celestial mapping device made up of concentric bronze rings marking the positions of Earth, the moon, sun, and equator. Bonnier's own armillary sphere, mounted on an ornamental bronze and wooden base and made according to the design of the sixteenth-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, looked not unlike the one depicted by Lajoue.19 Thus, from its position above the threshold to the library, The Garden offered a preview of the scientific devices contained within.

The last painting in Lajoue's series, The Library, shows a repository filled to capacity with richly bound volumes. Like the others, this painting defies any precise situation in time or space. Two scholars sit in antiquated theatrical costumes while walls standing between the interior and the garden seem to dissolve. One man is reading while the other turns to contemplate the garden outside. By the early eighteenth century, naturalists supplemented book knowledge with direct and personal observations of the natural world. Natural philosophy—as well as natural historical and botanical studies—received an infusion of new ideas during the second half of the seventeenth century, primarily from England. The work of English empiricists such as John Locke and Isaac Newton now circulated widely on the Continent. Locke (whose Essay Concerning Humane Understanding appeared in 1690) and Newton (who published Opticks, or A Treatise on Reflexions, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light in 1704) grounded their writings in sense-based knowledge and visual perception. Locke articulated how sensory knowledge and experience must precede ideas in his Essay Concerning Humane Understanding: “[The] great source of most of the ideas we have, depending wholly upon our senses, and derived by them to the understanding, I call SENSATION.”20 For Newton, too, conclusions could be concretized as truths only if they were drawn from direct experimentation and firsthand observation. Of the different modes of sensory perception, the experiential and the visual formed the foundation of human knowledge. To see was to know reliably, and the late seventeenth century was a moment when a newly objective manner of looking at things took hold in European natural philosophy and even among laypersons.21 With emphasis on experimentation and observation came new and vastly improved optical devices, including microscopes and telescopes of the sort Bonnier collected. These allowed people to look more closely at the natural world than ever before.

Empirical thinking and the perception-based cognition promoted by Locke and Newton were pervasive by the early eighteenth century.22 The writings and ideas of empiricists were quickly translated and disseminated throughout Europe, circulating well beyond intellectual circles to more general audiences.23 Among the legions of scholarly and lay readers of Locke and Newton was Bonnier, who owned English, French, and Latin editions of Locke's Essay and Newton's Opticks, as well as a revised second edition of Newton's Principia (1714).24 With its depictions of experimental equipment and optical devices, Lajoue's painting of a cabinet of mechanical and physical sciences for Bonnier's collection illustrated this empirical turn in natural philosophy.

Garden Views

The natural world embodied in the garden permeated Bonnier's curiosity cabinet. According to early eighteenth-century architectural decorum and principles of distribution, the most significant rooms in a residence should have the best views of the garden. At the Hôtel de Lude, the garden was best seen from the rooms of the cabinet.25 Digital reconstructions of Bonnier's cabinet allow for advanced spatial thinking about the collection, its decoration, and its situation in the house, as well as all of these elements in relation to the formal garden outside. A modern reconstruction in which two of Lajoue's paintings are superimposed onto Courtonne's drawing of the natural history cabinet shows how the overdoor paintings were oriented toward Bonnier's garden (Figure 12). The cabinet was physically and conceptually directed toward the garden, where the natural world came into closest contact with the cultural world of the collection (Figure 13). Further parallels can be drawn between the views through the windows and Lajoue's painted spaces. Within the paintings, walls dissolve and discrete markers between interior and exterior are diffused. Classicized figures turn their attention to the garden outside. Associations between the painted imagery and the material contents of Bonnier's collection are made emphatic by the light source in each painting, with the light appearing to come from the windows that once overlooked the garden (Figure 14). Lajoue's paintings activated visual play by referencing the cabinet's contents while also diverting attention from the cabinet to the garden.

Figure 12

Isometric rendering of Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson's second natural history cabinet with Jacques de Lajoue's Cabinet of Mechanical and Physical Sciences and Cabinet of Natural Sciences, 1734 (rendering by Julie Sears).

Figure 12

Isometric rendering of Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson's second natural history cabinet with Jacques de Lajoue's Cabinet of Mechanical and Physical Sciences and Cabinet of Natural Sciences, 1734 (rendering by Julie Sears).

Figure 13

Detail of the Hôtel de Lude, Paris, from the Plan de Turgot alongside an isometric rendering of Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson's curiosity cabinet on the premier étage of the Hôtel de Lude, using Jean-Baptiste Courtonne's elevation of the second natural history cabinet (rendering by Julie Sears).

Figure 13

Detail of the Hôtel de Lude, Paris, from the Plan de Turgot alongside an isometric rendering of Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson's curiosity cabinet on the premier étage of the Hôtel de Lude, using Jean-Baptiste Courtonne's elevation of the second natural history cabinet (rendering by Julie Sears).

Figure 14

Isometric rendering of Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson's second natural history cabinet with Jacques de Lajoue's Cabinet of Natural Sciences, 1734 (rendering by Julie Sears).

Figure 14

Isometric rendering of Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson's second natural history cabinet with Jacques de Lajoue's Cabinet of Natural Sciences, 1734 (rendering by Julie Sears).

The Plan de Turgot shows that Bonnier's garden was planted as a parterre de broderie—that is, its design was likened to an embroidery pattern. During this period, the authors of architectural treatises and manuals often addressed the design and scale of parterre gardens; for example, in De la distribution des maisons de plaisance (1738), Blondel included an image of a “parterre de broderie à compartiment” (Figure 15).26 One of the earliest treatises addressed to the “particulier riche and curieux de jardinage,” such as Bonnier, and their gardeners was Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville's La théorie et la pratique du jardinage (1709).27 Though modeled on earlier architectural treatises, this work was also in part a how-to manual describing horticultural practices and hydraulic innovations and providing useful botanical information.28 Intended for city and country dwellers, it was generously illustrated with parterre designs to be scaled up or down according to the reader's property. In revised editions of the treatise, including the third edition of 1722 (a copy of which Bonnier owned, likely a source for his own garden's design), Dezallier addressed the increased demand for parterres designed for small and often irregular urban plots.29 One inventive, didactic illustration demonstrates how to draft a symmetrical parterre on a sheet of paper, square the design for transfer, and, finally, plot the design on the ground using stakes and string (Figure 16). An amateur like Bonnier could turn to garden manuals like Dezallier's for design and pattern suggestions, and for practical botanical information.

Figure 15

“Parterre de broderie à compartiment” (Jacques-François Blondel, De la distribution des maisons de plaisance … [1737–38], 2:plate 11; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

Figure 15

“Parterre de broderie à compartiment” (Jacques-François Blondel, De la distribution des maisons de plaisance … [1737–38], 2:plate 11; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

Figure 16

“Parterre dessiné et maillé sur le papier … et tracé sur le terrain,” illustration showing how to plot a parterre design on paper and on the ground (Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville, La théorie et la pratique du jardinage, rev. 2nd ed. [Paris, 1713]; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

Figure 16

“Parterre dessiné et maillé sur le papier … et tracé sur le terrain,” illustration showing how to plot a parterre design on paper and on the ground (Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville, La théorie et la pratique du jardinage, rev. 2nd ed. [Paris, 1713]; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

In preparing his Théorie et la pratique du jardinage, Dezallier read widely on topics relevant to the conceptualization, planting, and maintenance of ornamental gardens. He cited naturalist authors such as the botanist Guy de la Brosse, first director of the Jardin du Roi in Paris; Carolus Clusius, botanist and horticulturalist at the University of Leiden; Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, professor of botany at the Jardin du Roi; botanist Antoine de Jussieu, who succeeded Tournefort at the Jardin du Roi; and agronomist Louis Liger. Works by all of these authors were in Bonnier's library.30 Books on gardens typically drew from a range of sources to instruct readers on how to make things grow and on the origins of specific varieties of flowers, trees, and herbaceous plants, among other topics. Distinctions were made between specialized categories of knowledge: horticulture, floriculture, agronomy, and botany. Yet early eighteenth-century garden books—whether they treated gardens as ornamental, as extensions of architecture, or as dynamic sites for the cultivation of living specimens—typically defied simple categorization as art, architecture, or natural history.

Garden as Curiosity

Like curiosity cabinets, gardens were sites for the pursuit of empirical inquiry and the generation of knowledge about the natural world. At the Hôtel de Lude, the garden parterre was a physical extension of Bonnier's curiosity cabinet. In situating his cabinet along his house's garden façade, which gave visual access to the parterre and everything planted in it, Bonnier followed traditions established by universities across Europe, where natural history collections were located close to botanical gardens. These collections contributed to empirical modes of inquiry that allowed instructors and students to engage immediately, visually, and physically with the natural world.31

At Leiden University, the already close physical proximity of the botanical garden to the university's natural history cabinet was further collapsed in an etching by Willem van Swanenburg after a design by Jan Cornelisz van 't Woudt (Woudanus) (Figure 17). In this depiction of the garden, a solitary figure takes notes on a flower in bloom while, in the left foreground, an aristocratic couple strolls side by side: the garden is represented as site for both research and pleasure. The cultivation of medicinal herbs and rare and newly discovered specimens in the university botanical gardens of Leiden, Oxford, and Paris was integral to medical instruction and pharmacology, but plants were also cultivated for aesthetic reasons, not merely for their utilitarian or commercial value. When the Flemish horticulturist Clusius became director of Leiden University's botanical garden in 1593, his position mandated that he not only cultivate rare specimens but also lecture on the medicinal properties of plants. He was, however, less interested in the study and teaching of medicine than he was in growing new plants like the tulip, introduced to Europe from the Ottoman Empire in the mid-sixteenth century and illustrated in his Rariorum plantarum historia (1601).32 The tulip's seemingly infinite varieties and unpredictability of color—its aesthetic properties—made it particularly appealing to Clusius, just as it led to the plant's widespread commodification in the first decades of the seventeenth century in the Dutch Republic and across Europe.33

Figure 17

Willem van Swanenburg after Jan Cornelisz van 't Woudt, Hortus Botanicus van de Universiteit Leiden, from the Horti Publici series, 1610 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).

Figure 17

Willem van Swanenburg after Jan Cornelisz van 't Woudt, Hortus Botanicus van de Universiteit Leiden, from the Horti Publici series, 1610 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).

Any garden pattern or design—whether of orthogonal lines or serpentine curves—imposes an organizational structure on natural specimens and is thus artificial. Whether the garden contains fruits and vegetables, medicinal herbs, or flowers, it is a delimited space set apart from its surroundings. In Landscape and Memory, historian Simon Schama writes that it is man's “shaping perception that makes the difference between raw matter and landscape.”34 Before it is a physical site, the garden exists as an idea and requires thinking about the natural world in artificial terms.

In her analysis of the Jardin du Roi in Paris, historian of science E. C. Spary has written that botanical gardens and natural history cabinets both “possessed a coherent internal logic which related their contents to each other and to the whole.”35 Beyond this, botanical gardens also maintained a formal logic. While the methodical grid-like planting of the Leiden botanical garden, visible from inside the university's natural history cabinet, was not as ornate as Bonnier's garden parterre, the university garden was hardly unaesthetic. The Leiden garden was carefully patterned, from the scale of its planted beds to the opposing directions of its quadrants.36 The same is true of the Jardin du Roi, depicted in the 1694 frontispiece to Joseph Pitton de Tournefort's Élémens de botanique, where specimens are shown planted in rows framed by hedges and anchored by a fountain.37 Those familiar with the Jardin du Roi would have recognized Bonnier's private parterre garden as one of similar form and purpose.

Several decades before the Jardin du Roi was established on its current site, authors of garden manuals and treatises were publishing designs for garden parterres and the specimens appropriate to them. With his Théâtre d'agriculture et mesnage des champs (1600), Olivier de Serres was among the first to articulate French concepts of garden design and style.38 Serres illustrated a compartmentalized garden that he described as ideal for the cultivation of both practical medicinal and ornamental flowering plants, a combination that would soon be seen in the Jardin du Roi. By the mid-1630s, the garden parterre was theorized and illustrated abundantly by Jacques Boyceau de la Barauderie in his Traité du jardinage selon les raisons de la nature et de l'art. Boyceau's treatise begins with an explication of the elements, seasons, and lunar cycles, followed by an extended discussion of tree cultivation; it concludes with nearly one hundred illustrations—half of the volume—of parterre patterns ranging from delicate filigree designs to less ornate geometric quadrants.

As European imperial states increasingly engaged in botany in the late seventeenth century, the citrus trees, banana plants, and aloe imported from distant places needed to be kept in greenhouses to survive northern European winters; soon, most ambitious botanical gardens were equipped with such structures.39 When the botanist Richard Bradley published a revised edition of his New Improvements of Planting and Gardening, Both Philosophical and Practical in 1718, addressed to “curious gentlemen of the Publick,” he included architectural plans for a private greenhouse.40 Bradley's greenhouse design is for a single-story rectangular building divided into three principal spaces: a large central room for plants and two smaller rooms, one at either end, for the gardener. The façade is made almost entirely of windows, which can be opened for ventilation. The gardener's rooms include storage space for seeds, instruments, and reference books, and a fireplace and chimney to heat the gardener's quarters during the winter months.

There is no historical record of the specific flora that once populated Bonnier's garden, but his property included a small dual-purpose structure that served as a greenhouse and living quarters for his gardener (Figures 18 and 19).41 The plans were drawn up after Bonnier's death, as the crown considered acquiring the Hôtel de Lude, although the structure was built during Bonnier's lifetime. The absence of the greenhouse on the Plan de Turgot suggests that the structure was built after 1736, when Bretez drew the map, and before 1744, when Bonnier died. Many of the elements of Bradley's greenhouse are present in the plans: the gardener's quarters in two smaller rooms with shared fireplace, a small terrace, a private entry door, and direct interior access to the plant room. Bonnier could access the greenhouse through an entrance separate from the gardener's apartments. The gardener, in turn, could enter the property and the street from an alley without passing through Bonnier's corps de logis.

Figure 18

Plan of the Hôtel de Lude, Paris, ca. 1759, with town house at right, garden at center, and greenhouse in upper left corner (photo by Matthew Gin; AN O1 1578.309, Archives Nationales).

Figure 18

Plan of the Hôtel de Lude, Paris, ca. 1759, with town house at right, garden at center, and greenhouse in upper left corner (photo by Matthew Gin; AN O1 1578.309, Archives Nationales).

Figure 19

Plan of the greenhouse at the Hôtel de Lude, Paris, ca. 1759 (photo by Matthew Gin; AN O1 1578.315, Archives Nationales).

Figure 19

Plan of the greenhouse at the Hôtel de Lude, Paris, ca. 1759 (photo by Matthew Gin; AN O1 1578.315, Archives Nationales).

Like the gardeners, botanists, and naturalists who frequented the larger greenhouses at the Jardin du Roi and Leiden University, Bonnier used his greenhouse to grow, study, and take pleasure in the beauty of plants not native to northern France. Just as shells, butterflies, and fossils filled the shelves of his curiosity cabinet, Bonnier's garden made space for the plants he collected and cultivated. It was an extension of his curiosity cabinet in the form of an embroidered parterre.

The Fabric of the Garden

Bonnier outfitted his cabinet with apparatuses similar to those used by academic naturalists, thus connecting his empirical practices to the most advanced in France. Not yet a formalized branch of academic science in the 1730s, natural history—a capacious concept that included the “practices of classifying, collecting, writing, experimenting, cultivating, and preserving”—was in the process of becoming a systematic field of inquiry.42 Although Bonnier never intended to become a botanist, chemist, or physician, he and his fellow amateurs played a critical role in the emerging discipline and in the development of taxonomies by making their extensive collections of natural specimens and—through their patronage of instrument makers—new scientific devices available to naturalists.43

In his painting depicting a cabinet of natural sciences, Lajoue reinforced the conceptual ties among Bonnier's cabinet, the Jardin du Roi, and academic botany. As with his painting of a cabinet of mechanical and physical sciences, Lajoue looked to the graphic work of Sébastien Leclerc, particularly Leclerc's headpiece for Dodart's L'histoire naturelle des plantes (Figures 20 and 21). Leclerc's engraving for Dodart's book depicts a chemistry laboratory equipped with an apothecary, medicinal herbs, laboratory glassware, and a capacious table around which are gathered a dozen academicians. Lajoue's Cabinet of Natural Sciences portrays a similar setting. Through the window in the background of Leclerc's image, three men can be seen standing in an arabesque-patterned parterre garden to better examine its constituent plants. One points out a particular specimen with his walking stick. The work these men do requires both the garden and the laboratory. Inside the laboratory in the middle foreground is a chair, upholstered in an embroidered floral pattern, holding the tools of the naturalist: a sun-shielding hat, a reference tome, and a single botanical illustration. By placing the botanical image atop the embroidered fabric, Leclerc signals the visual link between the two, as well as the etymological origins of the term parterre de broderie.

Figure 20

Sébastien Leclerc, Laboratoire dans le Jardin royal des plantes, ca. 1676 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Henry W. Kent, 1941).

Figure 20

Sébastien Leclerc, Laboratoire dans le Jardin royal des plantes, ca. 1676 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Henry W. Kent, 1941).

Figure 21

Sébastien Leclerc, Laboratoire dans le Jardin royal des plantes, ca. 1676, detail depicting three men in the garden as seen through the laboratory window (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Henry W. Kent, 1941).

Figure 21

Sébastien Leclerc, Laboratoire dans le Jardin royal des plantes, ca. 1676, detail depicting three men in the garden as seen through the laboratory window (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Henry W. Kent, 1941).

Textile designs played a role in the earliest iteration of the Jardin du Roi when gardener Jean Robin was asked to collaborate with royal embroiderer and engraver Pierre Vallet.44 Vallet's participation was logical considering that the Jardin du Roi, in addition to being the site for cultivating medicinal plants and herbs, was created to provide designs to the embroiderers' guild, whose members invented patterns to be woven into the silks then being manufactured at the Place Royale (today the Place des Vosges).45 Vallet and Robin together published a florilegium (a lavishly illustrated flower book) titled Le jardin du roy très chrétien Henry IV, roy de France et de Navarre (1608); this was an illustrated record of long naturalized and newly discovered plants cultivated in the royal botanical garden.46 The book stood at the intersection of natural science, medicine, botany, art, and craft, and like Vallet and Robin's work at the Jardin du Roi, it offered embroiderers ready-made floral patterns. Thus, the French crown's pragmatic effort to grow medicinal plants and herbs also provided ornamental motifs to the Paris embroiderers' guild. Pattern and design, as Leclerc acknowledged in his engraving, were integral to the early fabric of the royal botanical garden.

Some scholars have found the connection between the early seventeenth-century embroiderers' guild and the Jardin du Roi tenuous, yet the crown was as invested in establishing French manufactures of luxury goods like silk as it was in supporting its medical faculty with a botanical garden, and the association of embroidery with the Jardin du Roi persisted well into the eighteenth century.47 Reporting on the Vélins du roi, a set of gilded luxury botanical and animal paintings on velum, Antoine de Jussieu, professor of botany at the Jardin du Roi and member of the Académie Royale des Sciences, wrote in the 1727 edition of the Histoire de l'Académie royale des sciences that the paintings were “a work brought about by the art of embroidering, and by the fruit that botany can take from it.”48 Jussieu explained that it was in Robin's garden that Vallet found novel and beautiful specimens to illustrate and translate into embroidery patterns. Despite their rarified status as luxury objects for the royal family, the paintings that made up the Vélins du roi were also, Jussieu stressed, objects for study and instruction by naturalists. In historian of science David Knight's phrasing, “science and fine art inosculate” in natural history illustrations like the vellums.49 These illustrations are what historian of science Lorraine Daston has called “epistemic images,” illustrations that “translat[e] abstract epistemological priorities into concrete pictures.”50 Painted and printed botanical illustrations were critical to the project of natural history and also to the European colonization of the New World.51 To be a naturalist in the early eighteenth century was to depend on the creation, study, and circulation of images.

Links between garden design and textile patterns grew stronger by the eighteenth century. One of the era's most widely read gardening books was Le jardinier fleuriste (1704), by Louis Liger. Equal parts garden manual and horticultural guide, Liger's was the first book on gardening published after André Le Nôtre's death in 1700.52 It reached a broad audience across Europe—France, England, the Dutch Republic, and Germany—and was revised and reprinted at least once a decade until 1792. In 1706, two years after its initial publication, English gardeners Henry Wise and George London published a translation, which they bound with another French garden manual—François le Gentil's Jardinier solitaire—under the title The Retir'd Gard'ner.53 The translation of Liger's book is notable for the haste with which it was produced, but also for the translators' changes to the text, which took into account the particularities of English soil, climate, and planting seasons. Wise and London adapted Liger's French text to suit an English audience but made only modest changes to his woodcut illustrations—recutting the woodblocks and removing Liger's name from them (Figure 22). Echoing Liger, they emphasized the connection between parterre designs and embroidered fabrics: “Imbroidery is those draughts which represent in effect those we have on our clothes, and that look like foliage, and these sorts of figures in gard'ner's language are called branch-work.”54 One example of this illustrated in The Retir'd Gard'ner is a parterre “with cut-work and imbroidery in the middle, and the borders of grass.”55 The plate, an almost exact reproduction of Liger's, shows a small fountain surrounded on two sides by grass planted in the shape of a shell with delicate scroll patterns emanating outward. The abstracted branchwork and sinuous lines recall the presumptive origins of these patterns: forms found in nature—vines, leaves, and petals. The design as a whole is framed by a scrolled border that encloses the composition and demarcates the limits of the design. Embroidered garden parterres, then, were considered relevant to both English and French readers.

Figure 22

Louis Liger, Le jardinier fleuriste, 1704, plate VIII (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

Figure 22

Louis Liger, Le jardinier fleuriste, 1704, plate VIII (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

By the early eighteenth century, practical garden manuals like Liger's conveyed to a wide readership then-current botanical knowledge, including the origins of nonnative flora naturalized in gardens across Europe. Familiarity with specimens from America and their successful cultivation in European soil arguably signified a material and environmental understanding of and mastery over distant colonial spaces and Indigenous peoples in the New World.56 One such specimen discussed by Liger was what he called the Acacia, pseudo Acacia vulgaris, or faux Acacia, a tree native to the Appalachian range in North America and today known by the name Robinia pseudoacacia L., or the black locust tree. Following its introduction to Europe in the first decades of the seventeenth century and its successful transplantation to the Jardin du Roi, the Robinia pseudoacacia flourished in gardens around Paris, including several in the faubourg Saint-Germain, where Bonnier's house was located. It went by many different names in the century between its naturalization in Europe and the mid-eighteenth-century introduction by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus of his taxonomic system of binomial nomenclature. In his Canadensium plantarum (1635), the French physician and botanist Jacques-Philippe Cornut called the tree the Acacia americana robini, while the English naturalist and gardener John Tradescant, in Museum Tradescantianum (1656), called it Locusta virginia arbor. Such names were frequently paired with illustrations of other, often misidentified plants—the sorts of errors that Linnaeus sought to redress with his naming system. As he observed: “The names bestowed on plants by the ancient Greeks and Romans I commend, but I shudder at the sight of most of those given by modern authorities: for these are for the most part a mere chaos of confusion.”57 To this day, the Robinia pseudoacacia L. bears the Linnaean name given to it in the eighteenth century, a name evoking not its place of origin but the French gardener Jean Robin.58 This gesture of naming newly discovered species after important European men furthered Europe's colonization of the natural world and was fundamental to Linnaeus's artificial nomenclature system, the system on which modern botany was based.59

Picturing Nature

Written descriptions of parterres drew comparisons not only between gardens and embroidery patterns but between gardening and painting as well. One of the many parterre designs Dezallier published in his Théorie et la pratique du jardinage was an illustration labeled “Embroidery parterre in the very latest style.” This depicted a richly patterned, rectangular composition with a grassy section shaped into a shell and filigree-like bands of plants and grass, all framed by a dense border of trees and topiaries (Figure 23). According to Dezallier, the image represented “a large tableau girded at one end and with a [water] basin above. The center [of the composition] is filled with embroidery.”60 In drawing such conceptual and formal comparisons between the parterre and embroidery, Dezallier codified the style theorized and practiced by French gardeners a century before. Writing in the early 1630s, Boyceau emphasized the importance of situating a parterre near a building so that its design could be seen from inside and above. Later, Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon, reported in his memoires that Le Nôtre “used to say of flower beds that they were only good for nurses who, not being able to quit the children, walked on them with their eyes, and admired them from the second floor.”61 Although laying out parterres might not have met Le Nôtre's ambitions, he designed them in recognition of their integral role within larger garden programs. In gesturing to the art of embroidery and the pictorial and figural qualities of the parterre, Boyceau, Le Nôtre, and Dezallier conceived of the garden, at least in part, as a visual image.

Figure 23

“Parterre de broderie d'un goût très nouveau” (Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville, La théorie et la pratique du jardinage [Paris, 1709]; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

Figure 23

“Parterre de broderie d'un goût très nouveau” (Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville, La théorie et la pratique du jardinage [Paris, 1709]; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

Describing the composition of the embroidery parterre as a tableau, Dezallier furthered the analogy to the pictorial arts, and in his evocation of the visual pleasure such parterres provided, he referenced a new theorization of painting then being advanced by Roger de Piles. Published one year prior to the first edition of Dezallier's Théorie et la pratique du jardinage, de Piles' Cours de peinture par principes (The Principles of Painting, 1708) was the culmination of the author's decades of work as secretary and honorary member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture.62 Insisting that painting should be representational, that the painter should be adept at chiaroscuro, and that the hierarchy of genres should be respected, de Piles was largely conventional in his approach to art theory. His innovation, however, was to articulate for the first time a theory of painting in which the medium was evaluated in terms that belonged exclusively to it, terms such as color, composition, and appeal to the eye of the beholder. Previously, the royal academy of painting and sculpture, in an effort to bolster its fledgling existence by ennobling painting, had theorized painting largely in narrative terms, like literature. De Piles offered what art historian Thomas Crow has called a “mode of cognition that is truly pictorial, in that attraction to and pleasure in the object are largely separable from its intimidating textual referent.”63 Philosopher Jacqueline Lichtenstein observed that de Piles “br[oke] with the theory of the sign, founded on a linguistic model, and turn[ed] the analysis of painting toward a theory of pictorial perception.”64 He argued that great pictures possess the ability to frapper les yeux (strike the eyes), tromper les yeux (fool the eyes), and even séduire (seduce) the viewer.65 Around 1700, pervasive interest in sensation and sensory knowledge—particularly visual cognition and color perception—brought de Piles into dialogue with Locke and Newton. As with many new ideas, his theories were initially resisted by certain members of the royal academy, but by the time of his death in 1709, they had come to dominate scholarly discourse on the topic.

A clear connection existed between de Piles's aesthetic philosophy and Dezallier's garden theory. Having studied painting under de Piles, Dezallier drew on the former's ideas regarding visual seduction, noting the potential for the viewer's eyes to be struck and pleased at the sight of a garden parterre. In Dezallier's estimation, nothing satisfied the eyes more than a handsome garden prospect.66 Comparing the garden parterre to art—saying that a parterre is like a painting or like embroidery—Dezallier suggested that the ground, like a canvas or panel, offered a relatively flat surface on which the natural world might be pictured.

Thinking through the Parterre

Based on abstractions of natural forms, the garden parterre was both a visual art form and, as a site for the intellectual contemplation of flowers and plants, a conceptual tool for thinking about artifice and the natural world. The French and English words idée and idea both derive from the Greek ιδέα, which means to see form or pattern. Writing in the late 1960s on sensory knowledge and visual perception as forms of abstract thought, perceptual psychologist Rudolf Arnheim articulated why visual thinking is no less cognitive a mental exercise than any other form of thinking.67 In 1974, Arnheim advocated for “the intelligence of the senses” by outlining intuitive and intellectual modes of perceptual cognition.68 The intuitive mode is the equivalent of the coup d'œil, the glance that first strikes the eye in de Piles's and Dezallier's formulations, that makes itself immediately apparent to the viewer. The formal properties of pattern draw the viewer in. The intellectual mode pushes the viewer beyond the image to comprehend discrete parts and larger systems. For Arnheim, the intuitive and intellectual modes must coexist in the process of visual thinking.69

The highly ordered and ornamental plantations of the garden parterre facilitated just the kind of visual thinking theorized by Arnheim, providing a model—one familiar to naturalists, gardeners, architects, painters, and embroiderers—for thinking about and through unlike things. Patterns for garden designs circulated widely among naturalists and artists via manuals that helped them to circumscribe and classify the natural world. Early eighteenth-century curiosity collecting was a visual endeavor, requiring aesthetic sensibility; it was also a way of comparative thinking through visual perception, symptomatic of broader empiricist trends. The process of looking at patterns to understand the natural world—its order, systematic predictability, and ornament—made design constitutive of and central to early modern naturalist practices. Like painting, garden parterres, botanical specimens, and natural and artificial curiosities could incite visual pleasure and be made to conform to principles of design.

As a point of intersection between nature and culture, the parterre became a useful analogical tool for thinking about the natural world in pictorial terms. In the case of gardens, botany, and the natural sciences, such thinking responded to a lack of standardized language for articulating these things. Until the introduction and widespread adoption of a single taxonomic system, the study of plants, trees, and flowers was most reliably a pictorial venture, not a written one. Images conveyed knowledge where words failed. Naturalists transmitted information, drew comparisons, and instructed largely by picturing nature, providing evidence against the antiquated notion that science (or nature) and art were antithetical fields of inquiry—an anachronistic distinction that historians of science and art have rightfully discredited.70 Around 1700, as de Piles was wresting painting away from literary standards, naturalists employed pictorial means as a way to understand, organize, and classify specimens.

Visual and comparative thinking through pattern was extended to other three-dimensional objects of the natural world, in particular shells, such as those in curiosity cabinets like Bonnier's. Conchology, the study of mollusk shells, was among the most popular branches of natural history among European amateurs. As imported objects that carried aesthetic currency, shells were valued for their uniqueness of shape, brilliance of color, and size. Bonnier was an avid collector of shells and displayed them in his library at the Hôtel de Lude. In his catalogue of the Bonnier collection, Gersaint described Bonnier's display:

This coquillier is placed in the middle of the room housing the library. The arrangement that the late M. de la Mosson gave to his shells forms the most beautiful coup d'œil that one could imagine. This considerable grouping is distributed in different pleasing and raised compartments, of which the bottom is embellished with blue satin; these compartments stand out from an overall bottom, also covered in white satin and equally embellished with shells, which absolutely gives the idea of a beautiful parterre varied by the vivacity and lustrousness [l'émail] of the different and opposing colors of the shells that are artistically arranged. … I am not exaggerating in this description and the terms I use are not too strong, since I have never provided the sight of this coquillier to anyone who was not seized with admiration, and who did not share with me the effect that this sight had on his senses.71

Of the myriad analogues Gersaint could have evoked in his description of a well-arranged shell collection, he chose a parterre.

What the parterre and shell collection shared was the potential to be arranged in a pattern and seen as if flat, like a picture, visible in a single coup d'œil. The legibility of the patterned shell arrangement, like the garden parterre, necessitated a vantage point from above. And while both were subject to manipulation—shells could be handled, the garden could be traversed—the care with which each was arranged suggests an investment in pattern and, in turn, the privileging of two-dimensionality. Bonnier's coquillier was lined in blue and white satins, creating a foreground/background effect, as in a painting.72 Attention to the presentation of shells and other specimens played a critical role in morphological comparisons and classifications, just as botanical illustrations did. “On the basis of the epistemology of natural history, shaped by visuality and observation,” historian of science Bettina Dietz has written, “conchology classified its objects according to external and formal criteria.”73 Whether shells, flowers, or hedges, organic objects were arranged in symmetrical patterns that signified the imposition of artificial rules of design on natural objects, prompting abstract thinking through comparative analyses of unlike natural forms.

Gersaint repeatedly invoked the analogous relationship of shell displays to flowering garden parterres in his auction catalogues and naturalist publications. He recounted having accompanied amateurs enraptured by the first reveal of a tiroir, or drawer, holding an arrangement of shells:

On more than one occasion I had the pleasure to observe the ecstatic state in which these curieux almost always found themselves upon opening a tiroir of selected pieces. … Nothing is more seductive than the sight of a tiroir of lustrous shells; a parterre in full bloom is not more agreeable, and the eye is marvelously struck, to such a point that one has trouble resting one's eye.74

Drawing on the de Pilesian notion of pleasure, as Dezallier had done for the parterre, Gersaint was unequivocal: the eye of the beholder should be satisfied, seduced, even struck by the presentation of shells.

Much has been written about the place of shell collecting in eighteenth-century France, especially in the context of elite social practices, collecting trends, and the popularization of natural philosophy.75 Spary has noted that the aesthetically refined qualities of shell arrangements disseminated through publications like Gersaint's and Dezallier's helped cultivate elite tastes and offered pedagogical tools for those who coveted rare and beautiful things.76 Bonnier must certainly be included in this category, just as Gersaint's role in popularizing the trend for collecting curiosities cannot be divorced from his commercial interests. However, the transparently artificial and symmetrical arrangements of shell illustrations and cabinet displays—arrangements that mirrored parterre plantations—were epistemic as much as ornamental in the early eighteenth century.77 Amateurs like Bonnier and naturalists associated with the Jardin du Roi “drew no fundamental distinction between the natural and the ornamental.”78 Rather, what emerged was a fundamentally unproblematic way of thinking abstractly and aesthetically about the natural world, a mode shared by art theorists, naturalists, gardeners, art dealers, and painters.

In 1742, Dezallier published L'histoire naturelle éclaircie dans deux de ses parties principales, la lithologie et la conchyliologie. Like most illustrated books in the eighteenth century, Dezallier's natural history of stones and shells aimed to appeal to elite collectors like Bonnier, whose own parterre de coquilles Dezallier illustrated and described as among the finest in Paris (Figure 24). Such a parterre de coquilles must, he wrote, be arranged in a symmetrical pattern in compartments composed of shells that vary in color and form.79 But in using the shells-as-parterre analogy, Dezallier did more than address the aesthetic qualities of the natural world. He described the shell collection in Bonnier's library as a space where “natural history is the main object, the large table or desk in the center serves as a parterre for the very beautiful shells arranged in compartments, as much as possible by genres.”80 He preceded the illustration of Bonnier's nautilus collection with a bilingual Latin/French chart of the shell family. And like the botanists already discussed, Dezallier addressed the problems of nomenclature and classification that continued to plague the study of natural history. Despite the ornamental nature of the parterre, it remained for Dezallier and his contemporaries a productive analogy for the organization and categorization of other types of naturalia.

Figure 24

“Nautilles aux dépens de Mr. Bonnier de Lamosson” (Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville, L'histoire naturelle éclaircie dans deux de ses parties principales, la lithologie et la conchyliologie [Paris, 1742], plate 8; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

Figure 24

“Nautilles aux dépens de Mr. Bonnier de Lamosson” (Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville, L'histoire naturelle éclaircie dans deux de ses parties principales, la lithologie et la conchyliologie [Paris, 1742], plate 8; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr/Nom du partenaire de la BnF).

This manner of comparing the natural world to the artifice of design did not long survive Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson. In 1753, less than a decade after Bonnier's death, Linnaeus published his seminal Species plantarum, and academic naturalists and artists soon began to ridicule what they saw as the inconsequential practices of amateurs and nonspecialist connoisseurs. Furthermore, the garden parterre that proudly bore its artifice fell from favor, replaced by a seemingly more naturalistic style of gardening.81

Bonnier's well-documented collection offers a remarkable early modern case study through which to consider the integral role played by the garden parterre in artistic and naturalist practices during the early eighteenth century. Planted with specimens cultivated and acclimatized in his greenhouse, Bonnier's parterre, visible from his cabinet above, revealed its pattern to viewers. Modern digital reconstructions of the cabinet and period plans for the greenhouse and gardener's apartments below demonstrate how the Hôtel de Lude's garden fostered visual continuity between interior and exterior, between the natural and the artificial. Joined by the flora planted in Bonnier's embroidered parterre, the curiosity cabinet and the greenhouse mirrored one another, literally and figuratively, as generative sites of early eighteenth-century knowledge.

Notes

1.

I would like to thank Michael Ann Holly, Jennie Freeburg, JSAH editor Keith Eggener, and the anonymous JSAH reviewers for their formative comments on earlier versions of this essay. Bonnier's collection has been labeled a curiosity collection and, alternatively, a natural history collection. Curiosity collections contained rare things amassed for the sake of collecting, whereas natural history collections reflected a taxonomic approach to thinking about the natural world. Bonnier's collection, despite its inclusion of several rooms dedicated to natural history, was ultimately a curiosity collection and was classified as such by the marchand-mercier, or luxury goods dealer, Edme-François Gersaint in his catalogue for the collection's sale at auction. See Aline Pelletier, “Cabinet,” in 1740: Un abrégé du monde—Savoirs et collections autour de Dezallier d'Argenville, ed. Anne Lafont (Paris: Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art, 2012), 60–74, esp. 68; Edme-François Gersaint, Catalogue raisonné d'une collection considérable de diverses curiosités en tous genres, contenues dans les cabinets de feu Monsieur Bonnier de la Mosson … (Paris, 1744).

2.

Gersaint, Catalogue raisonné d'une collection considérable, vii: “These cabinets are ornamented by all that art could imagine better and more pleasurable.” See also Catalogue des livres de M. Bonnier de la Mosson, trésorier des etats de Languedoc (Paris: Barrois, 1745). All translations from the French are my own unless otherwise noted.

3.

See, for example, Robert Neuman, “French Domestic Architecture in the Early 18th Century: The Town Houses of Robert de Cotte,” JSAH 39, no. 2 (May 1980), 128–44; Marianne Roland-Michel, Lajoüe et l'art rocaille (Neuilly-sur-Seine: Arthena, 1984); Katie Scott, The Rococo Interior: Decoration and Social Spaces in Early Eighteenth-Century Paris (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1995); Joseph Baillio, A Fantastical Recreation of Bonnier's Cabinets of Natural History … by Jacques de Lajoüe: A Newly Discovered Masterpiece of the Age of Enlightenment (New York: Wildenstein, 2008); Dominique Morelon, “Unique,” in Lafont, 1740, 229–41; Hanneke Grootenboer, “A Clock Picture as a Philosophical Experiment: The Tableau Mécanique in the Physics Cabinet of Bonnier de la Mosson,” Art History 39 (Apr. 2016), 340–55.

4.

Espace was defined in the first edition of Le dictionnaire de l'Académie française (Paris, 1694) as both a spatial and a temporal construct.

5.

Jacques-François Blondel, Architecture françoise, ou recueil des plans, élévations, coupes, et profils …, 8 vols. (Paris, 1752–56), 1:plates 1–4. The plan of the Hôtel de Lude was first published in Jean Mariette, Architecture française (Paris, 1727–38), 219–26.

6.

Jean-Baptiste Courtonne, Cabinet de Bonnier de la Mosson, 1739–40, OA 720, Collections Jacques Doucet, Bibliothèque de l'Institut National de l'Histoire de l'Art, Paris.

7.

Roland-Michel, Lajoüe et l'art rocaille, 184. According to Hanneke Grootenboer, the architects responsible for designing Bonnier's cabinet were Courtonne, Jean-Baptiste Leroux, and François Debias-Aubry. Grootenboer, “A Clock Picture,” 345. See also Bruno Pons, Le faubourg Saint-Germain: La rue Saint-Dominique (Paris: Musée Rodin, 1984), 150–63.

8.

Michel-Étienne Turgot, prévôt des marchands de Paris under Louis XV, commissioned the map from Louis Bretez. According to Michel Gallet, the Plan de Turgot gives a “fairly good idea of the appearance of Paris” in the 1730s, with a “few liberties taken.” Michel Gallet, Paris Domestic Architecture of the 18th Century, trans. James C. Palmes (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1972), 2. Jean Boutier describes Bretez's Plan de Turgot as precise and notes that, although the project's goal was less exactitude and more promotion of the city's new developments, Bretez nonetheless conveyed “an urban landscape perfectly up-to-date in its most recent changes” (un paysage urbain parfaitement à jour dans ses modifications les plus récentes). Jean Boutier, Les plans de Paris des origins (1493) à la fin du XVIIIe siècle: Études, carto-bibliographie et catalogue collectif (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 2002), 254–55, 38.

9.

See Chandra Mukerji, Territorial Ambitions and the Gardens of Versailles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

10.

Franklin Hamilton Hazlehurst, Jacques Boyceau and the French Formal Garden (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1966). Boyceau's garden treatise was published posthumously as Traité du jardinage selon les raisons de la nature et de l'art (Paris: Vanlochom, 1638).

11.

I thank graphic designer Julie Sears, formerly at the J. Paul Getty Museum, for this series of digital reconstructions made using the computer design program SketchUp.

12.

Gersaint, Catalogue raisonné d'une collection considérable; Catalogue des livres de M. Bonnier de la Mosson.

13.

Claude Perrault, Mémoire pour servir à l'histoire naturelle des animaux (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1671); Denis Dodart, Mémoire pour servir à l'histoire naturelle des plantes (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1676).

14.

Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England, 1500–1800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 27.

15.

Peter Fuhring, Louis Marchesano, Rémi Mathis, and Vanessa Selbach, eds., A Kingdom of Images: French Prints in the Age of Louis XIV, 1660–1715 (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2015), 84.

16.

On the changing role of the amateur in eighteenth-century France, see Charlotte Guichard, Les amateurs d'art à Paris au XVIIIe siècle (Seyssel: Champ Vallon, 2008).

17.

Gersaint, Catalogue raisonné d'une collection considérable, 55. The armoire eventually became part of the Jardin du Roi when, at the sale of Bonnier's collection, it was acquired by the naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, director of the Jardin du Roi, on behalf of Louis XV. For a detailed overview of the armoire's conservation, see Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson: Deuxième Cabinet d'Histoire Naturelle, ou Cabinet des Insectes et autres animaux désséchés (Paris: Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, 1996).

18.

For recent scholarship on Bonnier's physics cabinet, see Grootenboer, “A Clock Picture.”

19.

Gersaint, Catalogue raisonné d'une collection considérable, 151–54 (Lot 599).

20.

John Locke, An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, 4th ed. (London: Awnsham and John Churchil, 1700), 41. (The early editions of Locke's essay used the now-archaic spelling Humane in the title; this was revised to Human in later editions.)

21.

Thomas, Man and the Natural World, 52.

22.

On the Continental reception of Locke, see Pascal Griener, La république de l'œil: L'expérience de l'art au siècle des Lumières (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2010), 35–36; Ross Hutchison, Locke in France: 1688–1734 (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation at the Taylor Institution, 1991).

23.

Michael Baxandall, Patterns of Intention: On the Historical Explanation of Pictures (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1985), 77. Locke's Essay Concerning Humane Understanding was translated into French by Pierre Coste in 1700, ten years after it was first published. On the reception of Newton in France, see John B. Shank, The Newton Wars and the Beginning of the French Enlightenment (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008); Mordechai Feingold, “The War on Newton: Review of J. B. Shank's The Newton Wars,” Isis 101 (Mar. 2010), 175–86. Feingold argues that Newton's natural science was almost immediately taken up in France.

24.

Catalogue des livres de M. Bonnier de la Mosson, 9, 51, 54–55.

25.

In a chapter titled “Parterres,” Blondel wrote that the flowering parterre should be close to the patron's apartments. Jacques-François Blondel, De la distribution des maisons de plaisance …, 2 vols. (Paris: Jombert, 1737–38), 1:11. See also Neuman, “French Domestic Architecture.”

26.

Blondel, De la distribution des maisons de plaisance, 2:plate 11.

27.

Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville, La théorie et la pratique du jardinage (Paris: Jean Mariette, 1709), 4.

28.

On Dezallier, see Anne Lafont, ed., 1740: Un abrégé du monde—Savoirs et collections autour de Dezallier d'Argenville (Paris: Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art, 2012).

29.

Catalogue des livres de M. Bonnier de la Mosson, 19.

30.

Catalogue des livres de M. Bonnier de la Mosson, 19–23. The catalogue produced for the 1745 sale of Bonnier's library—which took place separately from the sales of his natural history and art collections—classifies books on botany, gardening, and horticulture under “histoire naturelle botanique” and “histoire naturelle des plantes.”

31.

Paula Findlen, Possessing Nature: Museums, Culture, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 246.

32.

Carolus Clusius of Arras, A Treatise on Tulips, trans. W. van Dijk (Haarlem: Haarlem Enschede, 1951); Florence Hopper, “Clusius' World: The Meeting of Science and Art,” in The Authentic Garden: A Symposium on Gardens, ed. L. Tjon Sie Fat and E. de Jong (Leiden: Clusius Foundation, 1991), 13–36; Claudia Swan, “Of Gardens and Other Natural History Collections in Early Modern Holland: Modes of Display and Patterns of Observation,” in Museum, Bibliothek, Stadtraum: Räumliche Wissensordnungen 1600–1900, ed. Robert Felfe and Kirsten Wagner (Münster: LIT-Verlag, 2010), 173–90.

33.

Anne Goldgar, “Nature as Art: The Case of the Tulip,” in Merchants and Marvels: Commerce, Science, and Art in Early Modern Europe, ed. Pamela H. Smith and Paula Findlen (New York: Routledge, 2002), 324–46.

34.

Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), 9–10.

35.

E. C. Spary, Utopia's Garden: French Natural History from Old Regime to Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 11.

36.

See Gregory Grämiger, “Reconstructing Order: The Spatial Arrangements of Plants in the Hortus Botanicus of Leiden University in Its First Years,” in Gardens, Knowledge and the Sciences in the Early Modern Period, ed. Hubertus Fischer, Volker R. Remmert, and Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn (Basel: Birkhäuser, 2016), 235–51.

37.

Bonnier owned a copy of Tournefort's Élémens de botanique. Catalogue des livres de M. Bonnier de la Mosson, 22.

38.

Olivier de Serres, Le théâtre d'agriculture et mesnage des champs (Paris, 1600).

39.

On botany in the service of empire, see Daniela Bleichmar, Visible Empire: Botanical Expeditions and Visual Culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 17–42. See also John Dixon Hunt, Garden and Grove: The Italian Renaissance Garden in the English Imagination, 1600–1750 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), 73–82; Therese O'Malley, “Mark Catesby and the Culture of Gardens,” in Empire's Nature: Mark Catesby's New World Vision, ed. Amy R. W. Meyers and Margaret Beck Pritchard (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 147–83.

40.

Richard Bradley, New Improvements of Planting and Gardening, Both Philosophical and Practical, 2nd ed. (London, 1718).

41.

This plan was likely drawn up in 1759, when the Maisons du Roi considered acquiring the Hôtel de Lude (then the Hôtel Grimberghen). The sale did not go through, but visual records of Bonnier's property remain in the Archives Nationales in Paris; see AN O1 1578.308. According to Bruno Pons, the Hôtel de Lude was rented out between Bonnier's death in 1744 and 1759, but no extensive work was done to the property during this period. See Pons, Le faubourg Saint-Germain, 153–57.

42.

Spary, Utopia's Garden, 5. George-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, was appointed to lead the Jardin du Roi in 1739; his Histoire naturelle was published in 1749. Carl Linnaeus arrived in western Europe in 1735, the same year he published Systema naturae, the blueprint for his binomial nomenclature classificatory system.

43.

Charlotte Guichard, “Amateur,” in Lafont, 1740, 39–49, esp. 42.

44.

François Boucher, Le Pont-Neuf, 2 vols (Paris: Le Goupy, 1925), 1:70–71; Hillary Ballon, The Paris of Henri IV: Architecture and Urbanism (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press 1991), 236–37. According to Ballon, this plot of land had long been the site of a garden. Around 1635, the Jardin du Roi was relocated to the faubourg Saint-Victor on the Left Bank, where the Jardin des Plantes and Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle stand today.

45.

Alfred Franklin, Les corporations ouvrières de Paris du XIIe au XVIIIe siècle: Histoire, statuts, armoires d'après des documents originaux ou inédits (1884; repr., New York: B. Franklin, 1971), 4–7. On the silkworks under Henri IV at the Place Royale, see Ballon, i, esp. 57–68.

46.

Pierre Vallet and Jean Robin, Le jardin du roy très chrétien Henry IV, roy de France et de Navarre (Paris, 1608).

47.

According to Rio Cecily Howard, the botanist Guy de La Brosse founded the Jardin du Roi. Howard dismisses the notion of Robin and Vallet's collaboration on an earlier iteration of the Jardin du Roi as a “charming idea.” Rio Cecily Howard, “Guy de la Brosse: The Founder of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris” (PhD diss., Cornell University 1974), 41–56. Guy de la Brosse published his plan of the Jardin du Roi as Description du Jardin royal des plantes medecinales estably par Le Roy Louis le Juste, à Paris (Paris, 1636).

48.

Antoine de Jussieu, “Histoire de ce qui a occasionné et perfectionné le recueil de peintures de plantes et d'animaux sur des feuilles de velin, conservé dans la Bibliothèque du Roy,” in Histoire de l'Académie royale des sciences (Année 1727) (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1729), 131–38.

49.

David M. Knight, “A Note on Sumptuous Natural Histories,” Annals of Science 34, no. 3 (1977), 311.

50.

Lorraine Daston, “Epistemic Images,” in Vision and Its Instruments: Art, Science, and Technology in Early Modern Europe, ed. Alina Payne (State College: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2015), 18.

51.

Bleichmar, Visible Empire. See also Daniela Bleichmar, “Learning to Look: Visual Expertise across Art and Science in Eighteenth-Century France,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 46 (Fall 2012), 85–111.

52.

Louis Liger, Le jardinier fleuriste et historiographe, ou la culture universelle des fleurs, arbres, arbustes, arbrisseaux, servans à l'embellissement des jardins (Paris: Chez Damien Beugnie, 1704).

53.

Henry Wise and George London, The Retir'd Gard'ner (London: Jacob Tonson, 1706).

54.

Wise and London, 231.

55.

Wise and London, 235.

56.

See Christopher M. Parsons, A Not-So-New World: Empire and Environment in French Colonial North America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018).

57.

Carl Linnaeus, Critica botanica (Leiden, 1737), preface, no. 213.

58.

Parsons, Not-So-New World, 52–55.

59.

Londa Schiebinger, “Naming and Knowing: The Global Politics of Eighteenth-Century Botanical Nomenclatures,” in Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe: Practices, Objects, and Texts, 1400–1800, ed. Pamela H. Smith and Benjamin Schmidt (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 90–105.

60.

Dezallier, La théorie et la pratique du jardinage, 36.

61.

Louis de Rouvroy, Mémoires complets et authentiques du duc de Saint-Simon sur le siècle de Louis XIV et la régence, ed. A. Chéruel, 13 vols. (Paris: Hachette, 1882–84), 2:102.

62.

Bonnier's library included the following, as listed in the 1745 Catalogue des livres de M. Bonnier de la Mosson: Under the heading “Metaphysique” were two editions of Locke's Essay Concerning Humane Understanding—an English edition published in London in 1726 and the French translation by Pierre Coste published in Amsterdam in 1729 (Lots 106 and 107, p. 9). Under the heading “Optique” were two editions of Newton's Opticks—the Latin edition published in London in 1706 and Pierre Coste's French translation published in Amsterdam in 1720 (Lots 702 and 703, pp. 54–55). Under the heading “Art de la peinture, gravure, &c.” was a book listed as L'art de peinture de Ch. Alphonse du Fresnoy, trad. avec des remarques, par Roger de Piles: Avec les figures d'Académie, gravées par Seb. Le Clerc, Paris, 1684 (Lot 971, p. 71).

63.

Thomas Crow, “The Critique of Enlightenment in Eighteenth-Century Art,” in Art Criticism 3, no. 3 (1987), 21. See also Donald Posner, “Concerning the ‘Mechanical’ Parts of Painting and the Artistic Culture of Seventeenth-Century France,” Art Bulletin 75 (Dec. 1993), 583–98.

64.

Jacqueline Lichtenstein, The Eloquence of Color: Rhetoric and Painting in the French Classical Age, trans. Emily McVarish (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 179. See also Thomas Puttfarken, Roger de Piles' Theory of Art (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1985).

65.

Roger de Piles, Cour de peinture par principes (Paris: Jacques Estienne, 1708), 12, 348, 3.

66.

Dezallier, La théorie et la pratique du jardinage, 3.

67.

Rudolf Arnheim, Visual Thinking (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 13.

68.

Rudolf Arnheim, “A Plea for Visual Thinking,” in The Language of Images, ed. W. J. T. Mitchell (1974; repr., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 171–79.

69.

Arnheim, “A Plea for Visual Thinking,” 176–79.

70.

See Spary, Utopia's Garden, 209.

71.

Gersaint, Catalogue raisonné d'une collection considérable, 173–74.

72.

Gersaint, 200.

73.

Bettina Dietz, “Mobile Objects: The Space of Shells in Eighteenth-Century France,” British Journal for the History of Science 39 (Sept. 2006), 367.

74.

Edme-François Gersaint, Catalogue raisonné de coquilles et autres curiosités naturelles (Paris: Flahaut, 1736), 7.

75.

For example, see E. C. Spary, “Scientific Symmetries,” History of Science 42 (2004), 1–46; Bettina Dietz and Thomas Nutz, “Collections Curieuses: The Aesthetics of Curiosity and Elite Lifestyle in Eighteenth-Century Paris,” Eighteenth-Century Life 29 (2005), 44–75; Dietz, “Mobile Objects”; Charlotte Guichard, “La coquille au XVIIIe siècle: Un objet frontière?,” Techniques et Culture 59 (2012), 150–63; Jessica Priebe, “The Artist as Collector: François Boucher (1703–1770),” Journal of the History of Collections 28 (Mar. 2016), 27–42.

76.

Spary, “Scientific Symmetries,” 3.

77.

Spary, 1.

78.

Spary, 19.

79.

On the parterre as a model of order and symmetry, see Spary, “Scientific Symmetries”; Charlotte Guichard, “Parterre,” in Lafont, 1740, 178–87.

80.

Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville, L'histoire naturelle éclaircie dans deux de ses parties principales, la lithologie et la conchyliologie (Paris: Buré l'Ainé, 1742), 204.

81.

See John Dixon Hunt, “‘Ut Pictura Poesis’: The Garden and the Picturesque in England (1710–1750),” in The Architecture of Western Gardens: A Design History from the Renaissance to the Present Day, ed. Monique Mosser and Georges Teyssot (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1991), 231–41.