Du jardin à la table et de la table au jardin by Catherine ARMINJON – Château de Bénouville

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Du jardin à la table et de la table au jardin by Catherine ARMINJON – Château de Bénouville

From garden to table and from table to garden

Nature, gardens in particular, have always hosted many a banquet and feast. We have a wealth of iconography, be it in the gardens of Versailles and their famous ‘Delights of the Enchanted Island’, or amidst the woods or a château patio.
The phenomenon has been observed since the Middle Ages. Eating outdoors was commonplace, always near a source of water – a river, a pond or a fountain, into which dirty crockery and glasses were plunged to be cleaned, or drinks to be chilled, or from where drinking water was taken.
Water was also omnipresent on the table, in one form or another: basins, water mirrors, spun sugar fountains, etc.
It was in the 18th century that gardens were brought to the table. Hence, basins, water mirrors, fountains, rivers and lakes were surrounded with moss, topiaries, artificial and natural flowers, decorative vases, architecture, ruins, pagodas and pavilions, of colonnades and temples, rocks and grottos, together with a wealth of statues to which marzipan and fresh or dried fruits were added. This tradition of plant-adorned scenes on the table was continued in the 19th century, to gradually give way to simpler decors or just flowers and fruit, which were reminiscent of bygone tastes.

Catherine Arminjon

Catherine Arminjon is general heritage curator for the French Directorate General for Heritage and for the general inventory department. Also scientific director for the Centre des Monuments nationaux (centre for national monuments), specialist in objets d’art, she has published a number of catalogues and works, in particular on the decorative arts and on tableware. She has served as co-commissioner for the exhibitions entitled ‘Des tables royales en Europe’ (royal tables of Europe), ‘Le mobilier d’argent’ (silver furnishings) and ‘Les sciences à Versailles’ (science at Versailles) at the Palace of Versailles; ‘François 1er et l’Italie’ (François I and Italy) at the Château de Chambord, ‘Les cathédrales de France’ (the cathedrals of France) in Reims, and ‘Androuet du Cerceau’ at the Musée des Monuments Français, etc.