Parc Monceau

Chaos in a Parisian Park

Unlike typical Parisian Parks such as Champ de Mars, Parc Monceau has a chaotic aesthetic to it. The park changed throughout its history, especially in appearance. It was then stifled by the death of the original owner due to the French Revolution and the proceeding abandonment of the grounds. Later, the chaotic aesthetic was reformed under Haussman’s modernization of Paris.

This unique park began as a private party grounds for Phillippe d’Orléans also known under his title of Duc d’Orléans, the cousin of Louis XVI. He hired Louis Carrogis Carmontelle to design a folly-filled garden based off the English garden style. The chaos of the park originated with Carmontelle’s desire for a certain haphazard aesthetic. This was combined with the involvement of the Duc d’Orléans in freemasonry, being in charge of a stonemasons fraternity. It was Carmontelle’s belief that a garden does not need to please those strolling through, but rather bring the visitors back through the use of nature and follies. The follies, decorative and unpractical as they are, were inspired by the great empires throughout history. He worried that without this aesthetic, visitors would go to the countryside to find the visualization of freedom, which he saw as representative of a garden.

Carmontelle filled Monceau with various sculptures, flowers, follies and more, to entertain the easily bored upper class. There was a Dutch styled windmill, a Chinese bridge, along with other follies based off Ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome, and Eastern cultures. Roman follies included temples to Roman gods and a colonnade while Egyptian ones were an obelisk and a pyramid. Few of these follies survive, but those that do bring an older feel to the park.

Originally a part of the Farmers-General Wall, the Rotunda was built as a neoclassical toll gate. Different from the tax wall, the Rotunda has an upper floor apartment used by the Duc d’Orléans as a residence when at the park. The Farmers-General Wall ran along the northern edge of the grounds surrounding the Claude-Nicolas Ledoux designed pavilion. After the wall was destroyed, only the Rotunda was left in the park. Phillippe d’Orléans became involved in the French Revolution, but he was guillotined along with his cousin and Monceau became the property of the new government.

A supposed attempt was made to impose order to Monceau after the completed uprising with the aid of Thomas Blaikie, a landscape artist. Blaikie removed some sculptures of famous Frenchmen and destroyed follies to give a more French style aesthetic to the garden. However, another story is that he was hired by Phillippe d’Orléans himself shortly before his death to tone down the chaos of Carmontelle’s design of the gardens. Blaikie, regardless of who his employer was, simplified Monceau’s pathways, gardens and other sections to become a French styled park.

After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, the land was returned to the d’Orléans family and the City of Paris bought Monceau from them. This part of the original park was renovated under Napoleon III and Baron Haussman. Roadways were put in to intersect in the center of the park, going both North to South and East to West. Haussman added exotic trees and flowers to the park as well as replacements for destroyed follies and sculptures such as a waterfall and a bridge. The remainder of the grounds was reused to form mansions that surround the park.

By the time that Haussman began renovating the park, it had been abandoned since the French Revolution for about sixty years. There is a good chance that he may have to replant the gardens in addition to adding follies and sculptures. Gilded gates of iron designed by Gabriel Davioud, who also designed the dome of the Rotunda, stand at each of the four entrances to the park. Park benches and public restrooms in the Rotunda were added to the park. There are sculptures of famous Parisians throughout the park, such as Chopin and various artists.



35 Boulevard de Courcelles, 75008 Paris, France ~ It is open to the public at no cost from 7 AM to 8 PM (till 10 PM in summer).