Lafayette’s Lagrange Estate: Aristocracy, Power, and Restoration with Dr. Gabriel Wick

Lafayette’s Lagrange Estate: Aristocracy, Power, and Restoration with Dr. Gabriel Wick


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Lafayette remade his estate of Lagrange in France's Brie region to embody his ideals. It was to be a dignified backdrop for a statesman and a revolutionary in retirement, who fully expected one day, like Cincinnatus, to be summoned back to power. It was, however, also to be a profitable and rational agricultural enterprise and a base for philanthropic and paternalistic activities. Led by a landscape historian, this conversation will explore this extraordinary space, its history, and its restoration.

In its layout and forms, Lagrange resembles the parks that Lancelot Brown was designing across the Channel, but in the general's words, it was not to be "too English". Ever conscious of his stature, he hired fashionable designers to advise him -- the painter Hubert Robert and the architect Antoine Vaudoyer, paradoxically, however, he insisted on an extreme degree of simplicity.

At Lafayette's death, the estate passed to conservative relations who were at pains to conceal their ties with this "revolutionary". They consigned his belongings to the attics, where they were re-discovered in the 1950s by Renée and José de Chambrun. The couple devoted their lives to restoring the interior of the château as a monument to Lafayette. The surrounding landscape, however, was too vast a project for them. The estate remained intact and was maintained in the condition in which it had been found, but nonetheless was never subject to critical study or restoration.

Landscape historian Dr. Gabriel Wick, a specialist in 18th-century gardens, is advising the Chambrun Foundation on the restoration and interpretation of the Lagrange landscape. His seminar will examine the historical development of Lagrange, Lafayette's intentions with its design, planting and layout, and the patrimonial and ecological principles guiding the foundation's "soft" approach. Participants will gain a unique insight into this historic site, the general's life in France, and contemporary questions surrounding landscape restoration and interpretation.

Gabriel Wick is a lecturer in urban and architectural history at NYU-Paris. He received his doctorate in history from the University of London and also holds a degree in landscape architecture from UC Berkeley, and garden conservation from the National Architecture School of Versailles (ENSA-V). He is the author of a number of books and articles on historic landscapes. He is also consulting on the restoration of the gardens of La Grange, home of the General Lafayette.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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