The Sphinx of Bagatelle

Bagatelle is a chateau well hidden in the Bois de Boulogne where you can find flowers and especially roses, gardens and the Sphinx of Bagatelle.

Sphinx of Bagatelle

The sphinx of bagatelle is a novel by Romanian Princess Marthe Bibesco (aka Martha Bibescu).

The book is a bit hard to find, though. Etonians might get it from the school’s library. It can also be bought from AbeBooks. The original French version doesn’t seem to have survived the test of time.

“In 1775, the Count of Artois, Louis XVI’s brother, acquired a small castle built around 1720 in the Bois de Boulogne, which had been a well-known place of libertinism, hence the name “Bagatelle*.”

source: Paris tourist board

The count made a bet with Marie-Antoinette that he would have the castle rebuilt in two months.

The work began on 21 September 1777 and was completed in time for the inauguration on November 26.

Sphinx of Bagatelle

Sphinxes are ubiquitous

Sphinxes are ubiquitous in Bagatelle. They are a symbol of the “return from Egypt” as it’s called, following the French campaign in Egypt and Syria which ended up in the Abukir 1799 debacle (from Napoleon’s point of view).

For a reminder of the number of deaths and casualties check here. Difficult to tell precisely how many died there on the French side, but it seems that it was a good many.

Sphinx of Bagatelle

There are other animals there such as these beautiful felines on the newly renovated doors of the main building.

Sphinx of Bagatelle

A close-up of the lions, they are my favourites.

The rest of the chateau is in pretty poor state, though.

In French, the word “bagatelle” originates from the Low Latin “bagattire” meaning “trifles”, or from the Italian “bagatella”: “juggler trick”. Bagatelles are objects or opinions of little value (mere trifles). In the singular, bagatelle can have the same meaning, but can also refer to the sexual act.



Yann Gourvennec
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