Parc Jean-Jacques Rousseau  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Parc Jean-Jacques-Rousseau is a French landscape garden at Ermenonville, in the Département of Oise. It is named for the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who stayed there the last six weeks of his life. He died there in 1778 and was buried in the Île des peupliers, an island in the park. The western part, called "le Désert" is managed by the Institut de France, and the northern part by a hotel/restaurant at the château in Ermenonville. The other parts are not open to the public, for various reasons.


The garden at Ermenonville was one of the earliest and finest examples of the French landscape garden. The garden at Ermenonville was planned by Marquis René Louis de Girardin, the friend and final patron of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Girardin's master plan drew its inspiration from Rousseau's novels and philosophy of the nobility of Nature. Rousseau's tomb is prominently situated on the artificial island in Ermenonville's lake. It is remarked that Hubert Robert was the architect. Created with care and craft, the garden came to resemble a natural environment, almost a wilderness, appearing untouched by any human intervention. Girardin admired the work of William Shenstone at The Leasowes and made a ferme ornee at Ermenonville. An imitation of Rousseau's island is at Dessau-Wörlitz Garden Realm, Germany.

During the early nineteenth century it was much visited and admired. The garden at Ermenonville was described by Girardin's son in 1811 in an elegant tour-book with aquatint plates that reveal Girardin's love of diverse vistas that capture painterly landscape effects. Enhancing the elegiac mood of these views were the altars and monuments, the 'Rustic Temple', and other details meant to evoke Rousseau's Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse.

Nearby is Rousseau's 'cabin' in the secluded désert of Ermenonville.

Napoleon Bonaparte visited Ermenonville, where he remarked to Girardin that it might have been better for the French peace that neither he nor Rousseau had ever been born. Girardin retold this story again and again after the fact.

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