My new book, Marie-Antoinette’s Legacy: The Politics of French Garden Patronage and Picturesque Design, 1775-1867, was released by Amsterdam University Press in November 2022. The book was awarded the J.B. Jackson Book Prize – 2023 and was reviewed by Dr Amanda Strasik, Associate Professor of Art History, School of Art & Design, Eastern Kentucky University.
Challenging the established historiography that frames the French picturesque garden movement as an international style, this book contends that the French picturesque gardens from 1775 until 1867 functioned as liminal zones at the epicenter of court patronage systems. Four French consorts—queen Marie-Antoinette and empresses Joséphine Bonaparte, Marie-Louise and Eugénie—constructed their gardens betwixt and between court ritual and personal agency, where they transgressed sociopolitical boundaries in order to perform gender and identity politics. Each patron endorsed embodied strolling, promoting an awareness of the sentient body in artfully contrived sensoria at the Petit Trianon and Malmaison, transforming these places into spaces of shared affectivity. The gardens became living legacies, where female agency, excluded from the garden history canon, created a forum for spatial politics. Beyond the garden gates, the spatial experience of the picturesque influenced the development of cultural fields dedicated to performances of subjectivity, including landscape design, cultural geography and the origination of landscape aesthetics in France.
My book is the third volume in the University of Amsterdam Press’s Spatial Imageries in Historical Perspective series that encourages new approaches to the history of space and place. Each chapter engages interdisciplinary approaches that will interest readers of French history, botanical illustration, fashion, and women’s studies in addition to garden history and design. Each chapter engages a range of topics:
- Marie-Antoinette’s Gamescapes: Curating Surprise betwixt and between gambling and garden design.
- Spectacular Amusements: Promenading in Revolutionary Paris
- A Créole Empress at Malmaison: Acclimatization, Bio-prospecting and Imperial Desire
- Empress Marie-Louise and Napoléon Bonaparte’s Marie-Antoinette Revival
- Empress Eugenie’s Garden Patrimony, the Historic Picturesque and the Public Park Movement
- Re-thinking the French Garden History Canon