Musée du Domaine départemental de Sceaux: The history of the Domaine
Le domaine de sceaux

The History of the Domaine

History of the Domaine

Colbert - the man who created the estate

The park went down in history in 1670 when Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the Sun King’s Controller-General of Finances, bought the Domaine and turned it into a place of real prestige. He had the house restored and enlarged, ordered the Pavillon de l’Aurore to be built and a garden laid out. Charles Le Brun, Louis XIV’s great painter and decorative artist, took part in the project, while the sculptors Antoine Coysevox and François Girardon exhibited their works in the park. The task of laying out the grounds was entrusted to André Le Nôtre, the creator of the most important 17th century classical gardens.

Taking advantage of its high position, the château is landscaped using a design based around a double vista, one in line with the château and the second perpendicular, so that you do not immediately see a great waterfall which flows into the Octogone lake. The layout is further enhanced by plants in beds or shaped into screens and many water features.

The estate is extended

When Colbert died his son, the Marquis de Seignelay, acquired a great deal of land and the Domaine then grew to 220 hectares. André Le Nôtre came back and redesigned the garden, creating the Grand Canal. The architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart built the Orangery and we can still admire most of the building today.

The Duke and Duchess of Maine added to the magic of the site and organised entertainments, including the “Sceaux nights” which have remained famous.

Destruction and restoration projects

In the 18th century, the French Revolution led to the near total destruction of the site, which was then bought by a rich farmer by the name of Hyppolite Lecomte.

The Duke of Trévise, who married Lecomte’s daughter in 1828, embarked upon the restoration of the Domaine. He had a neo-Louis XIII style château rebuilt and reviewed the broad outline of the garden.

The First World War put an end to this renewal and it was not until 1923 that the Department of the Seine bought the estate and protected its historic heritage. The buildings and sculptures were listed as historic monuments in 1925.

The creation of a great public park

Léon Azéma, the architect and designer of the Trocadéro gardens, led the restoration project between 1930 and 1934 and, although he kept the buildings, main vistas and bodies of water, the internal structure was changed. He built a new Art Deco style waterfall and decorated it with bronze mascarons by the sculptor Rodin. First and foremost, he simplified the layout of the paths, the organisation of the groves and brought in the façade of the Pavillon de Hanovre, which had once stood on the Boulevard des Italiens in Paris. The private 17th and 18th century Domaine gave away to a public park, a perfect place to relax and go for a walk.

The Department of the Hauts-de-Seine began work on restoring the park again in 1971, picking up where Azéma left off, managing the conservation and restoration of a historic estate whilst at the same time adapting management methods to contemporary changes.

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