Villa Bagatelle was built by Englishman Henry Atkinson in 1849 on his property on the Bois-de-Coulonge park modeled after a Parisian mansion owned by a fellow Englishman. The park reminds us of the now infamous Bois-de-Boulogne in Paris.
The villa was destroyed by fire in 1926 and was rebuilt only to fall into neglect and ruin during the period of 1973-1983. It was then acquired by the Québec suburb of Sillery who turned it into the cultural centre and museum that it is today.
The villa and its garden is one of the best representations of the influence of the English country garden in Québec and in Eastern Canada. The garden is beautiful and boasts hundreds of exotic and indigenous plants. There was even a waterlily pond which was reminiscent of les nymphéas de Monet!
The art exhibition currently on display at the Villa is Les Prisons de Piranèse by a Venetian artist, Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778), whose gothic, neo-classical charcoal and pencil drawings of imaginary prison scenes in Venice are hauntingly beautiful. The detail, the imagination and the sombre subject matter fascinated me as I stood looking at each image for more time than I usually do before a work of art. I found myself thinking of the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Victor Hugo (and maybe even my own dark demons...). This collection is on loan from the National Gallery of Canada until the end of the summer. I highly recommend a visit.