La Ménagerie

The Ménagerie at the Jardin des Plantes descends from the royal court at Versailles in France. Private zoos, or Ménageries, have been displays of royal extravagance and domination over nature throughout Europe since the middle ages.  After the revolution, the private Ménageries, made of rows of bare walled cages fronted by iron bars, were dismantled and the animals were given away; a symbol of the dissolution of absolutism.   The animals from the court at Versailles were transferred to the public Jardin des Plantes in Paris and were housed among the picturesque gardens, yet another symbol of liberty.   The image of the landscaped Ménagerie influenced the creation of similar Ménageries throughout Europe and at the same time they began to be linked with science, classification and learning. The specific ways that zoos are built and maintained, their cages and their presentation of animals gives us insight into the culture and the values of the people that erect them.