Both French Embassy buildings, the Chancery and the Ambassador’s Residence were designed by the French architect, M. M. J. Desmaret. The foundation stone of the Residence was laid on the 13th of March, 1957, by M. de Felice, French Deputy Foreign Minister, in the presence of the then Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Robert Menzies and Mr R. C. Casey, the then Minister for External Affairs. The building was officially opened on the 19th of November, 1959.
The Reception Rooms
The interior decoration of the reception rooms offers three items of special interest. They are the porcelains, the paintings, and the tapestries. All the furniture in the Residence is French and was provided by "le Mobilier National", a Government Department which furnishes French official buildings. Crystalware from "les Cristalleries de Saint Louis" and porcelain from Limoges make up the table setting on official occasions.
A great number of "objets d’art" displayed throughout the reception rooms are porcelains from the Sevres factory. Some of them are in the traditional Sevres blue, whilst others belong to the modern design school. Sevres porcelain became famous in the 18th century under the patronage of Madame de Pompadour, who helped to make porcelain fashionable in France. The Sevres factory produces ornamental pieces as well as exclusive china.
Works of contemporary artists decorate the Embassy. Several of them, oil paintings and water colours have been chosen to illustrate the diversity of the French landscape; "Baux de Provence", "Port d’Antibes", "Deauville", "Fenaison en Ile de France" ...
The description of France as "the mother of tapestries" given by a British historian is a very telling one. One has to go back to the years 1400 to discover the first masters of tapestry making. The interest displayed by the French King, Charles V, the Countess of Artois and the Dukes of Burgundy gave the first impulse to what was at first the work of small craftsmen.
A series of wars and conflicts later resulted in their emigrating to Flanders. But thanks to the personal effort and determination of several kings, Francois I, Henri II, Henri IV, Louis XIV, tapestry making again became an important aspect of French craftsmanship and art. Under the patronage of King Henri IV, the Gobelins factory was created. It began at first as an association between the French family of dyers "les Gobelins" and craftsmen from Flanders. Aubusson and Beauvais were and have remained two other centres which have achieved world renown.
Tapestries remain today an important element of decoration as they bring a most valuable complement to modern architecture. Three tapestries of "les Gobelins" designed by contemporary artists, enhance the main drawing room and the dining room of the Embassy Residence. A fourth hanging above the Boulle table on entering the hall comes from Aubusson. It differs from the other three by its colours. In the tradition set up by the first Director of the Aubusson National School of Decorative Arts, only a limited number of colours have been used.