Parlez-vous le French Renaissance?
Our French art vocabulary glossary and château list.
The time has come for the fourth article in our French glossary series! France has a long history, and through the centuries, the country has witnessed the power of the monarchy expressed through architecture. Many palaces around France are symbolic of a particular king’s ego and ambition, but also demonstrate a passion for art. Over time, medieval, classical, and Renaissance styles lent their own particular aesthetics to the beautiful architectural masterpieces that can be seen throughout the country. Today, more and more châteaux and palaces are opening their doors to Contemporary Art, proving that artworks can be shown in new ways.
We will present you with some of the most prestigious French chateaux, as well as a glossary which will help you to appreciate the symbiosis between past and present.
Let’s take a journey through the chateaux and palaces of France.
ART IN CHATEAUX AND PALACES, TERMINOLOGY A–Z:
|Sculptures en marbre
|Hall of Mirrors
|Galerie des Glaces
|School of Fontainebleau
|École de Fontainebleau
A SELECTION OF FRENCH CHÂTEAUX EXHIBITING CONTEMPORARY ART IN FRANCE
Château de Chambord
Château de Fontainebleau
About: Located about 40 miles southeast of Paris, the Palace of Fontainebleau has more than 1,500 rooms and stands on 130 acres of parkland and gardens. Fontainebleau is the only royal and imperial palace to have been continuously inhabited for seven centuries. The first official mention of the palace in a royal charter dates back to 1137. Fontainebleau has stood as a witness to French history since the Middle Ages, featuring medieval, Renaissance, and classical architectural styles. During the 16th century, Francis I collected artworks such as La Joconde (c.1503–1506) and The Virgin of the Rocks (1483–1486) by Leonardo da Vinci, and La Belle Jardinière (1507),also known as Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist, by Raphaël (Italian, 1483–1520). Wanting to create a new Rome, the king commissioned pieces related to mythology, and brought Antiques from Italy and casts of Roman statues to make bronze sculptures. In addition, Italian artists were commissioned to work at Fontainebleau, and their influence had a lasting impact on French Art. Rosso Fiorentino (Italian, b. ca.1494–1540) was appointed to decorate a few of the palace’s rooms, including the famous Francis I Gallery, which connected the king’s apartments to the Trinity Chapel and featured an artwork from the First School of Fontainebleau, a symbol of the French Renaissance. The palace introduced the Italian Mannerist style to France, which included combined sculpture, metalwork, painting, stucco, and woodwork.
Today, the palace boasts four museums: the Empress’ Chinese Museum, with Far-Eastern treasures; the Napoleon I Museum, which presents gold and silverware, costumes, and ceramics, among other items; the Paintings Gallery, featuring oil paintings from the 17th century; and the Furniture Gallery. Other rooms are dedicated to masterpieces by Jean Dubois (French. b. ca.1625–1694), Francesco Primaticcio (Italian, 1504–1570), and François Gérard (French, 1770–1837). Fontainebleau was classified a historical monument in 1862 and UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. In addition to classical art, Fontainebleau became a center for Contemporary Art in 2008. For one month, the palace hosted the exhibition Tokyo-Fontainebleau, in partnership with the Palais de Tokyo, during which time the public could see sculptures by Daniel Firman (French, b.1966)—including an elephant in the Diana Gallery—and artworks by Etienne Bossut (b.1946), Jonathan Monk (British, b.1969), Werner Reiterer (Austrian, b.1964), and Jeremy Deller (British, b.1966).
Château de Lunéville
Château de Malbrouck–Manderen
Château de Pommard
Château de Versailles
About: Located in the southwest of Paris, the Palace of Versailles (in French, Château de Versailles) encompasses the palace itself and the surrounding land, including the Trianons, the Grand Canal, and the palace gardens. Because of his passion for hunting in the forests around Versailles, in 1624, Louis XIII ordered Philibert Le Roy to build a hunting lodge. Then, after obtaining the seigneury of Versailles, he began to add additions to the original structure. When he died in 1643, Louis XIV was only four years old. In 1661, the king asked for the renovation and expansion of the palace, which went on to become one of the largest palaces in the world. Louis XIV also established Versailles as the new center for the royal court in 1682. During the French Revolution, Versailles housed a collection of natural curiosities, and in June 1794, the first Conservatoire du Muséum national de Versailles opened under the direction of sieur Fayolle. It was then renamed Musée Spécial de l’École Française. Artworks by Eustache LeSueur and Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640) were displayed in the “grands appartements,” which were used as galleries. On June 10, 1837, the Museum of French History was inaugurated by Louis-Philippe, and occupied the lateral wings of the palace. Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798–1863), Emile Jean Horace Vernet (French, 1789–1863), François Pascal Simon Gérard (French, 1770–1837), and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841–1919) were among the artists exhibited there.
Over the decades, several monarchs occupied the Palace of Versailles, including Louis XV, Marie-Antoinette, Louis XVI, Napoléon I, and Napoléon III. Many of these monarchs lent their names to the artistic styles incorporated into the palace’s design. The palace itself is an extraordinary work of art, with contributions from artists such as André-Charles Boulle (French, 1642–1732), Ange-Jacques Gabriel (French, 1698–1782), Robert de Cotte (French, 1656–1735), François Lemoyne (French, 1688–1737), and Louis Jean-Jacques Durameau (French, 1733–1796). The Château de Versailles was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, and was established as a public institution in 1995.
While still celebrating classical art in its 679,537 square feet of space and 2,300 rooms containing 60,000 artworks, Contemporary artworks are also displayed, including works by Giuseppe Penone (Italian, b.1947), which were on view from June to October 2013. André Le Nôtre, who made the French formal garden famous throughout Europe and was commissioned by Louis XIV to design the gardens of Versailles, will be celebrated at the palace in 2013 and 2014. In the past, exhibitions by Jeff Koons (American, b.1955) and Takashi Murakami (Japanese, b.1962), in 2008 and 2010, respectively, drew strong opposition from those who believed that the integrity of the palace and its traditions were threatened by paintings of superheroes and giant flowers.
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