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.


English French
Antiques Antiquités
Bookcase Bibliothèque
Ceramics Céramiques
Classicism Classicisme
Clocks Horloges
Decorative Arts Arts Décoratifs
Desks Bureaux
Earrings Boucles d’oreilles
Embroideries Broderies
Faiences Faïences
Furniture Mobilier
Italian Renaissance Renaissance italienne
Italian Mannerism Maniérisme italien
Jewelry Bijoux
Marble sculptures Sculptures en marbre
Marquetry Marqueterie
Medieval style Style médiéval
Moldings Moulures
New Empire Nouvel Empire
Porcelains Porcelaines
Regency style Style Régence
Renaissance Renaissance
Silverware Argenterie
Tapestry Tapisserie
Hall of Mirrors Galerie des Glaces
School of Fontainebleau École de Fontainebleau
Sculpted columns Colonnes sculptées


Château de Chambord

  • About: Known for its distinct French Renaissance architecture, the Château de Chambord is located in the department of Loir-et-Cher. Work on the château began in 1519, during the reign of King Francis I. Surrounded by a vast, enclosed forest and game reserve, the château is the largest in the Loire Valley. Its architecture drew inspiration from the French tradition as well as the Italian Renaissance. The Château de Chambord was included on the first historical monuments list in France in 1840; and it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. The designer of the château remains a mystery, though many names have been mentioned, including Leonardo Da Vinci (Italian, 1452–1519). With a rich collection of paintings, tapestries, furniture, and artworks, Chambord has one of the most beautiful preserved tapestry collections in France. Offering a wide variety of art forms, including classical music, Old Masters, and Contemporary pieces, the château has also hosted the artist residencies of Frédérique Loutz (French, b.1974) and Ernesto Castillo, with the exhibition Coup(o)les. In addition, sculptures by François Weil (French, b.1964) will be on view in the courtyard of the château until March 16, 2014.
  • Did You Know? The Château de Chambord was the inspiration for the Beast’s castle in the movie Beauty and the Beast (1991) by Disney Studios.
  • Address: Domaine national de Chambord – 41250 Chambord
  • Website:
  • Hours: Mon–Sun: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.


Robert Polidori, Vestibule (73) AMI.01.009, Salles Empire, Aile du Midi—R.d.C, Château de Versailles, France, 1985, archival pigment inkjet print, Sundaram Tagore Gallery, New York, NY

Robert Polidori, Vestibule (73) AMI.01.009, Salles Empire, Aile du Midi—R.d.C, Château de Versailles, France, 1985, archival pigment inkjet print, Sundaram Tagore Gallery, New York, NY

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).

  • Did You Know? Neil Young wrote a song about the palace on his album Long May You Run (1976).
  • Address: Place Charles de Gaulle – 77300 Fontainebleau
  • Website:
  • Hours: Wed–Mon: 9:30 p.m.–5 p.m., Tue: Closed


Château de Lunéville

  • About: Built between 1703 and 1720 for Duke Léopold I, and inspired by the Château de Versailles, Château de Lunéville is located in the Lorraine department, in the northeast of France. Many architects contributed to the design of Lunéville, including Pierre Bourdict and Nicolas Dorbay, as well as Germain Boffrand (French, 1667–1754). Referred to as the Versailles of Lorraine, the chapel was classified as a historical monument in 1901, along with other parts of the château in 1929. After the death of Léopold in 1729, King Stanislas Leszczynski took possession of the château and asked Emmanuel Héré de Corny (French, 1705–1763) to breathe new life into the château’s design. The architect would later become famous for his fanciful, Rococo style. At that time, the Château de Lunéville became one of the intellectual centers of Europe. In 1766, Stanislas died, and the château was transformed into a barrack. Since 1945, the château has included administration services, military offices, and a museum. In addition to the museum, which presents works by artists such as Marguerite Delorme (French, 1876–1946), Art Nouveau and Chinese porcelain exhibitions, Eastern artworks, Lorraine faiences, and valuable furniture, the château of the Siècle des Lumières also offers also a diverse array of exhibitions. Photographs by Robert Doisneau (French, 1912–1994) will be on display until January 2014, and photographers Dorothea Lange (American, 1895–1965), Andrzej Georgiew (Polish, b.1963), andJakub Pajewski (Polish, b.1962) will be presented next year alongside works by artist-in-residence, Jac Vitali.
  • Did You Know? The Château de Lunéville had seven fires between 1719 and 1961. In 2003, a fire destroyed the royal chapel, the roof of the southeast wing, and large portions of the buildings. In response, a restoration effort was immediately organized, and reconstruction began in 2005.
  • Address: Place de la 2e Division de Cavalerie – 54300 Lunéville
  • Website:
  • Hours: Wed–Mon: 10 a.m.–Noon, 2 p.m.–6 p.m., Tue: Closed


Château de Malbrouck–Manderen

  • About: Built in 1419, the Château de Malbrouck is located in Lorraine, a department in the northeast of France. Nested between Luxemburg and Germany, Malbrouck is a cross-border art space, and belongs to the network called “Grands Sites de Moselle.” The castle is composed of four towers connected by curtain walls, a main building, and a large central courtyard. Through its exhibitions, Malbrouck displays six centuries of history. Medieval banquets and performances are also featured. Classified as a French Historic Monument in 1930, the castle also showcases Contemporary exhibitions in various media (drawings, etchings, installations, paintings, sculptures, photography, and video). Among the artists who have exhibited here are Tomi Ungerer (French, b.1931) in 2008, Niki de Saint Phalle (French, 1930–2002) in 2010, Robert Doisneau (French, 1912–1994) in 2011, Claude Weisbuch (French, b.1927), and Ben (French, b.1935) in 2012.
  • Did You Know? The castle was named after John Churchill, the duke of Malborough, which French people called Malbrouck. He settled in the castle with his army during the War of Spanish Succession.
  • Address: Château de Malbrouck – 57480 Manderen
  • Website:
  • Hours:Tue–Fri: 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Mon: 2 p.m.–5 p.m., weekends and bank holidays: 10 a.m.–6 p.m.


Château de Pommard

  • About: In 1726 in Burgundy, Vivant Micault, equerry and secretary of Louis XV, ordered the construction of the Château de Pommard in the Regency Style, as well as wine facilities, which allowed Louis XV and his court to enjoy the local wine. In 1763, Claude Marey bought the land, and it then belonged to a series of private owners until 2003, when the current owner, Mr. Giraud, took over. Mr. Giraud wanted to dedicate the château to the arts: the art of making Burgundy’s Grands Vins, and the art of 20th-century masters, painters, and sculptors. Today, the château includes a vineyard, a French garden, a restaurant, a museum about wine, and an art gallery, which organizes Contemporary exhibitions. In the past, the château showcased exhibitions of major artists, including Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904–1989), Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973), and Keith Haring (American, 1958–1990). In collaboration with galleries, and as part of Pom’Art 2013, artworks by Andy Warhol (American, 1928–1987), Marc Chagall (French/Russian, 1887–1985), and Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923–1997) were presented, as well as sculptures by Paul Beckrich (French, b.1953), Julien Marinetti (b.1967), Stéphane Cipre (French, b.1968), and Richard Orlinski (b.1966) in the park and gallery of the château.
  • Did You Know? The vaulted, 18th-century wine cellars at Château de Pommard contain 300,000 bottles of wine and 650 oak barrels.
  • Address: 15 rue Marey Monge BP 30018 – 21630 Pommard
  • Website:
  • Hours: Mon–Sun: 9:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m.


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.

  • Did You Know? In 1951, the palace fell into disrepair, and the French government appealed to the people of France for help via radio. Among the famous contributors were Jean Cocteau (French, 1889–1963), Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954), and Maurice Utrillo (French, 1883–1955). Over the years, the Château de Versailles has welcomed many different kinds of events; in June 1988, the courtyard of the palace hosted Pink Floyd during their A Momentary Lapse of Reason tour.
  • Address: Place d’Armes – 78000 Versailles
  • Website:
  • Hours:Tue–Fri: 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Mon: Closed
DeLoss McGraw, Full Moon Over Toy Castle (Joseph Cornell Series), 2006–2007, gouache and collage on paper, ACA Galleries, New York, NY

DeLoss McGraw, Full Moon Over Toy Castle (Joseph Cornell Series), 2006–2007, gouache and collage on paper, ACA Galleries, New York, NY

The Prince of Wales, Balmoral 1991, 1991, lithograph, Belgravia Gallery, London, UK

The Prince of Wales, Balmoral, 1991, lithograph, Belgravia Gallery, London, UK

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