The exhibition, “Le Siècle de François 1er” (The Century of Francis I) is currently located at the Musée Condé in the Domaine de Chantilly from September 7 until December 7, 2015. It is a celebration of the 500th year anniversary of François 1er’s (1494-1547) ascension to the throne, and his victory at the Battle of Marignano in 1515. The exhibition, which is appropriately housed in the Salle du Jeu de paume of the Musée Condé, is an assemblage of 175 pieces and reflects the monarch’s profound interest in literature and the arts as seen in the multitude of paintings, architectural drawings, illuminated manuscripts, and decorative art objects. The exhibition expertly displays the interrelationship between socio-political and cultural aspects of French society with its choice of historical artifacts in an intimate environment. Courtly and family life are presented through the skillful artistic production of paintings and drawings by Jean and François Clouet, as well as an extraordinary collection of exquisitely bound books and illuminated manuscripts.
As a staunch patron of the arts, François 1er surrounded himself with scholars, humanists, scientists, scribes, and artists. Inspired by the innovation and intellectualism of the Italian Renaissance, the monarch often invited artists such as Francesco Primaticcio, Benvento Cellini, and Rosso Fiorentino, among others, to his court. The Domaine de Chantilly was inherited by Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale, son of the last King of France, Louis-Philippe. It was bestowed upon him in 1830 by his godfather Louis-Henri-Joseph de Bourbon, the last Prince of Condé, and later bequeathed to the Institut de France in 1886. It is a vast estate and includes a Château with three expansive gardens spread over 115 hectares. The Château houses the second largest collection of antique paintings after the Louvre, and is the second largest library in France for illuminated manuscripts.
The neo-Renaissance style Château is comprised of the Petit Château, constructed in 1560, and the Grand Château. The latter had been destroyed during the French Revolution and subsequently reconstructed by architect Honoré Daumet between the years 1876 – 1885. An equestrian statue of the Constable Anne de Montmorency was erected in 1886 and is located on the terrace, facing the entrance. The entirety includes a chapel and urn containing the hearts of the Princes of Condé (17th century), an apartment complex for the Comte de Paris, designated museum rooms, and reception areas. The Domaine de Chantilly is also home to the elegant 18th century Grandes Écuries (Great Stables), designed by architect Jean Aubert. Its Musée du cheval (Museum of the Horse) boasts 200 works of art and decorative arts pieces, as well as equestrian events which are devoted to the art of haute-école horse training.
Sources: The Domain of Chantilly. Connaissance des arts (2015), H.S.N, No. 651/1.