Karl Lagerfeld and the Opéra national de Paris: A multi-sensorial, artistic collaboration
The haute couture ballet costumes and set design for George Balanchine’s Brahms-Schönberg Quartet were created by Karl Lagerfeld for the Opéra national de Paris. Renowned dancers Bart Cook and Maria Calegari served as the choreographers, and I acted as the cultural liaison and assistant to choreographers, artists, and directors. The luxurious costumes reflect an innovative, collaborative approach to fashion in the rapidly evolving globalized community. Moreover, they fully activate the five senses while providing elements of fantasy of a bygone era. For, “There will never be a world without fantasy, which expresses the unconscious unfulfilled” (S. Kaiser, 1997).
This is an essential point, since art, fashion, and culture inhabit the same multi-sensorial landscape. They represent a constantly evolving visual language which must be effectively transmitted to spectators. Inaugurated in 1875, the OnP formerly represented an elitist Parisian society. The institution was historically linked to utopian images of wealth, power, prestige, and elegance. Therefore, Lagerfeld’s costume designs for each of Balanchine’s four acts needed to the encapsulate the Zeitgeit of the OnP. That essence was effectively transmitted through a consistent visual theme involving textures, costume accessories, and classical ballet silhouettes. A muted color palette of white, pale pink, and crème-orange created a bold visual juxtaposition with the monochromatic interjection of black and white details and piping. Traditionally feminine elements and curvilinear shapes were visible with velvet headpieces and armbands, satin ribbons, tulle/chiffon tutus, and bejeweled caps. These contrasted the straight lines and geometrical shapes traditionally considered masculine.
Lagerfeld conceptualized various sketches which were inspired by the Vienna Secession, an artistic movement established in 1897. Costumes were skillfully constructed in the OnP couture atelier according to Lagerfeld’s initial artistic intentions, but still allowed for subsequent modifications and adjustments of material, fabric, and accessories. Thus, costumes were individually adapted to each ballet dancer, taking into consideration rigorous choreographic maneuvers. They also accounted for other variables including lighting, sound, and stage conditions. This resulted in the creation of regal, yet fashionable costumes which contributed to the multi-sensorial landscape while integrating an advanced degree of technological innovation and functionality.
Lagerfeld’s extensive research resulted in the creation of tailored men’s black and white suede waistcoats, as well as folklore-inspired, embroidered headdresses. The women’s costumes included black and white bodices with princess seams in satin and velvet attached to voluminous tutus constructed of pink, orange, and white tulle/chiffon. Use of luxurious fabrics and detailed embroidery created a sophisticated, glamorous environment of classic, understated elegance. It also alluded to a previous era where clothing was symbolic of an individual’s social status and morality – whether actual or contrived. Lagerfeld’s set design purposefully evoked an ancient palace adorned with heavy, gray, floor-length drapery. This contrasted the color palette and texture of the costumes. Such an atmosphere was meant to reference the waning splendor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Artistic collaborations between the French heritage institution and fashion have steadily increased in the globalized economy. The OnP has hosted a variety of cultural events and fashion shows such as Stella McCartney and Dries van Noten. Moreover, the OnP has collaborated with renowned fashion designers including Christian Lacroix for George Balanchine’s Le Palais de cristal, and Yves Saint-Laurent for Roland Petit’s Notre-Dame de Paris. Recently, it has begun collaborative efforts with contemporary, avant-garde fashion designers such as Iris van Herpen for Benjamin Millepied’s Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward, Alessandro Sartori for Millepied’s La nuit s’achève, and Mary Katranzou for Justin Peck’s Entre chien et loup.
Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) was born into an aristocratic and intellectual family at the Palazzo Corsini in Rome, Italy. The Italian-born French couturière is best known for the quality and originality of her work infused with vibrant colors, intricate embroidery, architectural elements, bold prints, and pronounced textures. Yves Saint Laurent once commented on Schiaparelli’s profound success as an Italian in Paris: “Elle a gifflé Paris, elle l’a ensorcelé, et en retour Paris est tombé amoureux d’elle” (Baxter-Wright, p. 27). She brought an Italian sensibility to French haute-couture with cleverness, whimsy, femininity, and expertise. In addition, artistic collaboration with others allowed Schiaparelli to skillfully implement innovative techniques, materials, and various genres into her idiosyncratic designs.
Schiaparelli was oftentimes regarded as an artist as much as a designer. Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel’s statement reflects this sense of artistry, “… cette artiste italienne qui fait des vêtements (Baxter-Wright, p. 71). Schiaparelli soon caught the attention of renowned fashion design Paul Poiret, as well as Gabrielle Picabia, wife of Dadaist painter Francis Picabia. Her early work produced at the atelier in rue de l’Université consisted of geometrical designs and was considerably more conservative than later years. By 1927, Schiaparelli was catapulted to success with the creation of a hand-knit sweater with a black and white trompe l’oeil motif. It was immediately deemed an “artistic masterpiece” by Vogue and launched her career. This eventually led to the opening of her atelier on 4, rue de la Paix, “Schiaparelli – Pour le Sport” with designs seamlessly blending haute-couture and sportswear.
Schiaparelli’s spirit of entrepreneurialship and business acumen were apparent very early, as she surrounded herself with creative talents including: Meret Oppenheimer, Alberto Giacometti, Lesage, Jean Schlumberger, Lina Baretti, Jean-Michel Frank, Roger Vivier, and Marcel Vertès, among many others. Schiaparelli was the first woman to be featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1934. This marked the beginning of Schiaparelli’s experimentation with jewelry design, various motifs, aerodynamic cuts, intricate embroidery, bold colors, and innovative materials such as Swarowsky crystals, rhodophane, and crushed rayon crepe. Rhodophane is a transparent and fragile material which appears like glass, while crushed rayon crepe resembles tree bark. Her fragrance “S” was launched in 1928. Soon thereafter, a collection of three perfumes, Souci, Salut, and Schiap, was created in 1934. Schiaparelli’s designs attracted strong, independent women, as well as famous customers such as Katherine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Lauren Bacall, Vivien Leigh, and Wallis Simpson, the future Duchess of Windsor. Her designs were lauded for celebrating, not neglecting, the feminine form with nipped-in tops, bold lines, and skirts to flatter the real woman. Schiaparelli once commented, “Il ne faut pas adapter le vêtement au corps, mais faire en sorte que le corps s’adapte au vêtement” (Baxter-Wright, p. 89). In 1932, the Couture House was known as “Schiaparelli – Pour le Sport, Pour le Ville, Pour le Soir”, and later moved into its current location Hôtel de Fontpertuis at 21 place Vendôme in 1935.
Schiaparelli was continually inspired by illustrations, architecture, fantasy, the Italian Commedia dell’Arte, and the theatricality of Surrealism. During this period, she often collaborated with artists. She and Salvador Dalì created several controversial pieces, including “Squelette” (Skeleton Dress, 1938), and “Homard” (Lobster Dress, 1937), a recurrent theme in Dalì’s work which often had sexual connotations. It features a large, blood-red lobster motif on a simple, white dress, strategically located between the thighs. “Larmes” (Tears Dress, 1938) is part of the “Cirque” collection inspired by Dalì’s “Trois jeunes femmes surréalistes tenant dans leurs bras les peaux d’un orchestra” (1936). Designed just before the outbreak of World War II, the silk crêpe dress was created as a “mourning dress”, accompanied by a long veil and tears in a trompe l’oeil motif. Schiaparelli states, “Quand les temps sont difficile, la mode est toujours outrancières” (Baxter-Wright, p. 79). Other notable collaborations were with Jean Cocteau, whose drawings were featured on many of her designs, René Magritte (for the fragrance bottle inspired by his “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” painting), and Man Ray throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Schiaparelli was able to skillfully translate the utopian, dreamlike state of Surrealist imagery into her innovative designs, and was the first to give her collections a theme. Some of the clothes from this period included, “Stop, Look, and Listen” (1935), “Paris in 1937” (1937), and “Music” (1937). “Zodiac”, “Pagan”, and “Circus” were all created in 1938, and “Commedia dell’Arte” was created shortly thereafter (1939). Schiaparelli also served as costume designer for various Hollywood films including “Every Day’s a Holiday” (1937) and “Moulin Rouge” (1952). Much of her success was due to an ability to conceptualize and execute a broad range of items including bathing suits, sportswear such as the jupe-culotte, evening gowns, wrap dresses, hats, jewelry, and perfume.
Perhaps most significant was the creation of her Shocking perfume and “shocking pink” trademark color in 1937. Commenting on the color, Schiaparelli once stated: “Une couleur qui donne la vie, la couleur de toute la lumière du monde, de tous les oiseaux et de tous les poisons du monde réunis, une couleur de la Chine de du Pérou, mais pas de l’Occident » Baxter-Wright, p. 48). The perfume bottle was designed by Leonor Fini, and represented a dressmaker mannequin referencing the physique of Mae West decorated with porcelain flowers and a velvet measuring tape. The Maison Schiaparelli proved to be an international success, and Elsa became the first European to receive the Nieman Marcus Award for services to fashion in 1940. However, this marked a period of decline for the House of Schiaparelli, and it was forced to close in 1954, the same year her autobiography, Shocking Life, was released.
Nearly fifty years later, the Schiaparelli archives and rights were acquired by Diego della Valle in 2006. Subsequently, the Maison Schiaparelli reopened at stately Hôtel Fontpertuis on 21, place Vendôme in 2012. As a tribute to the original founder, Christian Lacroix designed an haute-couture collection one year later. Soon thereafter, Farida Khelfa was appointed Ambassador, and Marco Zanini was appointed creative director in 2013. In January 2014, the Maison Schiaparelli successfully presented its first haute-couture show at Hôtel Fontpertuis since its 1954 closing. By re-contextualizing and reconfiguring particular elements, Zanini was able to capture the essence of Maison Schiaparelli – transforming it into a contemporary, yet timeless, brand with Italian-Parisian sensibilities. The Théâtre d’Elsa references 1930’s Parisian theatres. It is a chic, cosmopolitan realm encapsulated in elegance, splendor, and glory.
Designs consisting of bold, masculine silhouettes, tweeds, and tartans draped over full, opulent gowns made of shimmering rhodophane creates a sense of restrained elegance. However, there is also a strategic use of vibrant, saturated colors, and well as the trademark “shocking pink”. Flowing, luxurious fabrics, and the appearance of hand-painted prints on silk chiffon and organdy point to the complexity and detail of the couturière method. These pieces are carefully juxtaposed with structured capes with strong shoulders, bold, architectural shapes, and intricate embroidery reminiscent of Spanish boleros. Complex details and embroidery appearing on the back add another dimension to the idiosyncratic creations. Sparkling, oversized brooches consisting of pierced hearts, irises, suns, stars, padlocks, and the ES initials illuminate each colorful ensemble. The totality of the Fall/Winter 2015-2016 collection reflects a masterful re-interpretation and re-contextualization of Elsa Schiaparelli’s twentieth century designs by Marco Zanini.
The exhibition Fragonard amoureux: Galant et libertin (Fragonard in Love: Suitor and Libertine) is currently located at the Musée du Luxembourg from September 16, 2015 until January 24, 2016. Born in Grasse, Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), or « Frago », is thought to be one of the most influential painters of the 18th century, especially during the years preceding the French Revolution. From 1748-1752 Fragonard began his training as a painter with Jean-Baptiste Chardin and François Boucher. Soon thereafter, he was the recipient of the Grand Prix award in 1752, which subsequently led to his acceptance into the French Royal Academy of Painting in 1765. A series of important paintings were commissioned over the course of his lifetime including L’Aurore triumphant de la Nuit (1755), Le Verrou (1775), Le Jeu de la main chaude (1775), and Renaud entre dans la forêt (1761). The Enlightenment encouraged variations on the romantic genre, directly translated into painting or other artistic forms. Although Fragonard unabashedly indulged in the themes of romance and love, he also painted a variety of subjects including landscapes, genres, historical, grand interiors, and portraits.
A direct vestige of the Grand Siècle, the concept of galenterie was representative of French national identity in the 18th century, evoking utopian pastoral scenes. L’amour galant encouraged tenderness, sincerity, mutual respect, and loyalty. As a student of François Boucher (1703-1770), Fragonard was directly influenced by the former’s invention of an iconography that was a combination of love, romance, and pastoral gallantry. The ability to appropriately express emotions and sensuality was a major concern of artistic, literary, and philosophical circles. François Boucher’s Les Charmes de la vie champêtre (1735-1740), also visible at the exhibition, was inspired by Hubert-François Gravelot’s illustrations for the literary work, L’Astrée (1733) written by Honoré d’Urfé (1567 – 1625).
The exhibition opens with the theme of Le berger galant (The Gallant Shepherd) which includes Le Colin-Maillard (1754-1756). It was Fragonard’s first foray into pastoral paintings, and it clearly borrowed essential formal elements from Boucher including clothing, disposition, lighting, and color palette. Le Colin-Maillard (Blind Man’s Bluff) evokes a lush, flowering pastoral scene framed by a soft blue sky. It is a flirtatious, sensual scene in which a young shepherdess in fashionable, rustic attire playfully peeks through the bandage covering her eyes, presumably placed there by her lover. He has light-brown curly hair, and is clothed in a yellowish-green overcoat with pink shirt. The young boy is in ¾ view, positioned slightly behind the shepherdess’s right shoulder, and is attempting to tickle her with a string.
The elegant shepherdess is the dominant, central figure, positioned in a slight contrapposto which animates the entire scene with movement. The voluminous fabric of her pink, satin dress is illuminated by a soft, gentle light originating from the upper left corner of the painting. A yellowish, straw hat tipped in pink sits atop waves of undulating, blond hair. White, billowing, cotton sleeves reaching her elbows mirror the whiteness of the eye bandage, as well as undergarments covering her bosom. The pink fabric contrasts the grayish-blue silk undergarment which extends to her ankles. This blue is mirrored in the ribbons of the shepherdess’s shoelaces, the delicate bunch of wildflowers tucked into her bosom, and the wispy ribbon which adorns her neck.
Fragonard utilizes a soft color palette including pink, blue, white, green, and yellow to evoke an erotically-charged, pastoral environment popular amongst the 18th century aristocracy. Other elements include the appearance of two, playful putti which serve as artistic inspiration. One is positioned on his back at the shepherdess’s feet, engaging in a game of stick and string with the blindfolded girl, while the other is positioned in the far left of the painting. He is partially hidden by the lush, sprawling foliage which covers deteriorating architectural elements prominently located in the foreground (stairs, vase, and base), as well as the background.
Clever groupings of figures, a skillful implementation of the chiaroscuro technique, and the decay of solid, structural features provide strong visible juxtapositions between two distinct realms: a contrived, neoclassical construction, and a utopian pastoral, Arcadia. The former being solid, weighted, and rigid; the latter being light, voluminous, and lush. This concept is also evident with Fragonard’s selection of materials, soft color palette, and positioning of roughly-textured wooden objects in the foreground (lower right-hand side of the painting). They are also located immediately to the left of the shepherd and shepherdess. A strong diagonal is formed across the painting which is created by the light source emanating from the upper left corner. Vertical and horizontal divisions are distinct throughout the pastoral scene. Strong, architectural lines of the stairs, background stone structure, pedestals, and obliques contrast the lushness provided by sprawling wildflowers, trees, ivy, and billowing fabric adorning the two central figures and playful putti.
The choice of paintings, engravings, and drawings in the Musée du Luxembourg’s current exhibition are carefully positioned according to specific themes. These mirror the trajectory of Fragonard’s artistic production from the beginning of his career until his death in Paris on August 22, 1806. The first of these divisions is Le berger galant (The Gallant Shepherd). It is the opening theme of the current exhibition. Following is Les amours des dieux (The Loves of the Gods), which reveals mythological tales of Antiquity. Said to have been executed in a superfluous, licentious style of painting, this « libertinage » theme was a favorite topic amongst the élite. Critiques argued that it was a theme disguised as gallantry, and it was, in fact, blatantly hedonistic. This created a complete fragmentation and detachment from its supposedly romantic sentiment.
Next, Éros rustique et populaire (Rustic and Popular Eros), was a theme which inspired Fragonard after his first trip to Rome in 1756. This encouraged two distinct styles. The first referenced the popular literary genre poissard. Artistic production pointed to carnal urges and pictorial references of rustic scenes of 17th century Flemish painters such as Rubens (1577-1640). The second style referenced Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s (1712-1778) love of nature. Other themes worth exploring in the exhibition include: Fragonard illustrateur de contes libertins (Fragonard, Illustrator of Libertine Tales), Pierre-Antoine Baudouin, un maître en libertinage (Pierre-Antoine Baudouin, A Liberinist Master), Fragonard et l’imagerie licencieuse (Fragonard and Licentious Imagery), La lecture dangereuse (Dangerous Reading), Le Renouveau de la fête galante (The Revival of the Fête Galante), L’amour moralisé (Love Moralized), La passion héroïque (Heroic Passion), and Les allégories amoureuses (Romantic Allegory).
The purpose of the Paris Reflections blog series is to inform you of current activities, events, and exhibitions in the art world. It is my hope that they will be the impetus to initiate provocative discussions, encourage thoughtful expression, stimulate creativity, and provide invaluable learning experiences for the globalized community. Art should be the embodiment of many things, and it is necessarily subjective. Each individual has a unique perspective of the world which affects their particular viewing experience. Emphasizing the socio-cultural, historical, and political significance of various artistic traditions will help to promote a deeper understanding of art, photography, architecture, design, and fashion.
Future Newsletters will be accompanied by relevant links to photographic essays, brief informational texts, and critiques. This is essential, since active participation in extensive research and art analyses are both necessary components for effective curatorial procedure. Interviews with art world professionals including museum directors, curators, gallery owners, and independent artists will be conducted, when possible. In addition, customized gifts, calendars, and other products will be available in the near future.
Lastly, I am pleased to announce that the 2015 publication of my PARISphoto book is now available for purchase. It is a visually compelling collection of powerful photographic essays, and provides a romantic journey through the streets of Paris. The book is delightfully composed of beautiful, vibrant images of people, pastries, monuments, and daily life. Find it on the following sites: Blurb hardbackand e-bookeditions, Amazon, and in the Apple iBookstore.
Jewel Kismet Designs continues to flourish, thanks to increased visibility through various social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. Thoroughly embracing these innovative approaches allows art to be discovered from a fresh, modern perspective. It is my hope that active engagement with an international audience not only increases visual arts access to the general public, but also enriches the lives of the globalized community.
The Musée national du Moyen Âge, or Musée de Cluny, is located in the Hôtel de Cluny. The first establishment was constructed by Pierre de Chaslus after the acquisition of the ancient baths by the Cluniac Monastic Order in 1340. The selection of artifacts masterfully reflects the historical and metaphysical transformation of France. The weighted sense of socio-political, religious, and cultural obligations are complemented by the solemnity and relative darkness of the majority of the exhibition spaces. The wealth of artistic production including illuminated manuscripts, shields of armor, intricately woven tapestries, vibrantly stained-glass windows, reliquaries, and sculpture are all intimately bound to the Hexagone’s complex history involving war, conflict, religion, trade, society, and culture.
The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries (c. 1500) from the Château de Boissac were acquired in 1882, and are an example, par excellence, of medieval artistic production. The ensemble is comprised of a series of six wool and silk tapestries which reflect the beauty and charm of the mythical unicorn. Five of the six panels feature a representation of the five senses. However, the sixth panel, entitled “To My Only Desire,” is thought to evoke the sixth sense – the spiritual and moral center. The coat of arms with three crescents belongs to the Le Visite family. Although the subject is different in each, the content remains the same. Each tapestry has a deep pink background filled with delicately sprawling flowers, abundant fruit trees, and various animals including rabbits, goats, monkeys, and lions. The activity between the Lady, the unicorns, and the animals always remains in the center of the tapestry, anchored by a lush green, oval zone.
The present town house was constructed during the second half of the 15th century. It was completed during the first half of the 16th century by the Jacques d’Amboise abbacy and follows a temporal construction: baths, medieval town house, and Couvent des Mathurins. Due to the unique implementation of the ancient Roman technique known as opus vittatum mixtum, the Hôtel de Cluny remains architecturally sound. Subsequent restoration and modifications were undertaken by Albert Lenoir (1801-1891) in the 19th century in order to help preserve the establishment. He had presented a project to create a historical museum that united the Palais des Thermes and the Hôtel de Cluny in 1832, with collections displayed in the buildings that housed them: antiquity in the frigidarium, Middle Ages in the Hôtel de Cluny, and subsequent periods in buildings adjacent to the Couvent des Mathurins. However, the destruction of these buildings in 1860 prevented the project from being realized.
The Musée de Cluny was conceived in the 19th century by Alexandre du Sommerard (1779-1842), magistrate at the Cour des Comptes (Court of Audit) and passionate art collector. At the end of his life, he had amassed an inventory of 1,434 objects. In 1834 he mused, “In 1832 the imagination of an art lover, who had long collected objets d’art from eras corresponding to that of the construction of the town house, gave him the idea of enhancing his collection with the harmony of the setting,” (Musée du Cluny: A Guide, p. 11). The Musée de Cluny opened in 1844 under the supervision of the Commission des Monuments Historiques with Alexandre du Sommerard’s son, Edmond, acting as its first director.
During his directorship, Edmond Sommerard made significant acquisitions, including the Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries (c. 1500), the Golden Rose (1330) by Sienese goldsmith Minucchio da Siena, the religious twenty-three scene Tapestry of Saint Stephen (c. 1500) which recounts the life of Saint Stephen and the movement of his relics from Jerusalem to Constantinople; and the hanging votive Guarrazar Crowns from Visigoth Spain (7th century). He also wrote the first museum catalogue which was successfully published and redistributed several times. Presently, the museum houses a vast collection of pieces spanning the ages: Antiquity, Romanesque art, Limoges work, Gothic art, and art from 15th century can all be found in the archives of the current establishment. However, due to the physical limitations of space, the Museum has had to reconfigure and re-conceptualize its collection. After World War II, Francis Salet and Pierre Valet limited its displays to thematically organized medieval works of art.
The Sainte-Chapelle is an example of Rayonnant Gothic architecture with its emphasis on verticality and architectural complexity. Elongated and vibrantly stained-glass windows, ornate gables, sumptuous interior, intricate ironwork, and elaborate goldsmithery all reinforce its structural elegance. The appearance of red, blue, and gold polychromy, as well as star patterns and fleurs-de-lis visible on the abacuses and vaulted ceilings add to Sainte-Chapelle’s general splendor and magnificence. It measures 36 meters long, 17 meters wide, and 42.5 meters in height, excluding the spire 33 meter spire which is adorned with apostles. The sheer amount of luminosity entering through the stained-glass windows serves as a direct metaphor for religious illumination and enlightenment sought by a pious population. Supporting buttresses adorned with gargoyles convey of sense of uniformity, as well as rhythm and movement to the entirety of the exterior complex. A giant rose window of the upper chapel prominently adorns the western façade.
The Carolingian reliquary was founded by King Louis IX (the future Saint Louis) in order to house his Holy Relics of the Passion. In 1239 Saint Louis purchased the Crown of Thorns worn by Christ for 135,000 livres. This religious and political act not only reaffirmed the monarch’s devotion to Christ, but it also solidified France’s powerful position in Western Christendom. Later, he also obtained a fragment of the True Cross from Baudouin II and other relics associated with the Passion, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. The artifacts have since been dispersed to other locations. The Gothic palatine reliquary chapel inspired subsequent holy chapels constructed by the monarch and his descendants. Sainte-Chapelle is all that remains of Saint Louis’s palace, along with part of the Tour Bonbec. It served as the royal residence for the Kings of France until 1370, housing the financial and judicial administrative seats of power.
Sainte-Chapelle has undergone a series of alterations and modifications beginning in the 13th century with Philippe le Bel. The 15th century and the Renaissance were no exceptions. In 1776 a fire ravaged the structure, destroying the Galerie des Merciers causing the subsequent demolition of the Trésor des Chartes. Severely damaged during the French Revolution, it underwent significant restoration between the years of 1840 – 1868. Following the precise guidelines of Viollet-le-Duc and his archeological studies, highly skilled architects successfully restored the Sainte-Chapelle to its former 13th century glory.
It is composed of two storeys of similar surface area, but of different heights. Each has a specific function. The upper floor rests at the same level as the royal apartments. It housed the relics and served as a special zone for the king, his entourage, and special guests. The lower floor housed the palace parish and was dedicated to Our Lady. It was a zone for the king’s soldiers, servants, and courtiers. Its low vault height of approximately 6.6 meters gives the chapel the impression of a crypt. Its central nave is 6 meters wide and is complemented by side-aisles measuring 2 meters which form the ambulatory. Small, interior buttresses are present, as well as 140 capitals – an architectural element typical in the 13th century Île-de-France region.
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.
Palais-Royal: 8, rue Montpensier, 75001. Designed by architect Jacques Lemercier (1585-1684) in 1639
Originally known as Le Palais-Cardinal, Le Palais-Royal (or royal residence), acquired its name after the death of Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642). Its stately façade is visible along rue Saint-Honoré, but claims an official address of 8, rue de Montpensier. Presently, it houses La Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, Le Conseil d’état, and Le Conseil Constitutionnel. Designed by architect Jacques Lemercier (1585-1684) in 1639, the entire complex is reminiscent of neoclassical glory. Structural harmony and formal grandeur are produced with an emphasis on geometrical precision, symmetry, and monochromatic use of materials. The effect is reinforced with the repetition of solid columns, rounded arches, and refined pilasters topped with Corinthian entablatures. Structural levels and registers are vertically-horizontally delineated with the addition of delicate balustrades. Every element complements the other, thus creating visual balance.
Remnants of the La Galerie d’Orléans columns still exist, located between La Cour d’Honneur and Le Jardin du Palais-Royal. Fountains by Belgian sculpture Pol Bury (1922 – 2005) affectionately known as Sphérades due to their large, metallic spheres, and other temporary sculpture installations can also be found in the royal gardens. La Cour d’Honneur is an open, communal zone. It is home to the site-specific artwork by Daniel Buren, Les Deux Plateaux (1986) (or Les Colonnes de Buren) – striped black and white posts of varying dimensions. The interconnection between neoclassical and modern is prevalent here. There is a constant re-contextualization and reconfiguration of public space for contemporary society. Although Le Palais-Royal is historically steeped in exclusivity and elitism, all visitors are afforded the option of strolling through the tree-lined gardens, as well as the colonnaded arcades filled with electric lamps, contemporary galleries, fashion boutiques, and an assortment of restaurants including Le Grand Véfour. First opened in 1784 by Antoine Aubertot, it was later purchased by Jean Véfour in 1820.
Comédie-Française: 2, rue de Richelieu, Place André-Malraux, 75001. Salle Richelieu, designed by architect Victor Louis (1731-1800) in 1790.
La Comédie-Française is an elegant, three-century old institution located on 2, rue de Richelieu. Located adjacent to Le Palais-Royal, it exudes a formidable aura. Salle Richelieu, site of the present La Comédie-Française, was designed by architect Victor Louis (1731-1800) in 1790. Stately columns, delicate balustrades, elegant arches, and refined pilasters with ornate entablatures add to the structure’s formal composition. Its façade complements that of Le Palais-Royal with its visual symmetry and concise delineation of space, clearly visible with its vertical and horizontal registers. Founded by Louis XIV in 1680, La Comédie-Française was the result of the merging of two theatrical groups of the seventeenth century: Théâtre Guénégaud and Hôtel de Bourgogne. A total of twenty-seven were actors were chosen specifically by Le Roi-Soleil.
The establishment, part of Le Palais-Royal complex, is formerly known as Le Théâtre-Français and La Maison de Molière, after renowned playwright Molière (1622-1673), né Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. The company, which had a repertory of writers including Molière, Corneille, and Racine, held a monopoly over performances in Paris until 1790. The original association of actors included, among others: Jeanne Beauval, Hubert de Croisy, and Armande Béjart. The establishment has been located at its present site, Salle Richelieu, since 1799, and has undergone several enlargements and modifications over the years.
Pyramide du Louvre: Palais du Louvre, Cour Napoléon, 75001. Designed by architect I. M. Pei (1917 – ) in 1989.
Finally, the controversial La Pyramide du Louvre was designed by Chinese architect I. M. Pei (1917 – ) and is centrally located in La Cour Napoléon of the Le Palais du Louvre. Commissioned by French President François Mittérand in 1984, it was completed in 1989. The imposing metal and glass structure has a base of 35 meters and stands nearly 22 meters tall. It serves as a main entrance to Le Musée du Louvre, and is surrounded by a water feature in addition to three smaller pyramids. An inverted pyramid accompanies the entirety of the complex, and serves as a skylight for the Carrousel du Louvre shopping district located directly below.
Critics of the structure have argued that its hyper-modernity in use of materials exists in direct contrast to the classical, symmetrical, and visually-balanced Palais du Louvre. Harsh, severe angles created by the glass structure create a prominent juxtaposition against Le Palais du Louvre. However, opponents note that the complexity of architectural components reflect France’s dynamic, historical trajectory which encourages provocative discussion, inspires innovative techniques, and stimulates creativity among its population. The juxtaposition of neoclassical elements with modern elements creates a modern, fresh association that is constantly evolving. This is executed by promoting thoughtful expression, respect, and appreciation cross-culturally in an ever-expanding expanding globalized community. In the twenty-first century, most would agree that La Pyramide du Louvre is the embodiment of a transformative French nation par excellence; one that cherishes past endeavors, but fully embraces future possibilities.