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Paris Day Trip : Chantilly Palace

Chantilly Chateau

    The Chantilly estate used to belong to two of the most powerful clans in france : first to the Montmorencys, then, through marriage, to the Condes. The present Chateau was put up in the late nineteenth century , replacing an earlier palace destroyed in the Revolution. The original had been built  for the Grand Condé, the general who crushed spanish military power for Louis XIV in 1643. The current building is a graceful and romantic structure, surrounded by water and looking out over a formal arrangement of pools and pathways.chateau de chantilly palace
    The chateau's chief attraction in the Galeries de peinture, an outstanding collection of paintings and drawings. If there seems to be a little logic to the order in which the paintings are displayed it's because their donor, Henri d'Orléans, stipulated that they remain as he had organized them. Consequently, good, bad and indifferent works are displayed alongside each other, as if of equal value. Highlights of the collection included Piero di Cosimo's Simonetta Vespucci and Raphael's Madone de Lorette, both in the Rotunda of the picture gallery.  Raphael is also well represented, with his Three Graces displayed alongside Filippo Lippi's Esther and Assuerius, and forty miniatures from a fifteenth-century Book of Hours attributed to the french artist Jean Fouquet.  Pass through the Galerie de Psyche with its series of sepia-stained glass illustrating Apuleius'Golden Ass, to the room known as the Tribune, where italian art, including Botticelli's autumn, takes up two walls; works by Ingres and Delacroix fill the other walls.
    The rest of the chateau can be visited on a guided tour only, included in the entry fee. The most interesting port call is the well-stocked library, where the museum's single greatest treasure is kept : Les Tres riches heures du Duc de Berry, the most celebrated of all the Books of Hour. Unfortunately, the original is too fragile to go on display, but there are excellent facsimiles. The illuminated pages illustrations the months of the year with scenes from early fifteenth-century rural life, such as harvesting and ploughing, sheep-shearing and pruning, are richly coloured and drawn with a delicate naturalism.

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