The Château de Chantilly: Portraits of Royal Children

The Château de Chantilly: Portraits of Royal Children
Less than half an hour by train from the Gare du Nord, Château de Chantilly is famed for its permanent art collection, the second largest in France after the Louvre. The chateau itself is an architectural jewel and other highlights of a day trip include the Chantilly racecourse and Europe’s most famed dressage stables, the Grandes Écuries. Of course, there is no shortage of cafés serving the sweet whipped Chantilly cream here in the town after which it was named. The Musée Condé, as the chateau’s museum is called, stages many interesting exhibitions. The current exhibition is unusual in its focus on “Portraits of Royal Children” and the poignancy of the stories behind the pictures will surely mark everyone who sees it. François I was a king who dearly loved his children and his Renaissance court was a flourishing cultural center, but the harsh realities of life in the 16th century, together with the politics of the French royal court, often blighted the lives of the young Valois children. Clouet – Portraits of Royal Children exhibition. Photographed by Jean-Marc Péchart – on instagram The gallery has gathered some 40 portraits, most notably by father and son Jean and François Clouet, the court painters. In the 1520s, the king, about to leave to do battle in Italy, commissioned Jean Clouet to do a series of sketches of his children. It’s easy to imagine King François wanting to capture the faces of little Henri, Madeleine and Charles as he set out to face danger and also his delight when, more than a decade later, Jean Clouet’s son François painted portraits of each child, basing them closely on his father’s sketches. These works, capturing the three Valois children, are being shown together for the first time, alongside portraits and sketches of later generations of the family as children. Aerial view of the Château de Chantilly. Photo credit: Pierre-Alain Bandinelli / Wikimedia commons François I and his frail, gentle wife Claude had seven children, born more or less at annual intervals before she died at the age of 24. At that time, Henri, Madeleine and Charles were aged 6, 5 and 2 and their trauma was compounded by the fact that soon afterwards François was captured in battle and imprisoned in Spain for a year. He also toured France ceaselessly, eager to get to know every corner of his kingdom, resulting in more absences. François led a colorful love life. In fact, he so preferred one of his of mistresses to his second wife that he neglected to attend the latter’s coronation. Despite his affection for his children, it’s fair to say that their lives were unsettled. Portrait of François I (1494-1547), king of France, Jean Clouet, Public Domain

Lead photo credit : Château de Chantilly, Oise department, France, as seen from northwest. Photo credit: Jebulon/ Wikimedia commons

More in Art, Château de Chantilly, Francois Clouet, French Renaissance, French Royal, Jean Clouet, Renaissance

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Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.