The keys to the Chantilly estate
There are a thousand ways to approach Chantilly, a page of living history that tells the story of France, from the medieval fortified castle to its renaissance in the 19th century… More modestly, here are four of them…
These two cerberuses remind us that Chantilly was a hunting lodge before welcoming the cream of the painters.
1 Through the big door
One thinks of the Musée Condé, of course. It is, no more and no less, the second largest collection of old paintings after the Louvre. You had to be the Duc d’Aumale – France’s first fortune at the age of eight, when he inherited it from his godfather, the last Prince de Condé – to amass such a treasure.
What strikes the visitor is the presentation of the works of art, in contrast to today’s museography, which seeks to highlight them through the emptiness that surrounds them. In the 19th century, on the other hand, they were accumulated, juxtaposed and combined, reducing the space between them, giving the impression of an abundance that will never disappear.
Indeed, when Henri, the youngest son of the last French king Louis-Philippe, died in 1897, he bequeathed Chantilly to the Institut de France, but on the express condition that nothing ever changed in the layout of the estate, from the place of the paintings to the division of the gardens.At the time, he intended to protect his treasure from political and economic vicissitudes; nowadays, this codicil fortunately protects it from the activism of a few zozos who were moved by the bosom of Gabriel d’Estrées or the surrender of Abd-El-Kader…
When the Duke of Aumale wrote his will, he thought he was passing on, among the Poussin, Boticelli, Ingres, Watteau, two works by Raphael, all the more precious as the great Renaissance master died at the age of 27, in 1520. It wasn’t until 1976 that it was discovered, thanks to a restoration, that the Virgin of Loreto was not a copy but an original.
The cleaning process reveals the number 133 in a darkened corner, which is formal proof that the painting is an original.
2 By water
“André Le Nôtre’s problem in Versailles was the lack of water, in Chantilly, its abundance!” When the Grand Condé, closer (and more turbulent!) cousin of Louis XIV, intends to make the old medieval castle a setting worthy of hosting the royal court, he intends to rival the aquatic enchantments of Versailles.
In Chantilly, it is a question of channelling the swamps in which the Nonette river flows, before joining the Oise river. This is how the Grand Canal is born. By renting a boat or a pedal boat, you will be satisfied with a refreshing stroll in the moat.