The rain was drizzling on Maison de Sylvie in Chantilly but the atmosphere was electrical when Mathieu Deldicque, director of Musée Condé, and Marie Pierre Dion in charge of the rare books, announced that the “Mona Lisa of Manuscripts” Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, would be (partly) exhibited for three months in June-October 2025. The last time it could be seen was in 2004, when Emmanuelle Toulet had organized to turn two pages every two days. So one had to come back to see them all. The first fac simile was published in 1970 and the whole book has been digitalized recently so that you can actually see every image on your computer on the website of BnF. Each sheet of the 12 months calendar will be shown individually after restoration of the manuscript thanks to the C2RMF, the scientific labs of the Louvre and the experts from Bibliothèque Nationale. And also thanks to Fondation Etrillard, the Swiss foundation who is associated to discreet high level cultural projects such as the Louis Janmot exhibition at Orsay or the Bodmer foundation in Geneva and is the sole sponsor of this adventure.
First will come the restoration of the manuscript which is partly stained or torn, and of the tempera, the gold, silver and ink paintings and letterings. The red binding which dates from the 18 th century will also be cleaned. The sewing of the pages, which dates from early XX th century, will be redone after the exhibition. It took 74 years for the manuscript to be completed (1411-1485) and the story of all its artists after the three Brothers Limbourg (who probably died of the plague), will be told in the exhibition. Other “Books of hours” will be lent by International libraries so as to put in context the exceptional book acquired by the Duc d’Aumale in Genoa in 1856. And many artworks will be included in the show around the figure of teh exceptional collector Jean de Berry. His sculpted coffin kept in the Bourges Cathedral, the capital of Berry, will travel to Chantilly as many objects kept at the British museum or in Vienna and in the US.
It includes a calendar of illustrations of 12 months (the month of February is particularly naughty), and religious scenes which accompany the prayers and psalms. The brother of King Charles V, Jean de Berry (1340-1416) was one of the greatest benefactors of the arts in the Middle Ages. Images with 100 million pixels have been made of the 206 folios, 131 miniatures and 66 illuminations. The book is kept in 20/22° temperature with 50% humidity and does not leave Musée Condé. After traveling to many countries when it belonged to Charles I of Savoy, then to Marguerite of Austria, it went to a private Italian collection in Genoa where it was acquired by Duc d’Aumale in 1856, who was a refugee in England at the time.
So book your summer 2025 to visit this incredible show. And until then you can come and see the newly restored Musée du Cheval in the magnificent stables with a new design saddle room. The scenography has been entirely revised and with the help of Hermès, one understands better how saddles are pieced together. From Afghan style to US military or an incredible English-type purple velvet piece from the Second Empire, our eyes are totally amazed.
And reserve for the Christmas horse show “Desirée” created by Sophie Bienaimé with her sister Virginie. It starts on December 2, is fully booked every year and brings to hundreds of children, some of the grace of 18 th century fasts instigated by the Princes de Condé.
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