At Chantilly, animals invade the famous library and Claude Lorrain strikes our eye with his drawings

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Falcon hunt treaty copied for Francesco Sforza, 1450-1466, bought by due d’Aumale in 1856, © IRHT-CNRS Château de Chantilly

There are two exhibitions at Chateau de Chantilly which might seem very intellectual but are actually a great source of pleasure. One, “Bestiaire médiéval” reveals all the imaginary and real animals painted in Medieval times in hunting treaties, fables, religious books… The donkey and the beef in Bethlehem, Jonas and the whale or other symbolic animals, have all been taken out of their shelves by curator Marie Pierre Dion and are a poetic and exciting vision of illuminated books. The famous  “Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry“, which you can consult on a screen, also includes many of these fantasy beasts.

Gospel in latin, XII th century, Germany, binding in wood covered with a gilt bronze plaque and walrus ivory. Animals represent the four evangelists John, Mark, Luke and Mathew

One of the extraordinary books is the manuscript “Love story without words” which tells the love story of Jean III de Brosse and his wife Louise de Laval, who were married in 1468. The couple is caressing rabbits, symbols of carnal love and fecundity. Most of the images in this book have secret meanings and still have to be elucidated. One would need to visit this exhibition with the delightful medievist Michel Zink….

This exhibition is in the library until May 27.

“Love story without words”, France, beginning of the XVI th century, Bibliothèque du Musée Condé

The other show is of twelve rare drawings by Claude Gellée dit Le Lorrain, 1600-1682, which Musée Condé owns. It is the largest collection in France after the Louvre. Le Lorrain kept his drawings with him in his studio for his whole life and most of them are in British museums. Enriched with loans from the Louvre and other French museums, and many prints acquired by the Duc d’Aumale, the show takes place in the drawings gallery at garden level and the Journées des Plantes on May 17-19, is a good occasion to combine the pleasures of gardening with ambitious 17 th century art.

Claude Gellée, dit le Lorrain, “The round tower bursting to uncover the King of Romans”, print, Petit Palais Musée des Beaux Arts de la ville de Paris

Well known for his maritime paintings and Italian landscapes, Le Lorrain also painted many mythological and religious themes. Baptiste Roelly who curated the show and wrote a remarkable catalog, only graduated from Ecole du Patrimoine in 2022. He forms with Mathieu Deldicque, director of Musée Condé, a young and very dynamic team. On June 8, André Charles Boulle and Jean Baptiste Oudry will be the new stars of Chantilly with two major summer exhibitions.

Claude Lorrain, “Two boats in the storm”,  circa 1638-1640 ©RMN-Grand-Palais-Musee- du Louvre, photo Thierry le Mage

This exhibition ends on May 19 th. Journées des Plantes are on 17-19 May. On June 15, a pique nique in white will take place from 7n pm to midnight on teh grounds of the castle.

And if you have never been to Chantilly, make sure to visit the painting galleries and the Jean Fouquet room.

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