Château de Chantilly was one of the first museums to reopen and what a collection! The Raphaël (1483-1520) drawing exhibition had just started in March and it is a renewed pleasure to see the famous “Three Graces” painting and his two Madonas fo the celebration of the 500 th anniversary of his death. But what is most fun is to follow a new path through the castle, imposed by health security reasons. And the park is as pretty as ever with its Le Nôtre waterworks and Grand canal.
One has never felt so well the presence of Duc d’Aumale in Chantilly. The last owner of the castle, which he willed to the Institut de France, was a fabulous collector and the series of drawings by Raphaël is one of the prides of the Musée Condé. You now enter through the side galleries where Italian paintings and Clouets hang in small rooms. So when you discover the Galerie de Peintures and a first Raphaël of the Madona, the surprise effect is duplicated.
After the Grande Galerie you enter the “santuario” where the “Three Graces” are hanging along side the Madona of Orléans. A few years ago, Nicole Garnier, the head curator, found out that the dark frame of the three Graces was actually in silver and when properly polished, it became a pretty glittering frame. We now have the privilege to see it in full splendor among the 40 miniatures by Jean Fouquet.
The most amazing Raphaël drawing I saw is this rendering of naked children (putti) riding wild boars. It is probably a preparatory drawing for a larger fresco. In our times of political correctness it struck me as magical. The drawing show starts with a few works by Pietro Perugino, who was Raphaël’s mentor. An old man’s bust and the scientist Pythagoras as well as San Sebastian, feature as a preamble to the master’s works. These little rooms devoted since last year to drawings, are a real success.
Another surprise was to see the book exhibition in the library, one of the richest in Europe: it is devoted to fables, Aesopus and La Fontaine and the illustrations are extremely fun and original. Again they show the variety of interests that duc d’Aumale showed.
The park has reopened and you can rent golf buggies to drive around (32€ an hour). Nowhere at the moment can you find such a variety of entertainment and artistic beauty. Don’t miss it until August 30th. Château de Chantilly is an hour from Paris by car and 20 mins by train from Gare du Nord.
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