This new edition of Les Journées des Plantes, in Chantilly, was incredibly successful thanks to the good weather, but also because of the freedom that wandering in the beautiful park gives us in these times of semi confinement. Everyone was wearing a mask and none of our Belgian and British friends had come, but there were many colors of asters and roses to be found in the 16 acres of exhibition and Louis Benech was presenting his new furniture collection “Siam”, made by Edmond & fils. It was also a renewed occasion to see the Meissen Chantilly exhibit in the castle and to discover Carmontelle (1701-1806), the best portraitist of Duc d’Orléans’s feasts in the Cabinet des dessins. A conference by Hervé Le Bouler was devoted to saving the forest of Chantilly which has terribly suffered from the drought this summer.
One of the new exhibitors was Nipahut, which manufactures bamboo huts on the island of Cebu in the Philippines. It brought true exoticism to the cold department of l’Oise. Another star was a new American beche which is so powerful it can cut roots and unearth small trees. Its name says it all “Root slayer” and it was sold at Jack Lumber.
I personally bought my favorite pansies which flower all winter long on my balcony, including in the snow, and I enjoyed seeing the famous journalist Stéphane Marie who christened a pink climbing rose in his name at André Eve. He was also signing a book on vegetable gardens which he wrote with Dany Sautot.
But what was really interesting were the watercolors and gouaches of 18 th century life by Louis Carrogis, dit Carmontelle, an exhibition curated by Nicole Garnier-Pelle, in the drawing galleries of the castle. He painted the very young Mozart when he came to play in Paris in 1764, aged 8, but also recorded in great detail the dress of Louis Marie Thérèse Bathilde d’Orléans and many charming family scenes from the Royal family. He had started as a tutor of Marquis d’Armentières’ children, then worked for the Duc de Luynes and became the favorite caricaturist of the French army in Westphalia. It is as tutor of Duc d’Orléans’s son, the Duc de Chartres, that he develops his art in 1759 and gets recognized by the society of Villers Cotterêts, a forest near Chantilly. He will always remain an amateur artist but starts organizing all the “fêtes” et becomes garden designer, which will lead him to draw the “jardin naturel” of Parc Monceau.
In 1780, he creates the “Transparents” on a fifteen meter long roll of translucide paper lit from behind by a fire. and uses it to entertain his patrons. Madame de Genlis gives a good description of these transparents and their decors which she calls a magic lantern. Tow of these transparents are kept at the Getty museum in L.A. and at the Rachel Lambert Mellon collection in Upperville Virginia. The duc d’Aumale acquired a collection of 520 portraits in 1877 from Gordon Duff owner of Banff castel in Scotland who sold them via Colnaghi.
The porcelain exhibition from Meissen and Chantilly is the hit at the moment and many happenings are organized for Halloween in the castle. So make sure to visit sometimes this fall, the park and stables have never looked so good.
Catalogs of the Carmontelle and Meissen Chantilly exhibitions are for sale in the bookstore. The next edition of Journées des plantes is in May 2021.
Château de Chantilly is one hour away from Paris by train or by car.
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