The calm was very extraordinary on the eve of the Prix de Diane Longines, the greatest racing event in Chantilly and also a major social day. His Highness the Aga Khan, who reigns over the castle with his Foundation, was happily cutting the ribbon with his daughter Zahra and Henri Loyrette, former President of the Louvre who curated the show. A group of Friends from the National Gallery in London had previously enjoyed the visit of the castle with Nicole Garnier, head curator.
The idea came as obvious to Henri Loyrette who asked a horse race specialist, Christophe Donner, to converse with him on the theme of races. This famous French novelist, who is publishing “Au Clair de la Lune” in August, is obsessed with the history of horses and photography. Henri Loyrette is one of the foremost specialists of Degas. Together they selected eighty works, paintings, drawings and sculptures who represent two centuries of races between Stubbs (1724-1806), Géricault (1791-1824) and Degas, (1834-1917).
The Musée Condé in Chantilly had never had an exhibition devoted to horse races and George Stubbs is relatively unknown in France, so it seemed obvious to organize this show just before the 169 th Prix de Diane which was won this year by a Yorkshire trained, French born filly, “Laurens”, ridden by Patrick J. McDonald. She is named after her owner, John Dance ‘s daughter.
The show reveals the evolution of how artists depicted horses with the first medieval galloping horses and the influence of English passion for races on French painters. Géricault went to the Derby in Epsom, Eugène Lami paints in Chantilly, Mills paints “Penelope” winning on the Champ de Mars on September 5, 1824. Later, Manet and Degas paint the public as much as the horses and are largely influenced by Gustave Moreau, who is the surprise artist in the show. We know his symbolist paintings better than his drawings of horses.
The exhibition ends with modern films and photographs by Edward Muybridge who allowed painters to see exactly the movement of the horses’ feet. It is a prefiguration of the future Museum of Horses which is being remodeled in the famous Chantilly stables. In September a grand gala dinner will be hosted by his Highness the Aga Khan to profit the Friends of Domaine de Chantilly.
Until October 14, Jeu de Paume, Chantilly
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