Monday, May 17, 2010

Room for Catherine de Medicis at Chenonceau

A few steps away,

the passage of Catherine de Medicis at Chenonceau

Education of Cupid by Correggio

is commemorated in this room on the second story of the chateau.
Catherine had never been beautiful but her intelligence was served well by patience. After the death of Henri II, once Catherine had rid the place of mistress Diane de Poitiers, reclaiming at the same time the crown jewels, there was no more of the submissive spouse. As mother to three kings, she was the veritable ruler for approximately 30 years.

With her 'diabolical Florintine ambition', she brought Chenonceau to the height of its glory, further developing its architecture, decoration, gardens, vineyards, land revenues, even creating its own silk production - and all this in the midst of the turbulence of the Wars of Religions. She was, after all, the daughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent.  She was a builder and had many projects, but Chenonceau was her residence of choice, where no blood had stained its stones.

If Catherine became more austere in her mise after Henri's death, according to Benedetta Craveri, it was to better project an image of majesty for the political role she had determined for herself. Since her authority was derived from her state as a widow and mother, she forced respect by permiting herself no feminine vanity.  Nothing was left to chance.

Seen through the window is the gallery designed by Jean Bullant that Catherine had built to top, literally and figuratively,  Diane's bridge. It and the gardens were to become the sites for spectacular celebrations. 

Catherine gave one of the most memorable of fetes here on the 15th of May 1577 in honor of two of her sons, Henri III and the Duc of Anjou. It seems that the party had ambiguity for theme, since the men dressed as women and the women as men, if at all - while performers of the commedia dell’arte brought in from Venice performed among them. A chronicler at the time reported that " at first glance everyone was perplexed, not knowing whether there stood before them a woman king or a man queen."
The abbey Chevalier wrote in his Histoire abregé de Chenonceau,
"It has never been involved with sad political events,  no, everything about it speaks only of art, beauty, festivities, and pleasures."

further reading: Chenonceau by Jean-Pierre Babelon


  1. Checkmate. Loved the covering of the lover's bridge. how beautifully metaphorical as well as beautifully done.

    I'm back into the word verification talking back to me with a mind of its own. Kinda' reminds me of HAL, the computer in 2001: a space odyssey. Today's: bless.

  2. J'aDORE ce chateau. Je l'ai aime meme quand petite, par des photos. La tour, la fleuve, le pont, les volumes, les jardins. Exquis, sans aucun faut. J'y retournerai encore et encore. Merci pour le souvenir!

  3. Chenonceau is a wonderful piece of architecture, being AFAIK the only castle on a bridge. Certainly very inspirational for anyone into architecture, design & visual arts/ culture in general.

  4. p.s. haha! just saw your response re: dignified lodging for cats!

  5. HbD So true, one Lady stretched herself to the limit, the other rose above her.
    Word verif is uncanny. Bless is good, never turn that down! I got policin today at corcol.

    Mlle Paradis - moi, aussi j'adore. J’y suis déjà allée 3 fois! Est ce que c'était l'effet ressenti depuis toujours? Historiquement on l'a toujours disputé.

  6. Davidikus: Thanks for your comment.
    I had to look up AFAIK - nice to learn shortcuts with comments! Yes, it seems to be the only one built on a bridge and one of the first in France to have straight staircases and a central hallway. It seems always to have been coveted by so many through time.

  7. whoever, whatever-it is beautiful, even these pictures capture some of the magic of the place. pgt

  8. LA It is a place with an aura. I'm glad something came through. So difficult to capture the overall perspectives - I was far from alone in these rooms!