Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ladies' Choice: Chateau de Chenonceau

photo: château de Chenonceau
The most visited chateau in France following the chateau of Versailles is a Renaissance
chef d'oeuvre that stands firmly with feet planted in the River Cher.
One of a garland of Loire Valley castellar beauties, it belongs now to the
Menier family and has had many illustrious proprietors. A bit of trivia: for a period of 22 years, it was the property of Emilio Terry, father of the reknowned decorator.

all photos: Le style et la matière

 Chenonceau is most known for the influential women who held sway there,
giving it the sobriquet of  le Château des Dames.

The construction of this nearly square structure was started  in 1514 on the site of a medieval fortified castle by the ennobled merchant family of nearby Tours, the Bohains. Looking at the top photo you can notice a round tower, the Tour de Marques, all that remains of the medieval architecture. 
 The initials B-T-K and arms of Thomas Bohain and his wife Katherine Briçonnet are found in many rooms on doors and ceilings within these walls, despite the changes made with successive centuries. As financial minister, Thomas Bohain was often absent on expeditions for the king during the construction of the chateau, leaving building supervision entirely in the hands of his wife. He died two years after its completion.
Catherine Briçonnet was Dame numéro 1. 

Over this interieur oak door showing the arms of Briçonnet (left) and
Bohain (right) we  find the family motto:
 S'il vient à point, me souviendra -
If built,  I shall be remembered.

The scuttling of many feet over the centuries has taken its toll on the Majolica floor.
Vestiges of its decoration are visible only around the edges of the Guard's room.
Gothic and Renaissance chests that once contained tapestries, silverware, and other necessities
are now static, but signal the ancient mode of the nobleman's itinerant life.
bed chamber of Francois I

 This portrait of Diane de Poitiers as Diane the Huntress was painted at Chenonceau in 1556 by 
 Primaticcio, of  the Fontainebleau school.  Flowers from the parc grounds are arranged with the talent and brighten every room
- the château comes alive with this welcome sign to its visitors.

Bohain might have been pleased to know that his home was fit for a King. Francois I approved of the appealing chateau and succeeded the Bohain family as its owner.  Henri II, son of Francois I, 
more than approved of  his father's favorite, Diane.
Upon the death of Francois I, this beauté eternelle  became the new King's favorite
Henri II was 20 years her junior. Her influence over the king is legendary.
He gave Chenonceau as a gift to Diane, making her Dame numéro 2

Rich pattern is everywhere set off by the impression of space and symmetry.

One of the most beautiful mantels in the chateau 
contains three baldachins, today minus their original statues.

This 16th century Italian cabinet incrusted with mother-of-pearl and engraved ivory was a
wedding gift to Francois II and Marie Stuart.
Click on the photo to admire here its
ornate cariatides: female-?-?-male.

bed chamber of Diane de Poitiers

Diane was as clever as she was beautiful and had great authority in politics and arts and architecture.
It was her idea to extend the chateau with a bridge over the river designed by Philibert de l'Orme.

The mantel by Jean Goujon sports the initials of Henri II and his queen, Catherine de Medici.
The interlocking Cs of Catherine make mischief by forming the letter D of  rival, Diane.

Off one side of Diane's room was Catherine de Medici's study, for 
following Henri II's death, Catherine claimed Chenonceau for herself. Though she was not beautiful like Diane, her intelligence was served well by her patience.  As a widow, she was able to put into place her own political power through the reigns of three of her sons as well as to leave her mark as one of the most important patrons of the arts known to France. 
It was here that she worked as Regent.
She was far from being a dull girl and knew all about the importance of revelry as well.
 For this purpose, and as a way of outdoing her husband's mistress, she had an immense
 ball room constructed on the bridge Diane built.
Catherine was Dame numéro 3.

Catherine de Medici's library. The Italian style coffered oak ceiling dates to 1525 is
sculpted with keys and retains the initiales T-B-K in reference to the Bohain family.

A nice place to work

with view on the Cher.

Of course, Catherine had to sleep too. Would you like to see her room?


  1. Wonderful tiles. Is the wallcovering the the bedchamber of Francois I wallpaper or leather?

  2. It is a beautiful paper imitation of Cordoba leather.