On September 10, Friends of the Domaine de Chantilly (FODC) hosted a memorable day at Chantilly, one of the most magnificent French heritage sites, located just 25 miles north of Paris. Prince Amyn Aga Khan, Chairman of FODC, welcomed guests upon their arrival and spoke at length about Chantilly’s rich history, unrivaled art collection, and beautiful gardens before leading everyone into the castle. Among those in attendance were FODC Directors and advisors Nathalie Brunel, Betty Eveillard, Maryvonne Pinault, and Ann Nitze, as well as more than 60 of the most prominent art collectors, garden lovers, and Francophiles from both sides of the Atlantic.
The morning began with a curator-led visit of the Château de Chantilly, home to one of the finest art collections in France. Guests toured the staterooms, including the famed Grande Singerie (Monkey Room) and private suites of the Princes of Condé, adorned with opulent examples of French decorative arts and showcasing the grandeur of aristocratic life. They also marveled at the paintings galleries, as the curators spoke to outstanding works from the permanent collection by Raphael, Botticelli, Watteau and more. The tour was highlighted by anecdotes regarding the former residents of the castle, the last of which was the Duke d’Aumale, son of the last King of France, who singlehandedly amassed the masterpieces that fill the galleries today.
The morning also provided an exclusive opportunity to view drawings by Clouet, Michelangelo, Delacroix and many other European Old Masters up close in the Duke d’Aumale’s personal study, an area of the castle that is closed to the public. While these works are not currently on display, they will be far more accessible upon the creation of the new Gallery of Prints and Drawings, scheduled to open in spring 2017. After a sneak-peek of the future Gallery, the group gathered just outside in the Volière garden, where Pierre-Antoine Gatier, chief architect for the Domaine de Chantilly, described the significance of the project and the progress underway. Adjacent to the Gallery of Prints and Drawings are the Duke and Duchess d’Aumale’s private suites, which are also undergoing restoration. These rooms represent an important component of an authentic, princely estate and are the only existing example of decorative arts and furnishings from the reign of King Louis-Philippe.
Everyone was invited to adjourn for lunch at the Hameau, the rustic retreat that inspired Queen Marie-Antoinette at Versailles. Clément Leroy, newly-announced chef of FODC partner hotel Auberge du Jeu de Paume in Chantilly, designed delicious hors d’oeuvres for guests to enjoy upon arrival in the picturesque Anglo-Chinese gardens. A four-course traditional French meal followed inside the dining room, where the former Princes de Condé held extravagant festivities, and was topped off with tartes aux fruits – of course featuring our specialty, the famous Chantilly cream.
After the luncheon, guests passed through the vast gardens, including those designed by the legendary André Le Nôtre, landscape architect to the King throughout the 17th century. The afternoon concluded with a private tour of the new exhibition Le Grand Condé: Rival of the Sun King? led by Mathieu Deldicque, who curated the show. It provided fascinating insight into the life of Prince Louis II de Bourbon-Condé, cousin to King Louis XIV and one of the most brilliant figures in 17th-century France – not to mention one of the Château de Chantilly’s most notable former inhabitants. Over 120 works were assembled for this ambitious show, which together paints a vivid portrait of a man who challenged his royal cousin both in military prowess and artistic legacy, which is manifested in Chantilly today.
This special occasion served as a wonderful opportunity to highlight the Domaine de Chantilly’s artistic and cultural heritage with individuals from throughout Europe and the United States who possess a wide variety of interests and expertise. The elements that make up the Domaine are exceptional in many ways and are enhanced by a spectrum of prestigious events, including the Chantilly Arts & Elégance car show, the Chantilly Flower Show, and of course, the numerous equestrian competitions – the Prix de Diane (French Oaks), Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby), and exceptionally this October, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – that take place against the backdrop of the Great Stables. The guests who were present for this unforgettable outing shared their enthusiasm for Chantilly and were invited to return in the future to experience all that it has to offer.