From October 22, 2023 to March 25th 2024
Beginning in the fall of 2023, the château will present more than 250 works, drawings (ink, charcoal, watercolor, gouache), engravings, and albums from the château’s collections, both from the archives and the graphic arts collection. These works, accompanied by two models of the château, will highlight the architecture of the château over the centuries and provide a true portrait of the residence of kings.
As an institution, the Château de Fontainebleau is rarely considered to be a graphic art collection, even though it houses more than 3,500 sheets (778 drawings and 2,754 prints, including 920 Napoleonic ones). And yet… the essentials are there. The collection consists not only in the palatial collection of prints, sent from the early 19th century to decorate the apartments and corridors, but also in the collection made up of acquisitions made to enrich the “historical museum,” which has been added to continuously since the mid-20th century.
Fontainebleau, through the plates devoted to it in Jacques I Androuet du Cerceau’s Plus excellents Bastiments de France in 1579, appears as an extension of the sovereign and a new place where the royal figure crystallizes. From then on, the notion of a royal residence’s portrait appeared, echoing literary descriptions such as that of Father Dan in 1642 to tourist guides from the 1840s to the present day, via the illustrated monographs of Antoine-Laurent Castellan in 1840 or Rodolphe Pfnor in 1863, of which the château possesses the original drawings.
The exhibition will highlight the importance of drawing, its conventions and the uses of the documents produced (management of the palace, cadastral delimitation, transformation or restoration projects, souvenirs, illustrations, etc.).
The views of Fontainebleau, by means of engraving, were disseminated by the greatest artists such as Israël Silvestre or Adam Pérelle, up to the albums of Jacques Rigaud in the 18th century, before lithography took over and gradually gave way to photography.
The representations of the castle show the desire to portray it in all its extent and to draw attention to its architectural curiosities, but also to emphasize the originality of its decorations or the richness of its gardens and fountains. Fontainebleau became a creative center and a reference for artists in the 19th century. Architects, painters, draughtsmen and sculptors, including Delacroix, focused on the motif. But beyond the study, the castle became the subject of actors, serving as a stage for the great events of the French monarchy or of the First and Second Empires, from the baptism of Louis XIII, the ceremonies of the Order of the Holy Spirit, the abdication of Napoleon I, the receptions of the princesses… Without forgetting the hunting, the fireworks and the theater, of which several drawings preserve the memory.
Conceived as a “walk” through the multiple facets of the castle, articulated around the courtyards and gardens, but also the great decorations, some of which have disappeared, the exhibition includes two models of the estate allowing the restitution of buildings that have disappeared or been transformed. It will end with an evocation of the diffusion of the image of the castle in the second half of the 19th century, notably through photography, at the time of the development of tourism.
Vincent Cochet, chief curator at the Château de Fontainebleau.
About the Exhibition
Guided tours and workshops for families will enable visitors to immerse themselves in the history of the château and discover its architectural evolution and artistic creations over the centuries. A booklet-game will be available so that children and adults alike can discover the exhibition at their own pace.
If you wish to continue, this exhibition is coupled with an anthology of 27 drawings in the Petits Appartements, for an additional €5 (1h30). Only in French.
The exhibition echoes the “Fontainebleau en stéréo(scopie)” tour, which sheds light on the Fontainebleau of Napoleon III and Eugénie, and is accessible via the visitor circuit.
Exhibition in the Salle de la Belle Cheminée, accessible with the château’s entrance ticket. Curator: Vincent Cochet, chief curator of the Château de Fontainebleau. Every day except Tuesday.
The exhibition is open daily except Tuesdays, from 9.30am to 5pm (last admission at 4.15pm).