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Title: The Brochure Series of Architectural Illustration, vol. 06, No. 10, October 1900 - The Château of Chambord: France, Louis XVI. Sconces
Author: Various
Language: English
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                          THE BROCHURE SERIES
                       The Château of Chambord:
                          Louis XVI. Sconces
                             OCTOBER, 1900


                            BROCHURE SERIES

                    1900.      OCTOBER      No. 10.

                       THE CHÂTEAU OF CHAMBORD:

The Château of Chambord is one of the most unique palaces of the
Renaissance in existence. "It is," writes Jules Loiseleur, "the
Versailles of the feudal monarchy; and was to the Château of Blois,
that central residence of the Valois, what Versailles was to the
Tuilleries,--the country-seat of royalty. Tapestries from Arras,
Venetian mirrors, curiously sculptured chests, crystal chandeliers,
massive silver furniture, and miracles of all the arts, were amassed in
this palace during eight reigns, and dispersed in a single day by the
breath of the Revolution.


"It has often been asked why Francis I., to whom the banks of the Loire
presented many marvelous sites, selected such a wild and forsaken spot
in the midst of arid plains for the erection of the strange building
which he planned. His peculiar choice has been attributed to his
passion for the chase and also because of the memory of his amours
with the beautiful Comtesse de Thoury, whom he had visited in that
neighborhood before he ascended the throne. Independently of these
motives, which no doubt counted in his selection, perhaps the very
wildness of the place and its distance from the Loire, which reminded
him too much of the cares of royalty, was a determining reason. Kings,
like private individuals, and even more than they, experience the
need at times of burying themselves, and therefore make a hidden and
far-away nest where they may be their own masters and live to please
themselves. Moreover, Chambord, with its countless rooms, its secret
stairways, and its subterranean passages, seems to have been built for
one who, tired of the blaze of royal glory, sought here for shadow and
mystery. At the same time when he was rearing Chambord in the heart of
the uncultivated plains of the Sologne, Francis I. built in the midst
of the Blois de Boulogne a château, where, from time to time, he shut
himself up with learned men and artists, and to which the courtiers,
who were positively forbidden there, gave the name of Madrid, in memory
of the prison in which their master had suffered. But Chambord, like
Madrid, was not a prison; it was a retreat.


"That sentiment of peculiar charm which is attached to the situation
of Chambord will be felt by every artist who visits this strange
creation. At the end of a long avenue of poplars breaking through thin
underbrush you see, little by little, peeping and mounting upward from
the earth, a fairy building, which, rising in the midst of arid sand
and heath, produces the most striking and unexpected effect. A _jinnee_
of the Orient, a poet has said, must have stolen it from the country of
sunshine to hide it in the country of fog for the amours of a handsome
prince. The park in which it is situated is twenty square miles in
area, and is surrounded by twenty miles of walls."

Francis I. had passed his early years at Cognac, at Amboise or
Romorantin, and when he first saw Chambord it was only an old feudal
manor house built by the Counts of Blois. There has been much question
as to who the architect he employed to transform it really was, and
the honor of having designed the splendid residence has been claimed
for several of the Italian artists, who early in the sixteenth century
came to seek patronage in France. It seems well established today,
however, that Chambord was neither the work of Primaticcio, with whose
name it is tempting to associate any building of this king's, nor of
Vignola, nor of Il Rosso, all of whom have left some trace of their
sojourn in France, for the methods of contemporary Italian architecture
were totally different; but as M. de la Saussaye, the author of a very
complete and concise history of the building, proves, it was due to
the skill of that fertile local school of art and architecture around
Tours and Blois, and more particularly to a comparatively obscure
genius, whose name is also mentioned in connection with Amboise and
Blois, one Pierre le Nepveu, known also as Pierre Trinqueau, who is
designated in the papers which preserve in some degree the history of
the origin of the edifice as the _maistre de l'oeuvre de maçonnerie_.
"Behind this modest title apparently," writes Mr. Henry James, "we must
recognize one of the most original talents of the French Renaissance;
and it is a proof of the vigor of the artistic life of that period
that, brilliant production being everywhere abundant, an artist of so
high a value should not have been treated by his contemporaries as a
celebrity. We manage things very differently today."

Although Le Nepveu was the chief architect, Cousin, Bontemps, Goujon,
Pilon and other noted artists were engaged in the decoration of
Chambord. Many changes in the structure were afterwards carried out,
especially by Louis XIV. and by Marshal Saxe, to whom that monarch
presented it in 1749. From 1725 to 1733 Stanislaus Leszczynski, the
ex-king of Poland, who spent the greater part of his life in being
elected and in being ousted from his throne, dwelt at Chambord. During
the Revolution the palace was as far as possible despoiled of every
vestige of its royal origin, and the apartments to which upwards of two
centuries had contributed a treasure of decoration and furniture were
swept bare. In 1791 an odd proposal was made to the French Government
by a company of English Quakers, who had conceived the bold idea of
establishing in the palace a manufacture of some peaceful commodity not
today recorded. Napoleon I. presented Chambord to Marshal Berthier,
from whose widow it was purchased in 1821 for the sum of £61,000 raised
by national subscription on behalf of the Duke of Bordeaux, formerly
Comte de Chambord.


The Château, only the north part of which is completed, consists of
two square blocks, the larger of which, five hundred and twelve feet
long by three hundred and eighty-five feet broad, encloses the smaller
in such a way, that the northern façade of the one forms the centre of
the northern façade of the other. The corners of each block terminate
in massive round towers, with conical roofs crowned by lanterns, so
that four of these towers appear in the principal façade. In plan it
will be seen that Chambord resembles the typical French château; with
the habitation of the seigneur and his family in the centre, and this
habitation enclosed on three sides by a court, while like most feudal
dwellings, the central donjon shares one of its sides with the exterior
of the whole. The central part is adorned with an unexampled profusion
of dormer-windows, turrets, carved chimneys and pinnacles, besides
innumerable mouldings and sculptures, above all of which rises the
double lantern of the tower containing the principal staircase.

"It is a forest of campaniles, chimneys, sky-lights, domes and
towers, in lace-work and open-work, twisted according to a caprice
which excludes neither harmony nor unity," writes M. Loiseleur. "The
beautiful open-work tower of the large staircase dominates the entire
mass of pinnacles and steeples, and bathes in the blue sky its colossal
fleur-de-lis, the last point of the highest pinnacle among pinnacles,
the highest crown among all crowns.

"We must take Chambord for what it is, an ancient Gothic château
dressed out in great measure according to the fashion of the
Renaissance. In no other place is the transition from one style to
another revealed in a way so impressive and naïve; nowhere else does
the brilliant butterfly of the Renaissance show itself more deeply
imprisoned in the heavy Gothic chrysalis. Chambord, by its plan
which is essentially French and feudal, and by its enclosure flanked
with towers, and by the breadth of its heavy mass, slavishly recalls
the mediæval _manoirs_. By its lavish profusion of ornamentation it
suggests the creations of the sixteenth century as far as the beginning
of the roofs; it is Gothic as far as the platform; and it belongs to
the Renaissance when it comes to the roof itself. It may be compared
to a rude French knight of the fourteenth century, who wears on his
cuirass some fine Italian embroideries, and on his head the plumed felt
of Francis I.,--assuredly an incongruous costume, but one not without

"With a sympathetic denial of any extreme over-technical admiration,"
writes Mr. Cook in his _Old Touraine_, "Viollet le Duc gives just that
intelligible account of the Château which is a compromise between the
unmeaning adulation of its contemporary critics and the ignorance of
the casual traveller. 'Chambord,' says he, 'must be taken for what it
is; for an attempt of the architect to reconcile the methods of two
opposite principles,--to unite in one building the fortified castle
of the Middle Ages and the pleasure-palace of the sixteenth century.'
Granted that the attempt was an absurd one, it must be remembered that
the Renaissance was but just beginning in France; Gothic art seemed
out of date, yet none other had established itself to take its place.
In literature, in morals, as in architecture, this particular phase in
the civilization of the time was evident, and if only this transition
period is realized in all its meanings, with all the 'monstrous and
inform' characteristics that were inevitably a part of it, the mystery
of this strange sixteenth century in France is half explained."


"At Chambord," writes Mrs. Pattison, in her _Renaissance of Art in
France_, "which was building in 1526, the stories are, it is true,
forcibly indicated, but the whole building is pulled together in Gothic
fashion by the towers of the _corps de logis_, and by those which
flank the pavilions or wings which stretch out on either side of the
main body. In a building of the size of Chambord the result of this
treatment is hardly satisfactory, for the lines of the wings to right
and left of the main body seem to droop away from the heavy towers on
either side. Inside the court, however, the unpleasant effect, even at
Chambord, disappears, for the apparent length of the wings is greatly
abbreviated by the effect of the two spiral staircases which run up
outside the building at the internal angles on opposite sides.


"Chambord is, indeed, throughout truly typical of the earlier stage
of the new Renaissance movement. In the general arrangement, in the
_ordonnance_, late Gothic caprice and fantastic love of the unforeseen
rule triumphant. The older portions of the Château, the seemingly
irregular assemblages of half Oriental turrets and spires, are debased
Gothic, full of audacious disregard of all outward seeming of order.
The architect, instead of seeking to bring home to the eye the general
law, the plan on which the whole is grouped, has wilfully obscured and
concealed it beneath the obviousness of the wild and daring conceits
heaped above.


"But even at Chambord the mark is set which promises other days. It
is the transition moment; Gothic fancy may wildly distribute ornament
and obscure design, but the ornament which it distributes is Gothic no
longer. The _obscæna_ which haunt the cathedrals of the middle ages,
which infest the earlier towers of Amboise, and linger defilingly about
Gaillon, are banished. In their place come faint foliated traceries and
arabesques in low relief, enriching every surface, disturbing none,
moving with melodious adaptation of subtle line, winding, falling,
rising in sympathy with every swiftly ascending shaft or hollowing

"It is not now possible to approach Chambord carrying in our eyes a
vision of the great Renaissance palace, as engraved by Du Cerceau in
his _Plus excellens Bâtimens de la France_. Burdened by the weighty
labors of Louis XIV., weakened by eight improving years at the hands
of Stanislaus Leszczynski, mutilated by Marshal Saxe, the Chambord
which we now go out from Blois to visit is not the Chambord of Francis
I. The broad foundations and heaving arches which rose proudly out of
the waters of the moat no longer impress the eye. The truncated mass
squats ignobly upon the turf, the waters of the moat are gone; gone
are the deep embankments crowned with pierced balustrades; gone is the
no-longer-needed bridge with its guardian lions. All the outlying work
which gave the actual building space and dignity has vanished, and we
enter directly from the park outside to what was once but the inner
court of the Château.

"It is not until we stand within this inner court--until we have passed
through the lines of building which enclose it on the western side, and
which show the unmistakable signs of stupid and brutal destruction,
that we can believe again in the departed glories of Chambord.
Lippomano, ambassador from Venice to France in the reign of Henry III.,
turned out of his way to visit Chambord. 'On the 21st,' he says, 'we
made a slight detour in order to visit the Château of Chambord, or,
more strictly speaking, the palace commenced by Francis I., and truly
worthy of this great prince. I have seen many magnificent buildings
in the course of my life, but never anything more beautiful or more
rich. They say that the piles for the foundations of the Château in
this marshy ground have alone cost 300,000 francs. The effect is very
good on all sides. The number of the rooms is as remarkable as their
size, and indeed space was not wanting to the architect, since the
wall that surrounds the park is seven leagues in length. The park
itself is full of forests, of lakes, of streams, of pasture-land, and
of hunting-grounds, and in the centre rises the Château with its gilt
battlements, with its wings covered in with lead, with its pavilions,
its towers and its corridors, even as the romancers describe to us the
abode of Morgana or of Alcinoüs. More than half remains to be done,
and I doubt it will ever be finished, for the kingdom is completely
exhausted by war. We left much marvelling, or rather let us say


"To destroy the character of Chambord from the outside was not
difficult. It was not easy to tame the rude defiance of Vincennes, or
give facility to the reserved and guarded approaches of Gaillon. Solid
rectangular towers, heavy machicolations, and ponderous drawbridges
offer a stubborn resistance to schemes of ruthless innovation; but
Chambord was no fortress, it was a country house. The very site is
motived by no other reason than the pleasures of the chase. The
battlements of Gaillon gave back the echoes of the trumpet, but the
galleries of Chambord resounded with the huntsman's bugle.

"The construction of these galleries in itself points to the rapid
progress of social change. There are not only such as may be called
covered passages communicating from the spiral staircases with the
rooms on each story; galleries which have their special cause in actual
need and daily use; but the roofs of the range of one-storied buildings
which connect the side wings on the north and south, and which run
along the western front, are finished up from the cornice with a
balustrade, and turned into a promenade for courtiers.

"Yet in spite of these marked indications of change the ancient spirit
lingers. The unrestrained freedom of grotesque caprice finds expression
everywhere, even in those later portions which belong to another reign.
Pierre le Nepveu has left on all his work the imprint of profuse and
fantastic force; the outlines of his cupolas strike the sky with an
audacity which seems to defy the adverse criticism of those who moved
within the limits of more cautious rule. Symmetrical balance, for which
the masters of a succeeding era sought, and by which they strove to
harmonize every portion of their design, obliged them to reject the
aid of those varied resources which Le Nepveu shrewdly marshaled with a
vigorous hand.

"Chambord is in truth a brilliant example of transition. The early
Renaissance is there to be seen, taking on itself the burden beneath
which the failing forces of the Gothic spirit had sunk. But the
intention of the work is wholly foreign to the main direction taken
by the new movement, and condemned, by its very nature, to remain, in
spite of the wonderful genius lavished upon it, an unfruitful _tour de

The interior of the palace is now but a great wilderness of hewn
stone. The sixteenth century treasures of art which had adorned it
were all stolen or destroyed in the Revolution, the spoliation being
so complete that it was stripped of even the carved wainscots, panels,
doors and shutters, and the four hundred and forty enormous apartments
now give only the impression of a vast and comfortless barrack. In the
original arrangement of the interior all ideas of practical defense
were sacrificed to produce a pleasure palace, and it was furnished with
innumerable secret stairways (there are thirteen great staircases, not
to mention numberless smaller ones) isolated turrets and a hundred
facilities for what the gallant Viollet le Duc calls "_les intrigues
secrètes de cette cour jeune et tout occupée de galanteries_."

"On the whole," writes Mr. Henry James, "Chambord makes a great
impression--there is a dignity in its desolation. It speaks with a
muffled but audible voice of the vanished monarchy, which had been so
strong, so splendid, but today has become a sort of fantastic vision. I
thought, while I lingered there, of all the fine things that it takes
to make up such a monarchy; and how one of them is a superfluity of
mouldering empty palaces."

                              A Change in
                          The Brochure Series

The attention of subscribers to THE BROCHURE SERIES is again called to
the fact that, beginning with the Seventh Volume, January, 1901, the
magazine is to be enlarged, and that the subscription price will then
be increased to $1.00 a year, and the price of single copies to ten
cents each.


                          LOUIS XVI. SCONCES


[Illustration: FROM VERSAILLES]

[Illustration: FROM DOUAI]




[Illustration: FROM VERSAILLES]

[Illustration: FROM VERSAILLES]

[Illustration: FROM VERSAILLES]


                          Transcriber's Note:

Italics are indicated by _underscores_.

Small capitals have been rendered in full capitals.

Ligatures [oe] have been converted into oe.

A number of minor spelling errors have been corrected without note.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Brochure Series of Architectural Illustration, vol. 06, No. 10, October 1900 - The Château of Chambord: France, Louis XVI. Sconces" ***

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